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The Most Important Virtue

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The Most Important Virtue - Love 
  1 Corinthians 13:4-13:7


I like the story about a rather legalistic Seminary student who wanted to have a scriptural basis for everything he did. He felt he was on solid ground if he could quote Bible book, chapter & verse to okay his actions.

He did all right with that until he began to fall in love with a beautiful co-ed. He wanted very much to kiss her, but he just couldn’t find a scripture to okay it. So, true to his conscience, he would simply walk her to the dormitory each night, look at her longingly, & then say "Good night."

This went on for several weeks, & all the time he was searching the Bible, trying to find some scripture to okay kissing her good night. But he couldn’t find one, until finally he came across that passage in Romans that says, "Greet each other with a holy kiss." He thought, "At last, I have scriptural authority for kissing her good night."

But to be sure, he went to his hermeneutics professor to check it out. After talking with the professor, he realized that the passage dealt more with a church setting than with a dating situation. So once again he simply didn’t have a passage of scripture to okay kissing his girl good night.

That evening he walked her to the dormitory & once again started to bid her "good night." But as he did, she grabbed him, pulled him toward her, & planted a 10-second kiss right on his lips.

At the end of the kiss, the Seminary student gasped for air, & stammered, "Bible verse, Bible verse." The girl grabbed him a 2nd time, & just before kissing him again, said, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Let’s look at 1 Cor 13:4-7 together.  “Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.”


We use this verse a lot in weddings, and that’s a good application…but today I would like for us to apply it to our relationship with each other.  How we treat each other says a lot about what we really believe, and our relationship with God.  I hope that you noticed that this verse did not mention any emotions.  The love that is talked about here is a love that does or does not do something.  It is the way we respond to people, not with just the words “I love you”, but actions.

A. The Bible has a lot to say about love. In fact, from beginning to end that is its theme - God’s love for each of us, & our love for Him, which results in our loving one another.  The bible is really a love story from cover to cover.

The Bible clearly teaches that the most important virtue we share in our fellowship as Christians is our love for one another. So the Bible has a lot to say about the subject of love.

B. But so does the world. The world has a lot to say about love. The problem is that the world doesn’t say the same thing the Bible says. And because we hear the world say so much about love, we tend to get the two mixed up.

5 Things I would like for us to notice today from this passage that deal with the Christian virtue of love.

A. First of all, Christian love is always rooted & grounded in God.

The world tends to look at love as strictly a relationship between human beings, & we have been taught by the world that if we just love each other enough, we can create for ourselves a utopia on earth.  The world teaches that love is just a feeling or emotion.

ILL. We sing songs about it. "What the world needs now is love, sweet love." Or "If I had a hammer I’d hammer out love for all my brothers & sisters all over the world." Again, "We are the people. We are the children who can make it a better world."

Bumper stickers tell us to hug our kids, & politicians proclaim a kinder & gentler society.

B. These are wonderful & noble words, words that we desperately need to hear. But as long as love is seen as strictly a product of human effort, without involving God, it will never succeed in making our world a better place.

We have tried that as long as man has been around, & we still steal from each other, & assault each other, & kill each other. This world that ignores God is not becoming a better place. It is becoming a terrible place.

John says in chapter 4 of 1 John, "Little children, love one another because love is of God." Love originates with God. And it is not until we have felt & understood God’s love, & respond to it, that we can really begin to learn how to show love to one another.

C. I am convinced that there are many marriages that would not survive if it weren’t for a mutual faith in God.

ILL. Deborah & I have been married for more than 37 years, & we have had some rough times - financial difficulties, trying to raise 3 kids, a couple of foster kids, schools, all of those things. We look back & wonder sometimes how we survived, & how our marriage survived. But I’m convinced that it was because our love is deeply rooted in the love that God has for us, & that He has demonstrated to us.

So the first essential of Christian love is to recognize that God’s love is the source of all love, & that our love for one another must be deeply rooted in our mutual love for God.

A. The second essential is this. Christian love always grows deeper with the passage of time.

Did you notice what Paul said? He said, "Love is patient. Love never fails." Love is not in a hurry, & years from now, the love that is rooted in God’s love will be greater & more mature than it is even now.  This is also where  some of the emotions and feelings that are associated with the word “love” come into play.

B. The world looks at love & it says that love diminishes with time because the world sees love in an entirely different way. It thinks that love is something that just happens to us. It is something that you fall into & you fall out of, like falling off a bicycle. You didn’t intend to do it, but it just happened to you. It was out of your control.

ILL. "Some enchanted evening across a crowded room you will meet a stranger." Then wham, bang, zap, you are suddenly in love. You didn’t plan it. Your eyes just happened to meet, & suddenly you are in love with one another.  That’s not what this passage teaches, is it?

ILL. Elvis Presley sang, "I can’t help falling in love." The Righteous Brothers sang, "You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’." And The Doors sang a song that says. "Hello, I love you. Would you tell me your name?" Isn’t that amazing? "Hello, I love you. Would you tell me your name?"

That’s the way the world looks at love. It is something that just happens, an infatuation, if you will. And as long as it is infatuation, it diminishes with the passage of time.

ILL. I heard a definition of the contrast between infatuation & love. It says, "Infatuation is when you think your husband is as handsome as Tom Cruse, as amusing as Rodney Daingerfield, as intellectual as Albert Einstein, as devout as Billy Graham, & as athletic as Dennis Rodman." That is infatuation.

"Love is realizing that your husband is as handsome as Albert Einstein, as intellectual as Dennis Rodman, as devout as Tom Cruse, as athletic as Rodney Daingerfield, & as amusing as Billy Graham. But you love him anyway." You see, there’s a big difference between infatuation & love.

Ill. I’ve been told that there are 7 stages of the marital cold. This is a story about a couple who got married & in their first year of marriage she came down with a case of the sniffles. They’re still newlyweds, you see.

He says, "Honey, I’m concerned about you. There are all kinds of germs floating around & I don’t think we can afford to take a chance with this. So I’ve made arrangements for you to enter the hospital. You can get a good rest, & while you’re there they’ll give you a complete physical checkup. I know that the food isn’t the best, so I’ve arranged for caterers to bring in gourmet meals. I’ve already set it all up with the doctor & the hospital. You don’t have to do a thing except enjoy the week’s rest." That’s the first year of marriage.

The 2nd year of marriage, she comes down with a cold again. He says, "Darling, I’m really concerned about this cold of yours. I tell you what. Rest is the best thing. Why don’t you go to bed & take it easy & I’ll call the doctor & have him come & check you out & see how you’re doing."

The 3rd year of marriage. He says, "Honey, I’m concerned about this cold you have. Why don’t you go to bed & get a good rest? By the way, do we have any chicken soup in the house?"

The 4th year of marriage. He says, "You ought to take better care of yourself. As soon as you do the dishes & take care of the kids, you need to get to bed & get some rest so you’ll get over this cold."

The 5th year he says, "Why don’t you take two aspirin & go to bed?"

The 6th year of marriage. He says, "Why don’t you gargle with some good mouthwash or something & kill some of those germs in your mouth?"

In the 7th year of marriage he says, "For Pete’s sake, quit sneezing on me. You trying to give me pneumonia or something?"

That is exactly the way the world looks at love, as something that diminishes with the passage of time. But the Bible says that real love matures & grows deeper with the passage of time.  You just watch people that have been married 50 or more years interact with each other and you’ll see that the world is wrong on this on too.

ILL. I’ve been present in a hospital room, a bedroom, and a living room as someone has passed from this life into eternity. Once I sat with a husband as we watched helplessly as his wife breathed her last. I’ll never forget him leaning over her bed & whispering into her ear, "Honey, I love you." Through decades of marriage their love had grown ever deeper & become more mature.

Love grows with the passage of time. That is a very important, essential part of love. As time goes by, real love gets wider & deeper & more meaningful as we share the experiences of life with one another.  I’m also talking about our relationship here with each other in the church, not just in marriages.  As we study, worship, and fellowship, and work together our love for God and each other grows deeper.  We don’t just say that we love each other, we really do love each other and that love shows it’s self to those around us.

A third characteristic of love is this, it has strength of character. Real love in the Bible has strength of character.

A. You know, the world sees love as something syrupy sweet. It says that parents who really love their children never discipline them. Just love them, & hopefully, they’ll love you back & everything will just be wonderful.

It says that theologians should only preach a message of love, & never a message of sin & judgment. Just preach a gospel of love & everybody will love each other a whole lot more.

Some people say that we should never confront our enemies.  To them, love never looks at the bad, only at the good, & shuts its eyes to any evil in our world.

B. But true love has strength of character. Parents who really love their children discipline. They develop guidelines & boundaries &enforce them.

Those who teach Jesus must hate sin & evil in the world. They must present the gospel so that people recognize that they are lost & dying without Jesus Christ.

Love sees both sides. Love is realistic, & it deals promptly & effectively with those things that are wrong in life.

Fourthly, love is self-denying. It willingly gives of itself for those it loves. Jesus had it all. He lived in heaven with all the riches of heaven, all the glory of heaven, all the prestige of heaven. But He sacrificed that. He gave up all of that to become one of us, even to death on the cross.

A. The world looks at love & says, "Love is getting whatever you can get out of relationships. When you are tired of them, or when they don’t excite you any more, then you just cast them aside."

B. But Christian loves means that you love the other person so much that you behave the same way Jesus behaved. You give of yourself for the sake of the one you love. How are you doing in that department?

ILL. For example, you’re going to take a shower & you find that there are only two clean towels left. One of them is so thin you can see through it, & the other one is a nice fluffy one. You know that your spouse is going to take a shower right after you do. Which towel do you use? The fluffy one, or the thin one?

When you go to the refrigerator & take out a bottle of coke that has just enough in it for one glass, & you know that it has lost all of its fizz, & there’s another bottle there that hasn’t been opened yet. What are you going to do? Someone wants a glass & you want a glass. Which one do they get?  The one with the fizz in it, or the one that has gone flat?

Are we self-denying? Or are we always trying to get what we want? Are we self-sacrificing, or are we always trying to promote ourselves to the detriment of others?

A. Finally this, real love always demonstrates itself. Love cannot keep quiet. There is no way that love can stand back & stoically look at the world & not be moved by it.

ILL. Jesus looked at Jerusalem & wept because of His compassion for them. Jesus looked at the crowds of people who came hungry for both spiritual & physical food. He turned to His disciples & said, "They are like sheep without a shepherd."

He couldn’t turn them away hungry, no more than He could turn a blind man away without giving him sight, or a lame man without giving him the ability to walk. He looked at them & He demonstrated His love.

God looked down on a suffering & lost humanity & there was no way He could sit in heaven & watch us wander aimlessly through life. He had to demonstrate His love!

Then He says, "If you really love Me, you have to demonstrate it, too. There is no way that you can say out of one side of your mouth, ’I love you,’ & out of the other side do nothing about it."

Jesus said, "If you love Me, you keep My commandments." You do something with the love. You demonstrate love. Love hugs. Love encourages.  Love touches. Love kisses. Love lifts others up.  Love bites it’s tongue.  Love turns the other cheek.  Love says, "I love you, and shows it"  Love says, “I want to spend eternity with you, and God”.  Love demonstrates itself in a thousand different good and positive ways. That is true love.

B. Maybe the world doesn’t see it that way, but that is the way that God presents it. It is something that is rooted & grounded in the love of God. It’s something that grows as the years of life pass. It is something that has strength of character, that stands for what is right, & opposes what is wrong. It is love that willingly sacrifices itself. And it is love that reaches out to demonstrate itself in a tangible way so that it can be seen.

CONCL. Decision time is always important, because it is an opportunity for us to demonstrate our love. God says, "I love you, & I have proven that. I’ve gone to the cross & died for you. There is nothing else I can do to love you more. I’ve done it all. Now if you love Me, then demonstrate your love."

If you are here this morning & you are not a Christian, you demonstrate your love by making Jesus your Lord & Savior, by being obedient to Him in  baptism, by sharing in His death, burial and resurrection.  And beginning a new life in Jesus the Christ.

If you are already a Christian, you demonstrate your love by going out into your world & carrying out the Great Commission, and by loving one another with a deep & abiding love, by forgiving each other & encouraging each other, bearing each other’s burdens, by demonstrating to the world that we really do love Jesus, & that we really are His disciples.

God invites. We pray that you will respond as we stand & as we sing.

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