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2010-05-22 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a Love—Jeroen & Cherise’s Wedding Sermon Final Draft

            Jeroen & Cherise, already you guys have gone through a lot.  You’ve already faced challenges that many people haven’t had to deal with.  And you’ve demonstrated your love for each other, and you’ve experienced God’s love for you.

          You already know, for instance, that Jesus came into the world to seek and save the lost.  You know that Jesus took on humanity in order to redeem, in order to reconcile sinful humanity to himself.  He came in order that a ministry of reconciliation can happen between people.

          The underlying power behind this ministry of reconciliation is love.  “For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only son” (John 3:16).  “God is love” (1 John 4:16).  “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

          I mention all this because God has reconciled you to himself—and you to each other.  Now, such reconciliation between two people who are attracted to each other, who love each other, seems like a natural thing!  You might think, “Well there wasn’t too much reconciling that needed to be done, we get along great, we love each other, and we can’t wait to spend the rest of our lives together!”

          And you’re right, but don’t forget, God brought you together in the first place, for this very purpose.

          But it would be dishonest of me to ignore the reality that there will be things that will threaten your relationship.  Satan, outside forces, stress, enemies, economics, and if you look at celebrity break-ups, the greatest threat, “irreconcilable differences.”

          But you knew that, so you purposely chose this passage.  Your wedding text is incredible on so many levels.  The context is the proper use of Spiritual gifts in the church.  If the church, if individual churches put this passage into practice, there would hardly be any conflict at all.

          If married people and implement the principles of this passage, then strong marriages will result.  Marriage reflects the mystical union of believers and God.  By God’s grace, you can see examples of this in your parents, Jeroen, and in your parents, Cherise.  They might not have consciously focussed on doing this in their marriage, but long marriages such as theirs, such as your grandparents, testify to the truth of this passage.

          Okay, so after all that, let’s get to it!

          What will hold you together?  What will be the foundation of your marriage?  Love.  When we think of that word, we think of all kinds of things.  But the passage you chose directs our thinking.  This passage tells you, as it says in the last verse of chapter 12, the most excellent way, love!

          The Apostle Paul identifies several things in two categories: what love is, and what love is not.  Or another way of looking at it is selfless love and selfish love.  The greatest threat to your marriage, to any marriage is selfish love, the greatest threat to marriage are the things that are not in fact, love.

          Let’s look at those things first, and then we’ll look at the things that build up, strengthen and cement love.

          So, the things that are not love, or the things that describe selfish love are: envy, boasting, pride, rudeness, self-seeking, anger and record-keeping of wrongdoing.

          Let’s examine each, very quickly.  Envy-this threat rears its ugly head when you are tempted to look at things outside your relationship, they might be items you covet.  It might be people.  Envy looks at what you don’t have, and tries to make you believe that you’d be happier if you had that.  Envy can even attack from within.  You can even become tempted to envy each other!  Jeroen, after a long day in the barn, you might envy Cherise’s teaching work!  Cherise, after an especially trying day of teaching, ship out one set of students and get a whole new set in 2 weeks!

          Boasting can appear as the need to elevate oneself to a position of prominence.  It produces a condescending attitude toward others.  A braggart put’s up with other people.  If you allow boasting to enter your marriage, you’ll end up not loving, but rather, just putting up with each other.

          Pride makes no room for love.  Pride is completely selfish.  The only important thing in a proud person, is that person himself.  If you allow pride to come in, you will not be able to love each other; you’ll simply discover that you love your own self.

          Love is not rude.  Maybe you’ve heard the phrase, “familiarity breeds contempt.”  Rudeness breeds on familiarity.  Rudeness results when you come to the mistaken notion that you know everything you need to know about the other person, and you don’t have to show or demonstrate your love for the other person, because they already know.  That’s rudeness.

          Love is not self-seeking.  Love, as demonstrated by God, seeks others.  We’ve seen that earlier in the sermon, when I quoted John 3:16.  Pattern your love for each other after Christ.  He never sought his own way, but was perfectly obedient to his father, because he loved his father perfectly!

          Anger is a big threat.  Anger comes from selfish love.  We justify anger when we perceive that an injustice has happened to us.  Anger lashes out, it inhibits clear thinking, it prevents clear seeing.  Anger will happen, learn to deal with it by focussing on love.

          Anger builds, when records of wrong are kept.  If you begin to keep track of the times that Jeroen leaves the seat up, watch out!  Seriously, the temptation will always be to respond with, well, remember when you did this or that.  Usually a record of past offences is used to excuse bad behaviour.  I can justify my sinfulness by reminding you of yours.  Love has no room for such things.  God promises that he will remove our sins from us, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).  That’s what he is telling you to do as well, and by His Spirit, by His love poured out in you, you can!

          The transitional verse here is verse 6.  Paul switches from the negative to the positive.  Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth.  Rather than trying to justify sin or sinful behaviour, love confesses it, and repents of it.  Don’t let evil enter.  When you’ve done wrong, admit it.  Seek reconciliation.  Work hard to prevent it from happening again.

          In contrast to all these then, this is what love is, selfless love is patient.  Patience counts to ten.  And if that’s not enough, it counts to ten again.  Patience puts up with all kinds of offenses and injuries.  God is patient.  God is slow to anger.  We reflect God’s love when we are patient.  Love willingly waits for the other person to come around, trusting in God to make it so.

          Love is kind.  The picture of kindness is Jesus.  Jesus welcomed children and blessed them.  Jesus compassionately healed a sick, blind or paralysed person.  Kindness is baking cookies or bringing home flowers just because.

          Love rejoices in the truth, and tells it.  Love is honest and pure.  Love, when hearing the truth, forgives.  As we have been forgiven, so we forgive.  As we forgive, we will be forgiven. 

          Love always protects-love is active.  Love gives, it doesn’t receive.  Love always protects, or covers over a multitude of things, especially sin.  You will sin against each other, and have sins committed against you.  Love covers over a multitude of sins, love protects the marriage that God has brought together, by defeating that which seeks to destroy it.

          Love always trusts.  Love trusts in God’s sovereign providence.  No matter what happens, God’s plan will work itself out.  Love trusts it to happen.  We may not always understand why things happen when and the way they do, but love empowers us to trust them to work out.

          Love always hopes.  Love knows that positive things come when we patiently wait.  It is the essence of optimism.  Hope doesn’t look inward at the self, but rather outward at God.  Hope doesn’t merely see the glass as half full, hope says, “Hey!  There’s something in that glass!”

          Love always perseveres.  Love enables you to go on when you think you can’t.  It enables you to endure pain, loss, suffering, loneliness, great difficulty.  If we remain in Christ, he will remain in us.  If you remain in one another, you will endure.  You’ve shown perseverance already.  Remember some of the conversations you had?  Learning to communicate!  That’s the perseverance of love.

          Finally, love is eternal.  It never fails.  Look at God’s love.  God’s love caused him to send his son.  God’s love caused him to lay down his life for his friends, for you and for me.  God’s love for us, translates into love for God, and love for one another, the willingness to lay down our lives for each other.  Love, true love, is never exhausted.  True love cannot fail.  True love cannot run out. 

          Jeroen and Cherise, practise selfless love, God love, true love.  Love each other as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.  Put all these commands into practise and you will have a long marriage!  God will bless you with a marriage like the ones you see around you, long lasting!  Amen!

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