Episode 17: Love Done Right, Part 2- 1 Corinthians 13

Peace to Live By Episode 17: Love Done Right, Part 2- 1 Corinthians 13 - Daniel Litton
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[Transcripts may not match broadcasted sermon word for word, and may contain extra material that was cut from the broadcast due to time constraints]

       I hope everyone is doing well today.

       In the Southwestern part of the United States of America, there is a sight to see that is of the most remarkable of God’s creation here on the earth. Lying at the bottom is a river—the Colorado River as humans have named it. If you move up the sides from the bottom, there are great walls of rock layer that form a long and wide canyon. Altogether, The Grand Canyon is really a spectacular sight to see. You’ll never forget it the first time you see it. It’s been almost ten years ago now since I saw it for the first time. Leaving from Flagstaff, Arizona (which in and of itself is a beautiful area, a mountainous region covered in pine trees with Elk and other interesting animals), you'll go up a two-lane highway into high-elevated desert until finally you reach the area where the canyon is.

       You really don’t know what you’re in for until you see The Grand Canyon for the first time. You’ll never forget it. I can still remember looking out into the canyon—seeing the vastness and deepness of it. You notice the different colors of the walls of rock, the different shades of brown, and in some areas you can see the small, little green Colorado River at the bottom (though I don’t think it’s really little). There are curves and shadows everywhere throughout the canyon. It is quite a beauty to behold, and it never gets old no matter how many times you go back. The canyon is a great mystery, full of different aspects that all come together to form the beautiful sight.

       Much in the same way as The Grand Canyon is detailed and mysterious in many ways, I think love is the same. Love is beautiful at a distance glance, but at a closer look it is full of different facets—all of which are important. There are various parts, each significant, that make it up. Just as God created The Grand Canyon in its detailed form after the Flood of Noah, so God has made love a very profound and deep thing. We, as humans, have the ability to choose to love. Now, there are different kinds of love, but the love I want us to focus on today primarily involves the love between a man and a woman who fall in love and get married.

       Today, I want us to look at the thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians. Undoubtedly, this is one of the most profound passages of Scripture in all the Bible. Now, it is true that though this chapter talks about love, it is not strictly talking about the marriage relationship. One could look at the verses in view of friendships or sibling relationships, for instance. But today I want us to look at these verses in view of marriage. I want us to place these glasses on when looking at this chapter today. I believe, as I am sure many of you will agree, that these verses are here can be particularly beneficial to understanding the marriage relationship.

       Since 1 Corinthians 13 is a rather short chapter, let’s go ahead and read it in full. So, turn with me in your Bibles, or tap there in your Bible apps, and let’s actually start with the last verse in 1 Corinthians 12 (the second half of it), read chapter 13, and finish with part of the first verse of chapter 14. The passage reads as follows:

“And I will show you a still more excellent way. 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.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

“Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Pursue love” (1 Corinthians 12:31b-14:1a, ESV).

       It is important as we go through life to always make sure we are keeping love in perspective, no matter what we are doing. The first paragraph talks about the fact that love is needed in life. It is so easy to go through the motions and not even realize that we are living. I think this is especially true here in American society. We have so much on our plates, so much to do, to accomplish, that I think often times we miss out on the important things in life. We miss out on having love in what we are doing, whether it is in doing our work in our careers or in our relationships with others.

       The Apostle Paul has pointed out that it is not necessarily what we do that is significant, but what we do it through. That is, if we don't show love in what we do, then what we are doing really doesn't matter. I think this is clearly true when it comes to marriage. It would seem that the reason divorce occurs between people so frequently is because people fall into the trap of going through the motions. They get into that trap, and they lose sight of the whole purpose for the marriage to begin with. People fall out of love, I guess you could say. They are no longer fulfilled in their marriages.

       Let's think about what marriage is not so that we can then look at what marriage is. Marriage is not simply for a person to have a friendship with another person. People all the time live together as friends without being married. Marriage is not for the purpose of having kids, though that may be an important result of it for you. If you base your marriage around your kids, your going to be in trouble before you know it. Marriage isn't either for the purpose of simply having a sexual relationship with someone. Marriage involves love, and true love is shown through marriage. It is action oriented. Each person is supposed to love the other as him or herself. And hopefully, the person loves the other more than him or herself. The Apostle Paul talked about the different aspects of love by showing what it is and what it is not. Let's look at each of these individually.

       It is also important to realize that things I am about to talk about cannot just happen overnight a lot of times. These things will take time to cultivate into your life—into your marriage. Changing bad habits and making good ones better isn't something that can just be done quickly. Rather, it takes hard work and perseverance, as people yield to and are led by the Spirit of God to make these changes in their lives. God, who lives in Christians, will work these fruits out in the marriage life. People just need to yield to him, and leave the rest to him. As the Apostle Paul closed with, people in a marriage relationship should “Pursue love,” and leave the rest to him (14:1a, ESV).

       First, let's talk about the fact that “Love is patient and kind” (verse 4, ESV). Number one, then, patience is both collective and singular. It can be collective in that you both, as partners, wait patiently for something, and you endure until it arrives. For example, you may have to wait patiently and endure before you can make more money in your careers. You may have to wait for the opportunity to come along. And on a singular level, it is very important that you be patient with your spouse. You can't expect bad habits to die overnight, for instance. Sometimes, you have to persistently wait for another person to come around to acting a way which is right. It may be the your partner has a special problem, or special need, and you have to bear with the person on that. Perhaps he or she has an anxiety disorder or personality disorder. Perhaps he or she finds a certain thing in life, or behavior, to be rather difficult. Well, love bears up under those things.

       Number two, as love is patient, it has extra mercy where needed. You have to be kind to your spouse. Being kind to your spouse will involve not only treating him or her with a general, everyday kindness, but with that which involves helping him or her where help is needed. Perhaps your spouse has the temptation to drink too much. If you spouse has had a drinking problem in the past and doesn't drink anymore, you shouldn't sit at dinner and have a glass of wine. Use your head. Don't get me wrong, no one should ever get drunk. But you should not be impatient and unkind to the other person, not willing to aid the other with your time and energy, whatever the need or problem may be.

       It is also true that “love does not envy or boast” (verse 4, ESV). You should never be jealous of your spouse. A father shouldn't be jealous of the mother's love for her child or children. You should never envy your spouse's accomplishment, or wish harm to come upon your spouse. If that's the case, if you are desiring evil to happen to the other person, then there is a significant problem inside of you. You need to get at the root of what's causing those feelings, what insecurity you have (or insecurities), and deal with that so you can actually love the other person. In the same way, one of the partners should not brag about his or her successes, rubbing it in the other's face. One should not say, “My job is more important than yours,” or, “I bring in all the money around here.” That's not loving the other person. God has called you each to individual responsibilities and perhaps careers, and you need to respect each other for that. Money made doesn't dictate the importance of the job done.

       Also, love “is not arrogant or rude” (verses 4, 5, ESV). One partner shouldn't exalt him or herself as the perfect one, while blaming troubles on the other. One shouldn't say, “I'm the perfect one around here. All our problems lies with you.” Number one, that's arrogant and certainly wrong. Number two, that's rude. In discussing rudeness, I think it's especially important for a husband to make sure he is sensitive toward his wife’s feelings. You shouldn't be insensitive, acting like you wife's feelings don't matter. It is true that women are typically more emotional then men, so I think that the man needs to have extra care and sensitivity toward his wife. Now, this does not mean the wife can do whatever she wants, cry, and then get away with it. That's not what I am saying here. Neither party should be impolite to the other and both should exhibit good manners.

       Now, let us consider that love “does not insist on its own way” (verse 5, ESV) In your marriage relationship, don't be self-centered. Don't steer your relationship in only the way you want to go, doing the things you want to do. Husband, what your wife likes and wants to do with your time is important, and you need to be open to that. Don't just only focus on what you want to do with your time. Don't say, "Well, the Bible says the wife supposed to submit to the husband, so therefore my wife needs to only do whatever I want to do." That's not the way it works. It is true that you're the head, but don't become a dictator. And wives, don't try to rule over your husbands, telling them the way things are going to go. That's not your job. That's going to cause severe frustration on the man's part. Let him lead you. If he won't lead you, get him into some counseling because he should be the leader. Care about some things he thinks are important, and do those things with him.

       It is also true that love “is not irritable or resentful” (verse 5, ESV). That is, you shouldn't become easily irritated with the other in your marriage. I think a lot of us know a couple, or couples, who fight a lot. If you think marriage is supposed to be full of fighting—that that's just the way it is—your wrong. You shouldn't be easily irritated with things the other person does. Remember, love is patient and kind (ESV). You need to be patient with the other person, where necessary, and kind, where needed. And just as we talked about how it is wrong to be envious of your mate, it's also true that you should not be “resentful” toward him or her (ESV). You shouldn't resent the other person for wrongs committed. Just as God has forgiven us each individually for all our wrongs, so we are to freely forgive others for their wrongs that they've committed against us. There might be a moment of dissension between the marriage partners, but it should be followed by forgiveness. God never says it's ok for a Christian to hold a grudge against anyone—Christian or non-Christian. Being resentful just isn't part of the picture of marriage, or for any other part of the Christian life.

       Next, we read that love “does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (verse 6, ESV). You should never be happy when your partner fails at something. Instead, you should build up your spouse and encourage him or her in whatever that situation is. If your partner does something wrong, there may be a time where you need to be sad along with him or her. Let's say your partner gets in trouble at work. Well, share in the grief with him or her. Don't say, “Oh, honey that's too bad. I hope everything works itself out.” Share in the grief. Say, “Honey, tell me about what happened. Let me help you see how this can be worked for your good.” Love “rejoices with the truth” in that each partner should want to follow God's truth in life, and want the other person to be aligned with His Truth (ESV). If you really love someone, you will want that person to be in line with the Truth, God's truth. Just as there is no 'real' love in not telling unbelievers they are on a path to destruction, there is no real love in the marriage relationship without knowledge. Each should teach and guide the other into right living.

       The next sentence reads, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (verse 7, ESV). We have talked about in the past how it is important for couples to stick together in the good times and in the bad times. It can't be stated enough. With any marriage, there are going to be times of trouble. Each member needs to be willing to work through those times, trusting in God, no matter how hard they are, and endure through them. God never gives Christians trials that are too hard for them to bear (see 1 Corinthians 10:13). He doesn't forsake his people but helps them to the end (see Matthew 28:20). It should also be stated that it is important for couples to believe each other in the marriage. When your spouse tells you something, you should believe him or her. You shouldn't always be wondering if what is being said is true. You shouldn't be critical or constantly fact-checking. If you have be that way toward your partner, then there is a major problem already. You need to go to counseling. Anyway, true love always hopes for the best. It also hopes the best will happen for the other partner, and for the marriage as a whole. That's one reason why divorce doesn't make any sense. It's not striving toward the best.

       Finally, let's talk about the fact that “Love never ends” (verse 8ex, ESV). First, let's note that God will always love those who are his (see 1 John 3:1). So, in this sense love never ends. It's also true that a Christian should be doing all things through love, for even Jesus noted that we are to love God with all our being first and then subsequently love our neighbors as ourselves (see Mark 12:29-31). However, this being said, your love for someone—whether it be in marriage or not—cannot guarantee the success of the relationship. That is, your love for your spouse does not mean they'll love you back. Just because you love doesn't mean the person will love in return. The person may stop loving. And you can't change a person's interests; God has made people they way he has made them. When you enter a relationship, you'd better be sure you like what you see. Sure, you may be able to change the person to suit your standards for a temporary time. You may even be able to get the person to act like you want until you get married. But after you get married, or whenever, the person is eventually going to revert back to the person they really are. A person is going to like the things he or she likes, and the person is going to want to do what he or she want to do.

       A marriage relationship is supposed to be permanent, and not to be ended. Each person is to love the other until one dies, or both die (see 1 Corinthians 7:39, 40). This is the core essence of trust: the two people knowing between themselves that neither will ever end the relationship. A divorce may occur because one of the party’s stops loving. Divorce is never to be sought for, unless adultery has occurred and the unoffending partner wants divorce (see Matthew 5:31, 32). One reason love never ends is because it will never end in heaven. Granted, even though there will be no marriage in heaven—for if your married now, you wont be married in heaven—the love you have with your partner will still continue in fellowship with each other and with God (see Matthew 22:30, Revelation 21:3). Thus, it is true that, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (verse 12, ESV). Love will be truly fulfilled not in this life, but in heaven.

       Paul also examines earthly things in this word that do indeed end. Earthly things like prophecies, tongues, and knowledge will end, whether you believe they have already ended, or whether you believe they will end in the future (whatever your theological stance is). You see, we are like children now here on the earth. We really don't understand much at all of what there is to understand. We see dimly, as Paul put it, but in the future we will see clearly. When we get to heaven, we will really understand love and all that it has to offer. God will love us, and we will love each other. Remember that Paul said, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Pursue love” (verse 13, 14:1a, ESV). Well, faith and hope are earthly things. They are not needed in heaven because you will see, so there is no need for faith, and you will be there, so there is no need for hope. But love will still be relevant. We should pursue love now, and we will really enjoy it in the future.

       In conclusion today, I want us all to remember that God does indeed love us, as Christians, and he even loves those who are not Christians. He shows his love to the whole world in that he takes care of it, giving all of us things we do not deserve. But I want those who are not Christian today to realize that even though God loves you, you still need to come into a personal relationship with him to be truly free (see Romans 8:7). God showed his love for everyone by having Jesus die on the cross of all sins of all time (see Hebrews 9:26b). But because each of us are born with a sin nature, we have to accept Jesus' perfect sacrifice on the cross for forgiveness of sins, and to be truly set free from sin (see Romans 3:23, 24). You see, Jesus can make you free today (see Romans 8:2). He died on a cross, some 2,000 years ago, and he rose from the dead by God's power so that anyone can be forgiven and set free from sin (see 1 Peter 2:24).

       Perhaps today you've listened to everything I've talked about. Maybe you were in a marriage at one time, but the marriage failed. Perhaps it was your fault that it failed. Even so, God is here today to take the weight of your failure off of your shoulders. By believing in Jesus for the forgiveness of the wrongs you did, you can be made to be at peace with God (see Romans 5:1). He will forgive any and every offense for anyone who comes to him in agreement with him (see 1 John 1:9). There's no need to continue living with the weight of your sin on your shoulders. There's no need to live with regret (see Philippians 3:13, 14). God can take that off your shoulders, and you can be made right with him today. Not only will you be in right relationship with him, but he also freely gives eternal life to whoever will believe in him (see John 3:16). There will be no hell in the future for those who accept Jesus (see Ephesians 1:13, 14). There is no more condemnation for them (see Romans 8:1). They are free: free to live and have a new life (see Galatians 5:1; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

       If you would like to accept Jesus today as your personal Lord and Savior, then just follow my lead in this simple prayer:

God, I have screwed up in my life. I have sinned against you, and against others. I have not lived up to your righteous standard. But I understand that through Jesus I can have forgiveness for my sins, that the weight can come off my shoulders. I want to accept Jesus' sacrifice on my behalf, and I believe that he rose from the dead. I turn from willingly doing wrong today, and count Jesus as my Lord. Please, change my life and make me new. In Jesus' name, Amen.

-Daniel Litton

West - 325
                    Daniel at Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim) in Arizona.