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The Portrait of Love, Part Two

By Dr Alex Tang

Text: 1 Cor.13: 4-7

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonour 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. (TNIV)

1.                  Introduction

In our last sermon, we were painting a portrait of Love. It is word picture of how love looks like.

*      patient, In the Greek, it is makrothumeo which means ‘to be long tempered’. ‘It is the word which is used of the man who is wronged and who has it easily in is power to avenge himself but will never do it.’ Patient says, “I’ll take anything from my enemies.”

*      kind. Kindness says. “I’ll do anything for my enemies to meet their needs”. In the Greek, the word for kindness is “useful”.

*      does not envy. Another word for envy is jealous. The Greek word for envy means ‘to boil’. It refers to the inner boiling, seething or steaming over something someone has and you do not. The Corinthian are envious of each other’s spiritual gifts. Envy is wanting something other people have that you do not have. There are two types of envy:

*      superficial envy – “I want what you have”

*      deep-rooted envy- “I wish you didn’t have it”.

The first type of envy wants what someone else has, but the second type is resenting that they have it. Deep envy is not just that you want something; it also means that if you do not have it, you don’t not want anyone else to have it too. It is real mean.

*      does not boast. Boasting is making other people want what you have. It is to make you stand out and make others feel inferior to you.

*      is not proud. Pride hurt ourselves and damages our souls. Pride is thinking that you are superior to all those around you.

*      does not dishonour others. In the NIV, it was translated ‘rude’. In the Greek ‘rude’ is translated as ‘to behave in an unbecoming manner.’ It refers to poor manners-rudeness.The reason is that rudeness dishonours others. Rudeness says. “I can behave anyway I want and I could not care less about what you think. I could not care less whether my behaviour affects you or not.” Rudeness is very self-centered.

*      is not self-seeking, In other Bible translation, love is not ‘selfish’ or ‘seeketh not its own’.

*      is not easily angered, The Greek word for easily angered is paroxuno. It is the word from which we get the word paroxysm. It means ‘a sudden outburst’. This means agape-love is not like a volcano-boiling inside and liable to a sudden eruption. It is not irritable and get angry easily.

*      keeps no record of wrongs.

Today, we shall continue our portrait painting.

2.         Painting of the portrait of love continued.

10)       Love does not delight in evil but (v.6a)

Agape-love does not love sin. There are many ways in which people delight in sin. Have you hear about people bragging about their sin?  “You know what I did? I did this and this and this...” Incest was committed in the Corinthian church and they were bragging about it (1 Cor.5:1-6).

While on earth as a man, Jesus faced all types of temptations but He did not sin or delight in evil. In fact he denounced evil whenever he confronts it. However, he condemns the sin but forgive the sinners.

Earnest Hemingway was a very prolific writer whose life is as exciting as his novels. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1954. His famous novels are The Old Man and the Sea, A Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon and The Sun Also rises. Hemingway rejects the old Victorian culture of morality. He felt that one can sin and get away with it. Hemingway’s books and his life reflect this philosophy. He believed that you can sin as much as you want as long as you do not get taught. His life is as exciting as his novels. He had affairs with many women, a drunken, host wild fancy parties, big game safari hunter, was an ambulance driver in World War One and a United States agent in World War Two. One day, Hemingway took a gun and blew his brain out. He can only delight in evil only so long.

11)  rejoices with the truth. (v.6b)

Here Paul contrasts ‘not delighting in evil’ with ‘rejoicing with the truth’. What has truth to do with evil? Truth means understanding and knowing God’s teachings. Without truth, we would not know good from evil. Without truth there is no knowledge of saving grace. Thus agape-love is love that is lived out in God’s truth. That is because truth is freedom. You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free. The devil is the father of lies. He is always lying to us. Before we became Christian, he is throwing doubts on how easy it is to be a Christian. What just believe? How come, so easy? Nothing is so easy. After we became Christian, he challenged us; Are you sure you are a Christian? Did you say the prayer properly? Maybe you are not good enough? Perhaps you should work for your salvation more?  All these questions can be answered by the Word of God. The Word of God is the Bible. But the ultimate Word of God is Jesus Christ. And Jesus is the Truth. So agape-love rejoices in the truth.

On September 1889, Sundar Singh was born in Rampur, in the region of Patiala northern India. He was raised in the luxury of his family's wealth. As a Sikh, Sundar was taught about Sikhism and also about Hinduism. By the age of seven he had already memorized Bagawadgita, the songs of blissful people, which is a long and intricate verse containing lessons of life. At sixteen, not only had he mastered Veda, the ancient sacred books of Hinduism, but he had also read Koran, the sacred book of Islam. He then got acquainted with some Sadhus who taught him Yoga. However, he never achieved peacefulness in his meditations. Owing to his mother's connections with some women from a British mission in Rajpur, Sundar was able to enter the school run by the missionaries. It was there that Sundar was first exposed to the Bible. He wasn't interested in the Bible at that time. Instead, he ardently buried himself in the occult art of Hinduism. His mother died when he was 14 years old. Since then his life changed dramatically. Convinced that what Jesus had taught was completely wrong, he tore the Bible apart and burned it. He even threw stones at preachers and encouraged others to do likewise. Still, however hard he tried, he couldn't find the peace he had been seeking for in his own religion.

He reached a point in his life where committing suicide crossed his mind. Three days after he burned the Bible in front of his father, he woke up at 3 a.m. and said to himself, "Oh God, if you do exist, show me the right way, or I will kill myself." He was thinking of throwing himself in front of a train that usually passed at 5 a.m. every morning behind their house in the hope that he would find peacefulness in his future reincarnation. He repeated his prayer once again. All of a sudden he saw a brilliant light. At first he feared that the room was on fire. But nothing happened. He then thought that it might be an answer to his prayer. While watching the light, he suddenly saw Jesus' figure in the radiance. He then heard a voice in Hindi saying, "How much longer are you going to search for me? I have come to save you. You prayed for the right path. Why have you not followed it?" At that time, Sundar realized that Jesus had not died and that He was alive. Sundar fell on his knees before Him and experienced an astonishing peacefulness which he had never felt before. The vision disappeared, but peace and joy lingered within him. That’s what Paul meant by rejoicing in the truth because it brings life.

12)  It always protects, (v.7a)

The last four attributes brings to a conclusion, Paul’s thesis on love. These four is all encompassing because it begins with ‘always’. Here Paul is moving away from the specific problems of the Corinthian church  to a wider view of agape-love.

 Agape-love always protects. Who are those who need protection? The poor, the exploited, the aged, the sickly, the widows, the single mothers with children, the children being sold into the flesh trade, the oppressed, the prisoners and the orphans. Agape-love always looks beyond the immediate area of our family and of our church into the larger area of our community, our state, our country and the world. Agape-love seeks to put a mantle over these defenceless persons and protects them. Agape-love always is concerned with others’ welfare.

The church or the community of Christians are to reach out and protect those who are outside their communities. This has always been a distinctive characteristic of Christian- their love. Orphanages and hospitals were started by Christians. As missionaries moved into new areas, they bring medical healthcare and education to the local populations. They build shelters, dig wells and become friends. The many aid agencies who bring help and hope in many parts of the world when disaster strikes such as the Red Cross, World Vision , Tears Fund and Habitat for Humanity are formed by Christians.

Christians has always been active in politics and lobby for political reforms. Historian has stated that the United Kingdom did not suffer a political revolution like the French Revolution with its tremendous loss of lives is because the tireless work of a few Christians in Parliament like Lord Shaftsbury. Others like William Wilberforce get the British Parliament to abolish slavery. In last century, it is the work of Martin Luther King and others who highlights the blatant racism in the United States and the Segregation Act. Social Catholic worker, Dorothy Day brought better working conditions for the workers.

Agape-love sees the need of our hurting world and seeks to protect.

Jesus has always protects the sinners but not the sin. One example is when He stood between an angry crowd and a woman caught in adultery. The woman has been judged and sentenced to death by stoning. A nasty way of dying. Jesus protected the woman. He did not pretend that the woman has not sinned. He knew the woman has repented in her heart. So He forgave her.

13)  always trusts, (v.7b)

Agape-love always trusts in the sovereignty of God. Sometimes it is difficult to trust in a world gone mad. Reading the papers everyday and watching CNN is a traumatic experience. Once, a war is where young men from each country go and shoot at each other. And we know there is a war going on.

 Today, someone in the name of religion will strap himself or herself with explosives. Then they will choose the busiest time of the day and blow themselves up in either a marketplace or a train station or a bus. The aim is to killing as many people as possible. It does not matter whether these are innocent people who have not idea what it is all about. It does not matter these people may be sympathetic to their cause. It does not matter that there are children and women.

Or when a natural disaster strikes, it does not matter that aids are not getting to those most in need. Money is enriching many corrupted people. These are blood money. But greed knows no bound.

So how can one retain trust in a world like this? Where is God? Is He on vocation? Can one still retain trust in God today?

Jesus must have wondered about this as He ends his 3 years ministry and heads towards Jerusalem. The people who are supposed to represent God to the people hated Him. The Priest, the Pharisees and the Scribes hated Him. The merchants hated Him. The Romans hated Him and regard Him as a troublemaker. A scaffolding collapsed and many workers were killed and people were asking why. After all these years an all these miracles, the Israelites were no closer to God than when Moses walked among them. Jesus must have wondered whether he can trust God after all. He struggled with this issue in the garden of Gethsemane.  In the end, He chose to trust. Thy will be done.

Agape-love is choosing to trust in God and his promises when everything around you is falling apart. It is choosing to trust God when God seems so far away. Agape-love is trusting in the sovereignty of God. That no matter what is happening, He is in control. God never took a vocation. He is here all the time, with us in the midst of our pain and sufferings.

14)  always hopes, (v.7c)

Closely linked with the ‘always trust’ is ‘always hope’. Agape-love always hopes. It hopes for the sinners to repent. It hopes that one day an unbeliever spouse will come to the Lord. It hopes that children who wandered away from the Lord will come home. It hopes for the salvation of our parents. It hopes for healing of our diseased bodies. It hopes for a better future where there is an end to pain and sufferings. We all need hope. Hope is what keeps us alive. Victor Frankl, a psychiatrist who was a holocaust victim noticed that these inmates who survived are those who have hope. This who has lost hope died quickly. Agape-love always hopes. It hopes for a better future. It hopes for Jesus’ return and the building of a new heaven and earth. It hopes for eternal rest with God.

Hope is also what sustained Jesus during His earthly ministry. Faith and hope is closely related. Faith is the hope of things not seen. Jesus in His earthly ministry is building faith in His disciples. He knows faith is what will carry them through the tough times because He Himself has enough faith of His heavenly father.

Agape-love always hopes. Hope is what wills what keeps us going.

15)  always perseveres (v.7d)

Agape-love always preserves. The Greek word has this meaning of standing firm in a battle field. In a battle during the Roman times, the Roman soldiers form a protective shelter with the shields and stand behind it. The enemies will charge the shields. The soldiers holding the shield will bear the blunt of the attack but those soldiers behind will be pushing against them so that they front line do not topple and fall backwards. The Romans found that the attack of the enemies will break after a few charges against the disciplined Roman soldiers. This is what makes the Romans legions the finest fighting men and a great world power of their time.

Agape-love means to stand, to dig in and never give up. In spite of all opposition, rumours and failure, agape-love never gives up. Jesus could have given up at the garden of Gethsemane. He could have walked away, find a nice Jewish girl, start a carpenter shop in a small town and raise a family. There will be no pain, no humiliation and no death by crucifixion. But He knew what His mission was. So fully aware of the horrors awaiting Him, Jesus chose to submit to God’s will and surrender to His enemies. That is agape-love.

Augustine was a playboy from a rich family. He was wild and undisciplined and his family did not know what to do with him. They send him to theological school and to business school but he will often play truant. At a young age, he has a mistress and many girlfriends. His mother, Monica never gave up hope on Augustine. She would pray for him everyday until the day the Lord touched him. Even after that, I am sure Monica continued to pray for her son. Augustine went on to be the Bishop of Hippo and one of the finest theologians of the Eastern Church.

3.         The Portrait of Love

Now our portrait of agape-love is complete. Our portrait of Jesus is also complete.

The word picture is as follows:

Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind. Jesus does not envy, Jesus does not boast, Jesus is not proud. Jesus does not dishonour others, Jesus is not self-seeking, Jesus is not easily angered, Jesus keeps no record of wrongs. Jesus does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Jesus always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

4.         How do We Measure up to this Portrait?

Why do we measure up to this portrait?  What happens when we put our name in the blanks?

 

__________ is patient, _________ is kind. __________ does not envy, _______ does not boast, _________ is not proud. ________ does not dishonour others, _________ is not self-seeking, __________ is not easily angered, _____________ keeps no record of wrongs. ____________ does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. __________ always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

 

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