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Living 'The Most Excellent way'

09 Feb 2015


 

 1 Corinthians 13. 'Living The Most Excellent Way'
 
A soap manufacturer, who was not a believer walked along the road one day with an old friend who was a minister, the soap manufacturer said “The gospel you preach has not made any difference to this world we live in, because there’s still so much wickedness”, the preacher made no reply until they passed a dirty boy playing in the curb.
 
Seizing his moment, he said “Soap hasn’t made that much of a difference either, there’s still so many dirty people around”
 
“Oh well”, said the soap manufacturer, “Soap is only useful when it is applied”.
 
“Exactly” said the minister, “So it is with the Gospel.”
          
The same applies to love, it's one thing to know of love, but TO love is another thing all together. The danger of course is when we do not.

There is sufficient sociological and psychological research to convince even the hardest of critics that a person who has been deprived of love suffers from a sense true being and by being deprived of  unconditional love, unconditional acceptance and a knowledge of true self worth, will suffer deep psychological deprivation which leads to a lack of personal development.
 
Dr Karl Menninger ‘Love is the basic need of human nature, for without it life is disrupted emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically.’
 
No wonder Shakespeare wrote in Macbeth 'A heart to love and in that heart, courage, to makes's love known'
 
Sadly the courage to manifest and make 'Love known' within Church history hasn't done Jesus any favours, and even now, homophobia, misogyny and bigotry remain within many denominations and churches. What makes this even sader is the fact that we are not ignorant of the facts in how to love.
 
True Love was made known to mankind when God gave us His Son as an act of self sacrificial love. John 3:16.
 
There is no excuse, if you want to know what true love is, look to the cross of Christ.
 
Is it any wonder then that Christ requires us to love Him, self and others in the same way.
 
Out of his selfless act, comes two commandments:
 
The Shema - we are to love God with "All our heart, all our soul, all our mind and with all our strength" in other words, every part of us, here there is no departmentalising of our faith.

And secondly, we are commanded (in the Greek it is not a request but a command) to 'love others as we love ourselves.'
 
As a young Christian I was shown God's pecking order in how and who to love first,
 
love God,
love your family,
love the church,
love the community and even
love your enemy,
you come last.

Actually, that's not true,
 
Jesus said ‘love others as you love yourself.’ 
 
So the same measure we love our self with we are to measure that out to others.
 
In other words, Jesus' list has a different pecking order, we come first, not because we are central but because we are to be affective in the way we love others, because 1 John 4:8 'He who does not love does not know God, for God is love'
 
All to often, many of us relate out of a sense of brokenness and not wholeness. Because many people have been starved of love and so anger arises, which leads to bitterness, which in turn feeds prejudice.
 
What makes me a disciple of Jesus Christ is the assured and certain knowledge that I am unashamedly, unconditionally, in comprehensively and undoubtedly loved by God who is love Himself. How do we know this, because God demonstrated His love for us in this way:
 
Romans 5:8; ‘It was while we were still sinners (seperated from God) that Christ died for us.'
 
No wonder Charles Wesley wrote 'Love divine, all loves excelling, joy of heaven to earth come down...'
 
It's one thing to love those who love you, but to love those who don't; now that's another thing all together. I don't reward my children for bad behaviour, but God's love gives when we are misbehaving! God, you love too much!
 
And so it is within the self sacrificing act of Christ's death on the cross for a sinful world, and so He has the right to command us to love one another as He set the bench mark.
 
"A new commandment I give to you. That you love one another as I have loved you."
 
How did he love us, and how are we to love self in order to love others? 1Corinthians 13 shows how to in three ways:
 
1) God's loves heals the PAST - 'love keeps no record of wrongs' the work of the cross has vanquished our past. ,The old has passed away, the new has come' no matter what you have done, his love is bigger. He didn't punish us for our wrongs, he punished his Son, Jesus the sacrificial atoning lamb of God, the one 'who takes AWAY the sins of the WORLD'
 
2) God's Love inherits the PRESENT - 'love is patient' if God were not patient, He would wipe us all out, but His grace supersedes His judgment, that's for another day, but now, grace abounds! His patience enables us to live in the present with grace, mercy and love.
 
3) God's Love secures the FUTURE - hope
When leave the past by being patient in the present we secure a hope for our tomorrows.
 
Karl Barth: ‘Love for one another ought to be undertaken as the protest against the course of this world and it ought to continue without interruption’
 
What legacy will you leave behind. Last week I went to two funerals, one, a man of 52 and one of 82 both left out standing legacies that were templates for love.
 
If you were to sit down and write your eulogy today what do you think others would say of you. At home, please do so. And if what you write isn't as near as you want your life to be, then it's up to you to adjust it now before it's to late.
 
When we exercise the roots of forgiveness over the past, by practising patience in the present it will bring
hope for the future,
 
Like the soap manufacturer, unless we apply these principles to our everyday lives, the dirt (sin) of life will remain but love, real authentic Christ like love is not a feeling but a verb, its something you do. Something you apply.
 
In Christ, God took the initiative, he did something we could never do, he gave his son as an act of sacrifice, he applied his love by action. Revealing that love isn't a feeling but a verb, and so 'we love because He first loved us'      (1 John 4:10)
 
No matter what opinions we hold,
no matter what doctrine we promote,
no matter what churchmanship we belong too,
three things remain, faith, hope and love but the greatest of these is love.
 
May we be found exercising such love. Amen.
 
 
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