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Sermon Notes


1 Corinthians 13:1-13

February 3, 2019


     A couple came to see their pastor (not me), because the man was concerned about his wife’s depression.  He had tried everything he could think of to help her, but nothing seemed to work.  After talking to the couple for about an hour, the pastor gave the woman a hug and kissed her.  He then turned to the husband and said, “That’s all your wife needs about 4 days a week.”  The husband said, “Oh, I can’t do that, I can only bring her here on Thursdays.”

     Many research organizations tell us that about 50% of all marriages end in divorce, and that bothers me, because it makes me wonder at times if we do enough to strengthen and save our marriages.  After all, if I told you there was a 50% chance that you would lose something of great value to you, you would probably do everything you could to protect it, to insure you didn’t lose it.  So if we value our marriages, then we ought to be doing everything we can to insure that they will succeed. 

     The problem is many times married couples do all kinds of things to save or strengthen their marriages, but they don’t do the most important thing and that is going to God.  Our world offers all kinds of books and seminars about marriage that will teach you how to communicate better, how to handle conflict, how to manage finances, how to be more intimate with each other, and these are all fine – they are very helpful, but one thing is still missing and that is love.  Marriage is supposed to be based on love, which you would think ought to go without saying – husbands and wives should love each other.  But since we are sinners by nature, and sin leads us to love ourselves rather than others, we need to be reminded to love each other.

     So what is love?  Ask that question to 10 different people and you will probably get 10 different answers, because love can mean different things to different people.  The New Testament was written in Greek and the Greek language has several words for love.  There is the word “eros,” which means a physical or sexual attraction, which is a legitimate and necessary aspect of marital love.  But marriages need a lot more than “eros” love.  Another word for love in Greek is pronounced “phileo.”  This love has to do with friendship and companionship, which is also an important part of marriage.  There should be friendship and things you enjoy about each other in marriage.  But you can have all kinds of “phileo” and “eros” love and still not approach what the Bible means by love that makes marriage work best.  The third word in Greek for love is “agape.”  This word describes God’s love for us and in the confines of marriage it is a commitment on the part of each married partner to be primarily concerned for the well being of the other in a giving, sacrificial, and unconditional way.

     Now that’s a tall order and we all fall short, as a result many marriages struggle and fail, especially when people have all of these misconceptions about love, such as “love is a feeling.”  It’s a feeling deep down in your heart, that’s it.  Well, love does affect our feelings in a powerful way, but it is more than just a feeling.  Another popular misconception is that “love is uncontrollable.”  Many times people will say, “I fell in love.”  What does that mean?  When someone says that do they mean, “It just happened.  I was walking down the street and I fell in love.  I couldn’t help it.”

     God’s “agape” love that we see in our second lesson for today from 1 Corinthians 13 is quite different.  Jesus commanded us to “love (agape) one another as I have loved you.”  That means we have control over who we love and who we don’t love; when we love and when we don’t love; we get to choose.  God says that love is a matter of choice.  In Colossians 3:12-14, God says, “…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them together in perfect unity.”  In other words, to put on love involves an action we must take.  If love was just a feeling or an accident then God would not have commanded it.  He commands love, therefore love is an action, and how we act towards our spouse in marriage and towards others is what love is all about.  In verses 4-7 of our second lesson we see a definition of how love acts.  It says, “Love is patient, love is kind, love always trusts, it doesn’t brag, it’s not arrogant, it’s not rude, and it does not insist on its own way.”  This gives us a list of how love acts, and what I would like to do is to use this list as a guide this morning to determine whether our love is alive, dying, or dead in our marriages (and this can apply to all relationships).  The first thing it says on that list is “love is patient,” which means love is alive when it has time.  It is dying when it is hurried, and it is dead when it cannot wait.  Love takes time, it requires patience, because we spend a lot of time waiting in our lives.  We wait in traffic, we wait at the grocery store, we wait for an appointment, we wait for an illness to pass, we wait for marriage, and we wait for children.  Waiting with someone is not so bad, but waiting for someone is where we struggle with patience.  But our God is a patient God as He forgives us again and again and again in our lives.  And if God can take time to make allowances for our faults, then we can be patient with one another.

     Second, 1 Corinthians 13 says “love is kind,” which means love is alive when it cares, it’s dying when it forgets, and it’s dead when it ignores.  Kindness means the ability to care for each other in the practical details of everyday life.  Kindness knows how to turn the grand vows that we make on our wedding day into cleaning the house, changing diapers, staying up with sick children, and caring for a spouse in their older years.  Jesus showed loving kindness in the care and healing He offered to people who were brought to Him in our Gospel lesson from Luke 4.  All of them were healed without question or conditions.

     Third, the Bible says “love always trusts,” which means love is alive when it is secure; it is dying when it starts doubting, and it is dead when it stops trusting.  Trust or security is vital in relationships; and if you add just a little bit of doubt to a marriage you can make it very unhealthy.  Ask yourself this morning if it would make any difference in your marriage or in your relationship with your parents, children, or other family members if you said, “No matter what happens, no matter how ill you become, no matter how many times you fail, and no matter what we have to go through in life, I love you.”  It should make a difference, because God says that same thing to us: “No matter what you do or fail to do, I love you.”  That is the security we have with our God.

     Finally, the last thing we read on that list is “love does not insist on its own way,” which means love is alive when it is giving; it’s dying when it is exchanging, and it’s dead when it is taking – when it’s selfish.  It’s interesting how many different kinds of relationships we have.  We have “give and take” relationships, which often means I take and you give.  We have “fair exchange” relationships – you do this for me and I’ll do that for you.  But the best relationship to have, especially in a marriage, is a “give and give” relationship, with both people giving because they want to give and are not forced to give.  Many people want romantic love in their marriage and that’s fine, but it’s very important to understand that romantic love demands constant attention, while real love gives constant attention.

     As Christians we know that God loves us – by what He says here in His Word, but more importantly through His actions.  Every Sunday the one object we all see, without fail above our altar, is the cross.  In 1 Corinthians 1:18, it says that “the message of the cross is the power of God.”  God’s power was demonstrated when Jesus rose from the dead; but His love was demonstrated – was put into action – when Jesus willingly died on the cross for our sins.  The cross says to each of us: “I love you.”

     The Bible tells us that Jesus is love, so every place that you see the word “love” on that list, you can replace it with the word Jesus – “Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind, Jesus always trusts.”   Think of yourself like a rechargeable battery – unless you are plugged into God’ Word often, your love for each other will quickly dry up and be replaced with love for yourself – and that does not lead to a happy marriage.  We need Jesus in our marriages, not just to model love, but to give us that love through the forgiveness He won for us on the cross so it will empower you to love one another with the same love He has shown to you.