I want to be involved in church, but I don’t want to be around that person.
I want to serve on this team, but not if that person is in charge.
I want to engage with God’s Word, but not if that person is preaching.
I want a community of people to grow into Christlikeness with, but not if they’re older than me or younger than me or they go to private school or go to public school or vaccinate their kids or don’t vaccinate their kids. They better be just like me if they want to be in community with me.
Have you ever felt or thought any of these things?
If we’re real honest with ourselves, the answer would certainly be yes.
I definitely have. More often than I care to admit.
Here’s the deal though.
That doesn’t sound like love to me.
It just doesn’t.
To refuse to listen to preaching, or serve, or be in a small group because there’s someone you don’t like is about one of the least loving mindsets you and I can have.
Today I want us to be reminded of one of the more misunderstood passages in the New Testament. I’m talking about the love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13.
Let’s read part of it together.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
One of the most important steps of studying the Bible is understanding the context of what you’re reading.
Where have you heard this passage taught?
Most likely at a wedding. This is one of the classic wedding messages.
This isn’t sinful or heretical or wrong, but it does skew our view of what this passage is about.
If you open up your Bible, you’ll see by looking around the immediate context of this passage that this is not primarily about romantic love. It’s about congregational love.
This is a description of what love should look like in the church. The last time marriage was mentioned is in chapter seven. A lot has come up since then. Just previous to this chapter is a long discussion by Paul about the role of spiritual gifts and diversity in the body.
The body of Christ.
This text is not about romantic love, it’s about congregational love.
How we doing?
How are our churches doing at this?
How are you doing at this?
I recently read a quote that was pretty abrasive.
God is looking for mature men and women to carry on His work, and sometimes all he can find are little children who cannot even get along with each other. – Warren Wiersbe
Talk about some convicting stuff.
Do we exemplify mature or childish behavior?
I’ll tell you, there’s much room for improvement in my life when it comes to loving the body like Paul teaches us to here in this passage.
I’ll be honest, my heart breaks when I hear of petty disagreements, turf wars, drama, disunity, cliques, and all the like. My heart breaks when I’m culpable in such matters.
We are called to be patient and kind. To all people. We are called not to be jealous of others. We are called to not be prideful.
We are called to not be self-seeking. The church isn’t about what any of us can gain from it. It is about what we can give to it. If anyone had the right to be self-seeking, it was Jesus. The whole universe was his. But instead of taking from the people of God, he gave his life for the people of God. Are you trying to create your kingdom of sand in your church, or are you giving your life for it?
We are called to not be easily angered. Let’s be honest with ourselves. What is at the root of the issues that fire us up? Is it about the glory of God and health of his church, or is it about our own egos or preferences?
We are called to not be a keeper of wrongs.
This does NOT mean that you are to be a welcome mat, treated poorly over and over.
This does mean that you shouldn’t hold a grudge, but instead you should forgive them. This isn’t an easy process, it doesn’t happen in an instant, but it is what you’re called to do.
Regardless of what someone in the church has done to you, it is a far cry to all you’ve done in your rebellion towards God, which was forgiven by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
Reconciliation is the desired end result here.
Divisions and disunity, cliques and squabbles, pettiness and immaturity. These grieve the heart of God.
Love protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres.
Before you think that this is an idealistic view of the church, let me remind you what the church in Corinth was like. This was a messed up place. Yes, more messed up than the church you left or the church you’re in. There was incest that wasn’t being addressed, and the people were suing one another in the church. I’d say that’s some pretty grotesque and intense stuff.
Yet, Paul doesn’t give them a way out here.
He doubles down and tells them to love one another. To be the body.
I’ll be honest, few things break my heart more than seeing the people of God full of hate for each other. Sure, there are people you will get along with better than others. There will be some that you never have a deep relationship with. There will be some that are not easy to get along with.
You know what?
You’re still called to love them.
Let us all set an example for the world around us of a people who aren’t petty, who aren’t angry, who aren’t envious or self-seeking. Let us be different. Let us be loving.
In His Name,