1 Corinthians 13:1-3
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
It was several years ago that I experienced one of the most terrifying experiences any man will have in their walk of faith as a Christian. Bonnie and I were leaving the main hall after the worship service in our church and Arnie Termors (the Lead Pastor) came up to us, put his hand on both of our knees and said quit abruptly, “I love you guy’s and there is nothing you can do about it!”
Now I can handle preaching, praying, singing and worshipping in public but; this expression of love was a little different and pretty uncomfortable. A lot of you guy’s are thinking the same thing right now! “What am I supposed to say?” And, “How do I get this guy’s hand off my knee?” So how do we relate those feelings to what Paul said in this passage we read a few minutes ago?
Paul says that if we have great tongues and abilities to speak and articulate words but we do not have love then we lack harmony and are ultimately empty of meaning and purpose. If we have and can see spiritual gifts and abilities in ourselves and others yet we can not express love in all environments and to all people then we ultimately amount to nothing. If we sacrifice great amounts of time, develop ministries, careers, families, and businesses but we do it with out a consciousness of love, then our achievements amount to zilch!
Paul’s expressions in this passage seem centered around a point that love is not something we can posses or find internally in ourselves. It is not just a feeling or emotional expression to which we feel only in a certain context or state of mind. Love is organic. It is a living entity that we can only be in relationship too!
1 John 4:7-8
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
Let me ask you a question. If there was just one thing that you would hope to have accomplished throughout your life, what would it be? What is the one thing you hope to do in all of life?
Jesus was asked this question too and his answer shapes the same view Paul and John have.
“But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
In all things Jesus says we are to begin by loving God first and all other expressions flow out of that truth. It is as if we are like a mirror that when we are turned first to the source of love (God), we then reflect it to everything and everybody around us. Remove the focus from the source though and ultimately we reflect nothing.
Jesus then says in detail that we are to love God with all of our heart.
In his book ‘Fan the Flame’, Joseph Stowell says the “Heart is used in Scripture as the most comprehensive term for the authentic person. It is the part of our being where we desire, deliberate, and decide. It has been described as “the place of conscious and decisive spiritual activity,” “the comprehensive term for a person as a whole; his feelings, desires, passions, thought, understanding and will,” and “the center of a person. The place to which God turns.”
Jesus is asking that our love for God becomes more then just a moment of emotion. He is asking that our love for God becomes our natural ethos and character. Loving God would then be a natural identity for ourselves regardless of who we are around or where we find ourselves. It is to internally and continually ask the question of ourselves, “If I were to say nothing about my faith to anyone else for the rest of my life, would they know that I love God?” That’s not to say that speaking about our faith is not good or wholesome, it’s just to ask if we are truly always living the faith which we are speaking about!
We are to love God with all of our soul.
Eerdmans dictionary defines soul as meaning our whole life not only in spirit but as a body and mind as well! It reads, “In the New Testament ‘soul’ (psyche in the Greek) refers to the living being of the whole person and to a person’s life.”
So when we read in Acts 2:41 that, “those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” Luke is saying that salvation is meant just as much for our body as it is our spirit.
When we love God with all of our soul we need to grow closer to him in all aspects of our life both physically, psychologically, and spiritually.
And finally, we are to love God with all of our mind.
1 Peter 3:8-9
“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”
Loving God with all of our mind means we are seeking out unity, tenderness, and humility with him. We are not lashing out at God or placing blame or thinking badly of him. Loving God with all of our thoughts means we are blessing him as he is blessing us in return by continually renewing our minds.
I am reminded of something Charles Spurgeon wrote. He said:
“Some will say they cannot help having bad thoughts; that may be, but the question is, do they hate them or not? Vain thoughts will knock at the door, but we must not open them. Though sinful thoughts rise, they must not reign. He who turns a morsel over and over in his mouth, does so because he likes the flavor, and he who meditates upon evil, loves it, and is ripe to commit it. Snails leave their slime behind them, and so do vain thoughts.
Good thoughts are blessed guests, and should be heartily welcomed, well fed, and much sought after. Like rose leaves, they give out a sweet smell if laid up in the jar of memory. They cannot be to much cultivated; they are a crop which enriches the soil.”
Time is running out and I am sure many of you are thinking what’s for lunch so let me tie Jesus’ last point in with my conclusion.
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” It is easy to say that yes you love your neighbor but today words seem empty without action. We have gone into get detail of how we are to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and even our strength. Why then should we not love our neighbor any differently? In truth, we should not love them any differently.
So then let me ask you some question for you to ponder over the next few days. According to the ways we have described love in the last few minutes, do you love the neighbors on either side of your house or home? Do you as a part of a community of Christians love the Mormons who are just done the street from us? Do you love the Muslim who lives a block or two away from you? Do you love that family member or coworker who continually stretches you to your emotional limits?
Don’t answer these questions right away but allow them to stir and mature in your heart. Then when you are ready to answer them truthfully, wholly, and honestly; answer them to God and ask him to transform and adjust your position so that his love can better be reflected into those areas of your life.
William Law once said, “[Christ] is the breathing forth of the heart, life and spirit of God into all the dead race of Adam. He is the seeker, the finder, the restorer of all that, from Cain to the end of time, was lost and dead to the life of God. He is the love that prays for all its murderers; the love that willingly suffers and dies among thieves, that thieves may have a life with him in Paradise; the love that visits publicans, harlots and sinners, and wants and seeks to forgive where most is to be forgiven.”
Without love we can achieve nothing. Without love we can find no purpose or meaning. Without love our very existence is nothing. But…In God’s love we are worth everything!!!