Love Endures – 1 Corinthians 13

The First Message in the Together Series on Love, Dating, and Marriage.

(See the second message in this series)

(See the third message in this series)

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When I was kid I got a bike, and I didn’t really enjoy that bike. In fact, at first I kind of hated it. It was scary because I fell a lot. I couldn’t go very far unless my dad was holding the back of the seat…But then, something happened that completely changed that bike from a source of fear and pain- I learned how to ride the bike. Suddenly I could ride by myself- I could go fast and further than I ever had before…

Though I would still occasionally crash, I loved riding that bike and later that bike would take me places that I couldn’t have gotten to on my own.

When I was older I got a larger bike and I loved that gift from the very beginning because I already knew how to ride it.

For some of you, love and dating and maybe even marriage has been a source of fear and pain…I don’t think that I’m gonna change that for you as easily as my dad taught me to ride a bike, but I do think that when we know how to enjoy the gift God has given us it can be so much more than we thought it could be.

In the account of Creation, God only saw one thing that wasn’t good. It was that man was alone. So He created Eve.

In the very beginning, God gave mankind the gift of love and companionship. This gift wasn’t just to Adam and Eve, it was to all of us. When Adam saw Eve, he said a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife. Now Adam said this though he had no parents and he had no children. It was clear from the beginning that God wasn’t merely giving Adam someone to love but that he was establishing marriage and the family.

It was not long until Adam and Eve had made a mess of this gift that was given to all of us. Their actions not only affected their relationship with God but with one another.

When sin entered into reality, it broke every relationship.

Though broken and in need of repair,  the concept and purpose of marriage did not change. Though your relationship is broken and in need of redemption, the purpose and design is the same. Though our culture has changed and dating, romance, love, and marriage are being redefined,

Though relationships are broken and culture has attempted to redefine them, God’s concept and design is still the same.

I would even say that a contributing factor to our culture’s redefinition of marriage is that even though Christianity has been clear on the basic components of marriage, we haven’t done well in living out the purpose of marriage.

It’s difficult for us to stand for the sanctity of marriage when our leaders have not remained faithful to the bride of their youth.

May our gathering of believers be countercultural in that our marriages grow stronger- may our relationships draw a sharp contrast to those of the world.

Our culture believes that love is the answer. This past week, to end the Super Bowl halftime show, fans in the audience held up signs that spelled out “Believe in Love” across the stadium as the musicians sang these lyrics to Up and Up:

how come people suffer

how come people part?

how come people struggle

how come people break your heart?

yes I want to grow yes I want to feel

yes I want to know show me how to heal it up

just need love just need love

Our culture believes that all you need is love…God’s Word agrees with them- but stick with me.

Scripture does tell us that Love is the answer.

1 Cor 13:1 If I’m impressive without love, I’m nothing.

1 Cor 13:2 If I’m powerful and wise without love, I’m nothing.

1 Cor 13:3 If I’m noble, virtuous, & kind without love, I’m nothing.

1 Corinthians 12 had just listed amazing gifts that God has given to his church to accomplish his will on the earth…in the final verse of 12, before starting this discourse on love, Paul says We all desire gifts, but let me show you a more excellent way. Love is the more excellent way. Paul says here in the beginning of 13 that having all of that without love is meaningless.

At the end of 13, Paul says:

13And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Love is the answer, but when our culture says believe in love or when our world says that love is the answer they are talking about a much different love than what scripture speaks of…

Our world’s view of love is very narrow and limited. (I’m sure they would find it ironic that I accuse them of a narrow view of love.) Our world’s definition of love is romance- sexual gratification, excitement, and giddiness.

The Greek had a few words for love- sexual love was Eros- Paul does not use that word here but instead he uses Agape – which is a word that some of the writers only used for love between God and man.

Our culture’s narrow view of love can not deliver on the demands we make of it.

Azis Ansari is a comedian that is most know for his role as Tom on Parks and Recreation. He recently wrote a book on Modern Romance. His book is not a biblical approach, but his research comes to many conclusions that are solid…Speaking of what marriage provided in the past he said,

now we want our partner to still give us all these things, but in addition I want you to be my best friend and my trusted confidant and my passionate lover to boot, and we live twice as long. So we come to one person, and we basically are asking them to give us what once an entire village used to provide:

Give me belonging, give me identity, give me continuity, but give me transcendence and mystery and awe all in one. Give me comfort, give me edge. Give me novelty, give me familiarity. Give me predictability, give me surprise.”

Do you hear it? He stumbles into the fact that what we are looking for in love from other people can not be provided in a relationship—-

Transcendence? Awe?
These are not things that we can find in another person, or even in a village- These are things that are only found in the supernatural.
The love you need is not Romantic. The love you are desperately searching for you will never find in another person. It’s not with the next guy or girl. It wont be found on a dating profile. It will not be uncovered in a new relationship, you wont find what you are looking for in an affair, you will not find the answer in a flirty text message… or a dirty one either.

I can say that full of confidence not only because it follows the wisdom of God’s Word but because I’ve seen it played out in lives of friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues, and mentors, again and again and again. They leave the bride of their youth thinking that the transcendence and awe that they are desperately looking for will be found in that new encounter – but it isn’t there.

Let me return to Ansari’s book:

“Our romantic options are unprecedented and our tools to sort and communicate with them are staggering. And that raises the question:
Why are so many people frustrated?”

“Today, if you own a smartphone, you’re carrying a 24-7 singles bar in your pocket.”

Speaking of the man who created he writes

“During his first big television interview, he wore a tie-dyed shirt, sat on a brightly colored beanbag chair, and boldly told the camera: “Match .com will bring more love to the planet than anything since Jesus Christ.”

We have greater ability to connect with, sort through, and experience love from others more than we ever have and yet we are just as dissatisfied as we always have been.

Romantic love is not the answer. Everlasting love is the answer.

According to Solomon, a man who had romantic encounters with thousands of women, you have eternity set in your heart and no man or woman is up to the challenge to fill that void. You think you just haven’t found the right person to make you happy, but that thinking is your real problem. No PERSON can make you content.

Sometimes we say someone is high maintenance or that they are impossible to please- in reality we all are. All of us need maintenance that only God can provide. All of us have a hunger only God can satisfy.

You can look all over for the right person, you can swipe right and left all day, you can find your match, you can hookup, and can burn through soulmate after soulmate and you will still have the same heart that is desperately searching for something more…

Instead of looking left and right, you need to look above. Instead of searching for your soulmate, you need to find the soul maker.

After emphasizing the importance of love in the first 3 verses, our passage then launches into a description of what love is- but instead of defining love in some philosophical or academic way, it tells us what Love Does and Does not do.

Love suffers long,
Love is kind;
Love does not envy
Love does not boast
Love does not puff itself up
Love does not behave unseemly,
Love does not seek her own,
Love is not easily provoked,
Love thinks no evil;
Love Rejoices in the truth, not in iniquity
Love Bears all things,
Love believes
Love hopes
Love endures
Love doesn’t quit.

Love is an action word.

Love is a verb.

We often use “love” as a noun and we rarely think of it as a verb. We “fall into love.” or we are “in love.” We often use “love” as an adjective instead of a verb. We say it’s a “love story.”

The love that we find in God’s Word is a verb. It’s action. It’s not a state of being or a status, it’s an action. It’s a verb.

If you are in love, don’t just act like it. Act on it.

Love does deeds of patience.
Love does deeds of kindness.
Love rejoices in hope.
Love rejoices in truth.
Love does deeds of unselfishness.
Love is an action word & more specifically love is unselfish action.

Though the word here is love, the KJV uses Charity. This is derived from the Latin Caritas which was a contrast to typical love in that it is unselfish or grace filled. Charity is the idea of giving something away and that’s what Christian love is- unselfishness.

Love is the opposite of selfishness.

I enjoy coffee- not sure that I should say I love it because the relationship is pretty much all about me and what I want and not about the coffee…I don’t love coffee mugs. Now I like coffee mugs, but it occurred to me the other day that I don’t love coffee mugs… David was over at the house putting in a new door and I offered him some coffee and when I opened the cupboard I only had one coffee mug remaining. It’s pretty beat up and I hold onto it because it has sentimental value. I knew where my coffee mugs were… So later on I gathered up all the coffee mugs I had left in my office and in the teen Sunday School room… You see, I never forget to bring coffee with me to the study because in the morning when I walk over I want that coffee – I need that coffee. But at the end of the day, I don’t want the mug because it’s empty- I have no use for it, so it doesn’t even occur to me.

Now some of these mugs have value to me. A couple of them were gifts from people who matter to me- but my relationship with the mugs is clearly pretty one sided and when I get what I want I lay them aside and forget all about them until I need some coffee.

Some of you, your relationship is more like this than you’d care to admit. You hold your valentine tight and keep them close in your thoughts until you’ve gotten what you wanted and then they barely register on your mind until you need something again.

That’s not love. That’s selfishness. That doesn’t last. Let me show you why…Did you know that I will drink coffee out of a styrofoam cup.A cheap, flimsy, little styrofoam cup is sometimes all I need to get the coffee that I want…

You see, if all I care about is what I want to get, I can replace that with something cheap and flimsy…Selfishness endures as long as it get’s what it wants and there’s no easier way to get it. Love endures forever.

  1. Love is enduring.

We love this concept and we believe it deep within. That’s why we make commitments like “I love you forever” when we are in Junior High. But this isn’t just sappy. It’s truth.
Love Endures.

Paul says in verse 7 that love endureth all things, then in verse 9 he says that Love will remain when other things cease. Now Paul was writing to the Corinthians who were making a very big deal about some specific Spiritual Gifts. Paul says, those aren’t going to hang around forever, they will pass away- they will cease. After they’re gone, love will remain. If your relationship is built upon something other than love, that will cease.

Sexual attraction, that’s going to fade.
Selfishness, that’s not going to last.
The adventure is going to wane.
The children are going to move out.
The careers are going to peak and end.

After everything else comes and goes, love remains.

Paul then says, when I was a child I acted as a child but when I became a man I put away childish things…In other words, he moved on from the smaller things. At the time they were huge to him, but now they are of little consequence.

In the different phases of life there are different things that are of great importance to us. When I was a kid that had just learned how to ride a bike, a bike was the greatest thing in the world. Now, I can’t remember the last time I rode a bike.

When I turned 16 and got my drivers license, driving was the greatest. I thought it was amazing to drive around Virginia Beach in my mom’s minivan. Now whenever I drive somewhere I don’t say, “this is amazing!”

All of that changed as my phases of life changed.

If your relationship is built upon something that will phase out, like sexual attraction, your career, your kids, or your hobbies, when those things go away the magic will be gone. Love matters at every stage of life. Love endures.

To build a relationship that lasts, base it upon love because love endures.