Before continuing from where we left off last week, Paul answers the church’s bickering in 1 Cor. 12, the previous chapter from the one that we are studying, by stating that we are all parts of Christ’s body. The whole human body functions properly when all the parts are working properly—as does Christ’s church body. This is a sermon all unto itself, but is worth mentioning so we can go on.
As Chapter 13 begins notice how Paul mentions every single one of these gifts. He does this to make his point clear, to make sure everyone who has each gift, gets it. It applies to all of them.
I Cor. 13:1-3
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
What is it they need to get? What is it we need to get? That it doesn’t matter what your gift is, or how excellent your talent might be. Without practicing it in love, your gifts and talents are worth nothing. Then, he goes on to spell out what love looks like, in other words, Love is a verb.
I Cor. 13:4-7
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, 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.
A little bit of trivia for you: Toby Mac, Michael Tait of Newsboys and Kevin Smith of Audio Adrenaline were in what band? Anyone? Yep, DC Talk. 20 years ago, DC Talk had a hit album, which I had on cassette—and still have on cassette tape, by the way, called “Free At Last.” Side one, song one was a song called Luv is a Verb. Anyone know that song?
What they were pointing out was the essence of these verses. Love, despite what Disney movies tell us, is a verb, not a noun—not a feeling, although it can be that, it isn’t just that, and it isn’t what Paul is saying here. Love is a verb. Love, as DC Talk put it, is “a word that requires some action.” Love is something that must be practiced.
Love is patient: We practice patience. We don’t feel patience. People who are patient don’t feel patient, they act patient. They get that way by understanding patience and practicing it.
Look at the things love is not: jealous, boastful, proud, rude, demanding its own way, irritable…these are feelings. These are things that come by us naturally. I see it in the daycare, and we sometimes see it in adults, don’t we? These are the result of feelings. To combat these feelings, we must act. We must think before we speak. Thinking and speaking are two actions. Then, the love that we apply is an action.
A great illustration of love in action is the story of The Good Samaritan. That is the story of who our neighbor is and what loving our enemy looks like—it is 1 Cor. 13 illustrated.
Since the Good Samaritan is an illustration, then let me illustrate the illustration with an illustration: You walk into a bakery, the aroma of coffee and brownies fill your entire being. You feel warmth from the ovens, and you feel all cozy from the fragrance. You walk around and you see all sorts of pastries—donuts, muffins, breads, pies—then, you see a huge beautiful, fluffy-creamy cake, and you say, I want that cake for my birthday next week. Now, my wife would say to me, “I can make that cake.” And surely she can, if she had the recipe.
You see, the story of The Good Samaritan is the cake. 1 Cor. 13 is the recipe to make that cake. It gives us the instruction on how to be the Good Samaritan—on how to love our neighbor, on how to love our enemies. The Good Samaritan shows us what that all looks like when put together.
You’ll notice, too, in the story of The Good Samaritan that there were rather gifted people who looked the other way: a priest and a Levite. Do you get the picture? They were both men who would have had giftings, who would have used those giftings in service to God. Their giftings, although practiced, I’m sure in the temple, were worth nothing because they did not love.
Where can we practice this love? We’ll look at that next week.