Love never fails

“Parents are happiest when their children love each other.” I recently read that and posed it to my wife asking, “Do you agree with that statement?” It was during a time when the kids weren’t getting along. It was a constant refrain when I was growing up and still is in my house. “Why can’t you just love each other?” Finally, when the sun broke out and things warmed up, we all went outside. We were painting the shed, and some wanted to help. The attention to stay and help grew short, and all four boys went to digging holes in the ground. I really didn’t care that they stopped helping and that they were digging in the yard. I didn’t particularly agree with the location or purpose of the holes in the ground, but I let it go because they all were happy and getting along. It was such a beautiful thing. Those of you who are parents, don’t you get that? You feel tense when they are fighting. You feel calm when they are caring. Even if you are not a parent, you can see it and feel it wherever you are. When people are working together in harmony, when they care about one another, when they sacrifice for each other and help others, it is a beautiful thing. Where do you think that comes from? The book of 1 Corinthians is one attempt to get the children to love one another. It was not based on a superficial love to overlook faults or not confront the things that are wrong but a committed and sacrificial love. This group of Christians were supremely blessed. They were generous and had some unique spiritual gifts that not many other churches at that time had. But the one (the greatest of all Christian virtues), they lacked: love. So Paul spent some time to show them the true superiority of love. He built off some spiritual gifts to make his point. 1 If I speak in the tongues of men (a good gift to communicate the Gospel) and of angels (he heightens it to speaking heavenly tongues), but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy (it is good to communicate the message of God) and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge (he heightens it with the word “all”), and if I have a faith that can move mountains (saving faith is good but what about mountain-moving faith), but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames (extreme generosity to the highest degree that none would ever achieve), but have not love, I gain nothing. There were great spiritual gifts, and he heightens them. What if that gift were taken to the very limits of its capacity? Even if (which would never happen) you were able to achieve the greatest extent of these gifts but lacked love, these extraordinary gifts would be worthless. Do you see how important love is? You could be the smartest, most successful, most skilled, have the best plans, best advice, most important thing to say yet if you lack love, it is nothing. Love really is the secret ingredient. Paul gives a poetic characterization of that love. This list is not exhaustive but notice the beauty of the short phrases. Notice also that love is an action. None of these words are feelings. 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. The list is beautiful and inspiring. But if you are anything like me, after seeing this list you feel guilty. I am not patient, I am not kind, I envy, I boast in my pride. I am rude and self-seeking. My temper can flare up and I definitely keep track of those who have wronged me. I can be tempted to enjoy watching the evil of “what is coming to that person.” This type of love that Paul describes seems so wonderful, but it is not real. It can’t be. Until you see Jesus here. There were people who had a great impact in your life: a coach, boss, teacher, mentor, or parent. They were good at what they did. But the greatest thing that stands out about them all is love. They cared. Love is the focus of the Gospel and the other readings. Love is the outstanding characteristic of the citizens of Christ’s kingdom. A new command: love one another! The command itself isn’t new. What’s new is that we have a crucified and risen Savior speaking it to us. He says to love one another as I have loved you. The only way for this command not to scare us or burden us is to see Jesus in it. Jesus is the perfect demonstration of God’s love for us and the perfect example for us to follow. He was patient and kind. He was not self-seeking. He always protected, always trusted, always hoped, always persevered. What’s new for Christ’s people—new every day—is that we are motivated by the grace and mercy of God, and we want to love. Every day we are concerned about our lack of love, and we repent of it. Daily we hear the comforting voice of our Good Shepherd who forgives us and leads us in right paths for his name’s sake. This is the love that will last forever. Notice, next, the superiority of love with an eye on the future. Because of Easter, love never fails. It lasts eternally. 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. (Look into the future when the special spiritual gifts pass away. Love will remain). 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. (future) 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. (now we see God through the mirror of his word but in heaven we will see him face to face). Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (in all our searching and studying of God, we will never truly know everything. But in heaven, we will know fully. Notice Paul’s wonderful thought at the end, “I am fully known.” I may partially know God know but he fully knows me always). 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. Love never fails. You really want to know how to love and serve God? You don’t need to come in here and gravel at his feet. You don’t need to sing his praise or pay him off. You know what will make God so happy? To see us love people, his children loving one another. On September 29, 2006, in the war-torn city of Ramadi, Iraq, Petty Officer Second Class of the navy Seals Michael Monsoor, or “Mikey” as his friends called him, smothered a grenade with his body to save three of his teammates. For these actions, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. May 4th, just 11 days ago, in Phoenix, AZ, Adriana Alejo, age 32, was killed while waiting in line for food outside by jumping in front of a bullet to protect her 12-year-old son. People in Ukraine are giving up their lives and energy to defend their hometowns. September 11, 2001, New York City, firefighters and rescue workers run into the trade tower buildings rather than running out to ensure that many more people can escape the buildings before they collapse. Stories of sacrificial love are inspiring. Why? Because they are all glimpses of the sacrifice. They point to Jesus. “Love one another as I have loved you.” The greater you can drink deep in the love of Jesus the greater your capacity to love will grow. Whenever you show sacrificial love like this, you show people the love of Jesus. This love of Jesus will never fail and will carry you on to eternity. Amen

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