Part 2 – 1 Corinthians 13:5-6
ILL: On Friday, I was trying to finish this message and was behind the
eight ball, feeling the pressure. And Laina asked me to run an errand for
her. I did it, but grumbling all the way. Andy saw me there and said, “You
seem agitated, Dad.” While I was driving and grumbling, I started thinking
about this talk and the five qualities of true love that I’m going to
recommend for you.
Love is not rude. I had just been thinking of some really rude things I
wanted to say to a man who had been rude to my daughters.
Love is not self-seeking. I was totally self-absorbed.
Love is not easily angered. I was ticked off and frustrated.
Love keeps no record of wrongs. Why does she always do this to
me—ask me to run errands when I’ve got a talk to write?
Love rejoices in the truth. I wasn’t rejoicing in anything!
I decided that I really need this talk more than any of you, so I’m basically just going to talk to myself. If you want to listen in, you’re welcome. It’s true love, part two, and I need it!
I said last week that true love is much more than a feeling; it’s action and behavior. We defined love this way: Love is doing what is best for others no matter what it costs you. Love is doing. Love is action. Love isn’t something you fall into, an accident that happens to you. You’re minding your own business, and bam! You fall in love! Kind of live driving the Spokane streets—bam! You fall into a pothole and are never seen again! But love isn’t an accident; love isn’t something you fall in. Love is something you build, something you learn to do with practice. Love is doing what’s best for others no matter what it costs you.
C. S. Lewis put it this way:
“Do not waste time bothering whether you love your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we learn one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love them. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.”
Behave as if you love someone, and you will. So how does love behave? That’s what we’re talking about in this series, “True Love”. Paul described love in 1 Corinthians 13, where he lists 15 characteristics of true love. Here they are:
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, 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. 8 Love never fails.
Last week, we looked at verse 4: love is patient, kind, it doesn’t envy or boast, and isn’t proud. Today, we’re going to focus on the second set of five, found in verses 5-6.
1 Corinthians 13:5-6 It is not rude, 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.
So how does true love behave? What does true love look like?
1. True love is not rude.
How does love act? True love is not rude. Love is not ill-mannered, does not act unbecomingly, or dishonorably. What is the opposite of rudeness? Courtesy. Respect. To be rude is to be intentionally discourteous, disrespectful and inconsiderate of others. Love doesn’t behave that way. Love is doing what’s best for others. Love always thinks of others first, so it’s not rude.
The members of the Corinthian church were behaving rudely in several ways. When they met to share a common meal and take the Lord’s Supper, the rich were hoarding their food and the poor were going without. Rather than waiting for each other and sharing, each person or family would go ahead and eat and drink what they brought with no concern for others. Imagine going to a potluck dinner where no one shared their food and people went hungry. Rude!
Also their church meetings were chaotic because people would interrupt the speaker if they had something they wanted to say. So some services degenerated into shouting matches. Rude!
So Paul wrote them: “Share their food. And take turns. Speak one at a time.” We learn these things in kindergarten—they are common courtesies. And love is courteous. Love looks out for other people. Love is not rude. Whenever we behave rudely, disrespectfully, or discourteously, we are not truly loving.
Now where is the one place in the world that we are most likely to be rude? Home! We are most likely to be rude to those we love most! Why is that? Because home is safe, so we let down our guards and let it all hang out! We vent our frustrations, we express our irritability, we are cross, and short-tempered and ill mannered because…it’s home. It’s family.
ILL: A couple once spent the weekend at our home. We had a good time except for one thing: the way they treated each other. They treated Laina and me with every courtesy, with a great deal of kindness and respect; but they treated each other horribly. They were very rude to each other: they talked with a nasty tone of voice, they always sounded angry or irritated with each other. It was so embarrassing that I finally talked with each of them separately, and pointed out what they were doing. Guess what their response was? Surprise! They were so used to treating each other rudely that they weren’t even aware they were doing it. The second half of their stay was much more enjoyable! They were a couple of lovebirds!
Love is not rude. Let me recommend that this week you try treating each member of your family as if he or she were a guest in your home. Treat them with the same courtesy and respect and honor you would if a friend from out of town was staying with you. Try it—it may shock you how rudely we tend to treat each other at home. True love starts at home.
Love is not rude.
2. True love is not self-seeking.
How does love act? True love is not self-seeking. It doesn’t demand or insist on its own way, it isn’t selfish, it isn’t always “me-first.” This one is pretty obvious. Love isn’t selfish; love is others centered, not self-centered.
We have become an increasingly self-obsessed culture. The poet Walt Whitman wrote the celebrated “Song of Myself” in the 19th century, and we’ve been stuck on ourselves ever since. It begins with the lines, “I celebrate myself, and sing myself.” More recently, Joseph Campbell has become a cultural hero because of his motto for self-fulfillment: “Follow your bliss.” In other words, do whatever makes you happy. Our whole culture is simply self-absorbed. We’ve been fooled into thinking that being your own selfish pig is the key to a good life.
But love is not self-seeking. Love doesn’t insist on its own way. Love seeks what is best for others. It is selfless. We wouldn’t even be here together today if it weren’t for this self-less quality of love that Jesus perfectly modeled.
ILL: On the last night of His life, Jesus prayed alone in the Garden of
Gethsemane. He knew what lay in the hours ahead. He knew that he was
facing a horrible death on a Roman cross, so He prayed, “My Father, if it is
possible, may this cup be taken from me.” Have you ever prayed a prayer
like that? “Lord, please take this away. If there’s any other way, Lord,
please take this away.” Have you ever prayed a prayer like that? Then you
can understand something of the agony that Jesus was going through as He faced the Cross for you and me. But He didn’t stop there. “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not what I want, but what You want.” Not my will, but yours be done.
Love is not self-seeking. And here we see the ultimate in self-less love. Jesus chose to do what was best for you no matter what it cost Him. Not my will, not my way—that’s the heart of true love. Love is not self-seeking.
ILL: Contrast the selfless love of Jesus with the attitude of His followers. James and John came to Jesus and said, “Lord, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” Not your will, Lord, but mine be done. So Jesus thought, “This should be interesting,” and said, “Ok, what do you want?” And they said, “Let us sit at your right and left hand when you become King. Make us your vice-regents. Give us the top spots of power. Make us the big dogs!” Very self-seeking. And what was the response of the other 10 disciples? It says that they became indignant with James and John. They were ticked off. Why? Because they wanted the top spots, they wanted to be the big dogs, and James and John had beaten them to the punch.
Oh, Jesus had His work cut out for Him! He still does. We aren’t much different, are we? Take me. I’m incredibly selfish. Truly! I make myself sick sometimes. Then there’s you-——holy smokes—you’re a piece of work too! I don’t even want to talk about it! I found this and thought you’d like it:
ILL: Introduction to property law from a toddler’s perspective:
If I like it, it’s mine.
If I can take it away from you, it’s mine.
If I had it a while ago, it’s mine.
If I say it is mine, it‘s mine.
If it looks like mine, it’s mine.
If I say I saw it first, it’s mine.
If you’re having fun with it, it’s mine.
If you lay down your toy, it’s mine.
If it is broken, it’s yours.
Selfishness is part of our human nature and shows up shortly after we bust out of the womb! But true love is not self-seeking. True love runs counter to our natural inclinations. Can you see why I keep saying that you don’t fall into true love—it’s not an accident that happens to you—you build love. You grow into love, beyond your self.
True love doesn’t insist on its own way.
ILL: You and your spouse have a free evening and one of you asks the other, “What do you want to do?”
“Oh, let’s go to a movie,” you say. And she says, “There’s nothing playing that I really want to see. Let’s stay home.”
True love isn’t self-seeking, doesn’t insist on its own way. So what do you do? Go to the movie or stay home? He goes to the movie and she stays home! What often happens is that one of them insists and the other gives in but not willingly. You stay home, but you sulk all night. You’re not happy about missing the movie, so you’ll stay home and make her miserable! Or you go to the movie with him, but refuse to enjoy it. “I’ll show him!”
Love is not self-seeking.
3. True love is not easily angered.
How does love act? True love is not easily angered. It isn’t easily provoked, is not irritable, doesn’t get annoyed or upset with others, doesn’t fly off the handle. True love is not thin-skinned.
I don’t even want to talk about this one. Let’s just go on to number 4. No, I need this one. Lots of us do. Please don’t think pastors are exempt!
ILL: Ed Rowell, a pastor in Tennessee, wrote an article entitled “Why am I
angrier than I used to be?” In it, he wrote:
During a recent baptism, I paraphrased a passage of Scripture to fit the situation: “If anyone is in Christ, he or she (I was baptizing a young woman) is a new creature in Christ.”
The next morning, I was going through the cards we use for prayer requests. Suddenly one of them nailed me, by name, for “daring to change the infallible, inerrant, unchangeable Word of God. When the Bible says ‘he,’ it means ‘he’…to change it to fit your rampant feminist agenda is the worst kind of heresy.”
Most days I would have tossed it in the trash with the hope that he buy a better laxative. But that particular Monday, that note really scorched me. I wasted an hour writing a scathing reply, even though the note was unsigned. (We’ve since adopted the policy of trashing unsigned notes without reading them.) (By the way, we’ve had that policy here for years. If you want your concerns heard, you have to sign your letter.)
At lunch I told a buddy about it, and he asked, “Why did that one make you so angry?”
“I don’t know,” I grumped. “I’m so sick of stupid people and their stupid comments and their stupid inability to rejoice that someone made a public declaration of their faith. I’d like to show him a little heresy right across the jaw.”
“Got a little anger problem there, don’t you?” he asked.
“Of course not. It ticks me off that you’d even mention it.”
Okay, I admitted he was right, and we talked it through.
We all get angry sometimes. But as we grow in love, we get angry less easily. Love is not easily angered. The Greek word here is paroxuno, which literally means, “to make sharp, to sharpen.” Then it came to mean, “to stimulate or spur on; to irritate or provoke.” We get the English word “paroxysm” from it. A paroxysm is sudden outburst, like a paroxysm of anger. Augh!! Imagine someone poking you with a sharp stick or a pencil. That would be—irritating. That would be paroxuno. But love is not easily provoked. It has thick skin. It can handle a lot of sharpness without flying off the handle.
What provokes us? Sharp tongues, sharp tempers, sharp comments, sharp tones, sharp attitudes, sharp actions. Other people’s sharp edges and sharp corners poke us and irritate us. In fact, some people are like porcupines–they’re prickly, they’re sharp everywhere. True love makes you able to hug a porcupine!
ILL: The German philosopher Schopenhauer compared the human race to a bunch of porcupines huddling together on a cold winter’s night. He said,
“The colder it gets outside, the more we huddle together for warmth; but the closer we get to one another, the more we hurt one another with our sharp quills. And in the lonely night of earth’s winter eventually we begin to drift apart and wander out on our own and freeze to death in our loneliness.”
It’s a beautiful picture isn’t it? Jesus has given us an alternative to Schopenhauer’s depressing conclusion: we can learn to love each other and forgive each other for the pokes we all receive, and we can stay together and stay warm. We can learn to hug porcupines!
As we grow in love, our irritability decreases. As we grow in love, we are not so easily hurt and offended.
Psalm 119:165 Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.
Nothing shall offend them; nothing shall trip them up. As we grow in Christ and grow in love, we develop a great peace that isn’t easily disturbed.
ILL: Not long ago, someone reported to me what a friend of mine had said about our church. It wasn’t particularly flattering. There was a time when I would have been hurt, and I would have been angry. But I’m growing, and I love this guy, and I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. I just laughed and said, “I don’t think he meant it quite the way you heard it.”
As love grows, you can laugh more and stew less. You can let some of those hurts roll off. You can give people the benefit of the doubt instead of assuming the worst. You can choose to overlook little pokes and jabs. You can choose great peace instead of constant agitation. Love is not easily angered.
4. True love keeps no record of wrongs.
How does love act? True love keeps no record of wrongs. It is not resentful, and doesn’t count up wrongs against it. Love doesn’t keep score of the sins of others. Love forgives.
Remember the time when Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how often should I forgive my brother? Up to seven times?” The Jewish rabbis taught that you were only obligated to forgive up to the third response, so Peter thought he was being really generous—he doubled it and added one for good measure! What did Jesus say? Not seven times, but seventy times seven. What did Jesus mean? What’s seventy times seven? 490. Did Jesus mean that we keep track of others’ sins, and forgive them 490 times, but no more after that? That would be a bookkeeping nightmare! Can you imagine? Jesus deliberately set the number high to discourage keeping score. The problem with forgiving three times or seven times is that we would keep track at all. Jesus is saying, “don’t keep track. Don’t keep score. Just forgive every time.” Why? Because love keeps no record of wrongs. Love doesn’t keep score.
The good news is that God isn’t keeping score against you! Aren’t you glad? God chooses to forgive you and forget what you’ve done.
Jeremiah 31:34 says, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will
remember their sins no more.”
Micah 7:19 You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins
underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
Psalm 103:12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our
transgressions from us.
I’ve always thought it interesting that it says east and west, rather than north and south. North and south meet at the poles. When you reach the north pole, you begin going south, and vice versa. But you can travel east forever and never start going west. And you can go west forever and never start going east. East and west never meet. As far as the east is from the west—forever—God has removed our sins from us. God isn’t keeping score. Why? Because God is love and love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs.
ILL: Bruce Larson tells the true story of a Catholic priest living in the
Philippines, a much-loved man of God who carried a secret burden of long-
past sin buried deep in his heart. He had committed that sin once, many
years before, during his time in seminary. No one else knew of this sin. He
had repented of it and he had suffered years of remorse for it, but he still had
no peace, no inner joy, no sense of God’s forgiveness.
There was a woman in this priest’s parish who deeply loved God, and
who claimed to have visions in which she spoke with Christ, and He with
her. The priest, however, was skeptical of her claims, so to test her visions
he said to her, “You say you actually speak directly with Christ in your visions. Let me ask you a favor. The next time you have one of these visions, I want you to ask Him what sin your priest committed while he was in seminary.”
The woman agreed and went home. When she returned to the church a few days later, the priest said, “Well, did Christ visit you in your dreams?”
She replied, “Yes, He did.”
“And did you ask Him what sin I committed in seminary?”
“Yes, I asked Him.”
“Well, what did He say?”
“He said, ‘I don’t remember.”‘
Love keeps no record of wrongs. That’s how God treats you and how He wants us to treat each other.
ILL: Roy Grimm writes:
Our friends were out of town for the weekend and their 5-year-old, Luke, was staying with us. At dinner, out of the blue, he said, “You know, one time I broke my mom’s lamp.”
I asked if she was angry when it happened. “She was disappointed,” Luke replied, which I assured him was understandable. We continued for a minute or so, then Luke said, “But I don’t understand. Mom says it’s all forgotten, but I still remember it. Why can’t she?”
Because you have a nice mom, Luke. Because love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs? Do you have a list you need to burn? A filing system you need to fling? Love doesn’t keep score of others’ sins. Love forgives and forgets.
5. True love does not rejoice in evil but rejoices with the truth.
How does love act? True love does not rejoice in evil but rejoices with the truth. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. It doesn’t rejoice with wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Because true love wants the best for others, it rejoices when truth and righteousness win out, but never when evil or wrong does. Love can never be happy when the loved one is wrong, or wronged. Love can never be happy when someone is far from God, far from the truth.
ILL: A Jewish story tells of a great celebration in heaven after the Israelites
are delivered from the Egyptians at the Red Sea, and the Egyptian armies are
drowned. The angels are cheering and dancing. Everyone in heaven is full of joy. Then one of the angels asks the archangel Michael, “Where is God?
Why isn’t God here celebrating?” Michael answers, “God is not here because he is off by himself weeping. You see, many thousands were drowned today.”
Love doesn’t rejoice in evil but in the truth. Jesus told us to love even our
enemies, so I don’t think we can rejoice when our enemies suffer or are punished.
Proverbs 24:17-18 Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, ‘8 or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him.
Let me give you an example. I have never understood how people can rejoice and
celebrate at an execution. I understand the desire to see justice done and
punishment executed. But I don’t think we should rejoice When it happens.
Ezekiel 18:23 Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?
That’s God’s attitude and it should be ours. We shouldn’t find any pleasure in the death or punishment or downfall of our enemies—if we do, our hearts are filled with revenge, not love. God wept when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, and God wept when the Egyptians drowned in the Red Sea. God wept when the World Trade Centers went down, and God wept for the terrorists who flew those planes. God wept for Daniel Pearl and God weeps for those who killed him. Because God is love and love rejoices only in the truth, never in evil. And that’s how we’re to love.
Luke 6:27-31 “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.