Sunday, February 07, 2010
Sermon - Epiphany 5 - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
February 7th, 2009
“Who Loves Like That?”
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
Our sermon today is based on last Sunday's Epistle reading. It's one of the better know passages of the Bible. It's read at countless weddings, hangs on the wall in many Christian homes. It's a favorite of Christians, and for good reason. Love is a great idea. In fact, when all is said and done, when everything else passes away, faith, hope and love remain, but the greatest of these is love.
A shallow and sappy look at the passage may give us a warm fuzzy. Extolling the virtues of love is to Christians what motherhood and apple pie mean to Americans. We even have a holiday in next Sunday which is all about the high ideal of love. Maybe we shouldn't call it Valentine's Day anymore, since no one remembers the Christian St. Valentine. Perhaps “Love Day” would be a better name for how it's celebrated in our culture.
Sure, love is great. But do we just give love a respectful nod and move on? Or do we approach this passage like Lutherans do, looking for law and gospel? And how do we see Jesus in connection to these words of Paul about love?
First, let's remember the Bible uses different words for love. Eros, which is erotic or romantic love between a man and woman. Platonic love - Philos, like Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. And then there's Agape. Agape is that unique form of Christian love, a self-sacrificing love that is the real aim of Christians. It's this kind of love Paul means in 1 Corinthians.
And as grand and beautiful as Paul's passage about love is, it sets a high bar. In fact, it should leave us asking the question of ourselves, “who loves like this?”
We should look first at ourselves.
Am I patient? Not really. I often lose my patience with my family and friends. I want things to happen on my timetable, and no one else's. If someone else puts me out, makes me wait, then it annoys me. And my impatience is really a form of selfishness. I want it my way, and I don't want to sacrifice my time for someone else.
Am I kind? All too often, I am not. I say words that hurt others. I am insensitive and unkind. I could do a better job.
Am I envious? Or do I grow jealous when someone else gets something nice, receives some blessing, that I think I deserve more? And such envy can lead me to resent my neighbor. That's not loving.
Do I boast? We don't mind other people appreciating us, so why not tell them why they should?
Insisting on my own way. My way or the highway. So common of us sinners. Irritable and resentful, especially when we don't get our way. Arrogant and rude.
And do we rejoice at wrong-doing? Rationalizing what is evil into what is good?
Rejoicing in the truth? My truth, of course. As if what is true is up to me. As if everyone can have their own truth. Or perhaps we admit the truth but only grudgingly. Rejoicing in truth? That'll depend on if it's a truth I want to hear.
Love bears all things, but I don't. Love believes all things, but I doubt. Love hopes all things, but I lose hope. Love endures all things, but I give up.
When it comes to love – self-sacrificing, agape love, we must admit we are not all that loving. In fact the standard of love that Paul sets is an impossible one for us sinners to meet. It's a pie-in-the-sky picture of love, the ideal but not the reality. For after all, who loves like that? Certainly not me. Certainly not you.
But Jesus does. Read the passage again. All those things that love is, Jesus is. All those things that love does, Jesus does. He is patient and kind – with us. He is not envious or boastful for himself. He isn't arrogant or rude. He doesn't even insist on his own way, but submits to his Father's will. He doesn't force us either, when it comes to his love, but calls, invites, encourages.
He certainly doesn't rejoice at wrongdoing, and certainly does rejoice in truth.
And he endures all things. Now there's a truth. Think of all our loving savior endured for us – humiliation – poverty, disgrace, grief, ridicule, injustice, betrayal, flogging, desertion, crucifixion. He even endured the very wrath of God over sin, for you.
No greater love, no greater agape, does anyone have than this, laying down his love for another. Jesus loves you. He loves with with a self-sacrificing love, a perfect love, that meets and exceeds all our standards of love. He loves you with a love that isn't mere emotion, or sappy sentimentality. His love acts, his love accomplishes.
And his love never ends. It didn't end with his death – for death could not hold him. It didn't end when he ascended, for he promises, “I am with you always even to the end of the age”. And even at the end of the age, his love never ends. For he prepares a place for us with his Father forever.
Love is.. many things. And the love of sinners like you and me – it often fails. It's not a very loving love. But Jesus shows true and perfect love to us all, an eternal, incomprehensible love. A love from the beginning of creation, a love shown perfectly in the cross, a love with an eternal promise.
So rejoice in his love, you forgiven sinners. And show his love to each other, as he has first loved you. Amen.