True Love!

Part 3 – 1 Corinthians 13:7-8

Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails.

 

Opening:

ILL: A man died and went to heaven and was met at the gate by St. Peter. “Before I can let you into heaven, you need to pass a small test, ” said St. Peter. “Spell ‘love’.” “L-o-v-e,” the man said. “Great! Come on in!” said Peter, who then showed him into heaven where a mansion awaited him. Some time later, Peter found the man and asked for some help. “Something has come up, and God needs my help in heaven, and I was wondering if you would man the gate for me?” “Of course,” said the man. “What do I need to do?” “Just what I did to you,” said Peter. So the man took his spot at the gate and as people arrived he asked them to spell ‘love’. Two or three people came and passed the test, then the man looked up and there stood his wife. “Honey, what are you doing here?” “I just had a terrible car accident. Oh darling, it’s so good to see you again.” “You too,” he said. “What must I do to come into heaven?” she asked. “Oh it’s easy,” he said. “Just pass a small test: spell ‘Czechoslovakia’.”

Ah, true love. In the Bible, the apostle Paul listed 15 characteristics of true love. That wasn’t one of them. Today, we’re going to look at the last 5.

 

Introduction:

For the past three weeks, I’ve been saying that true love is much more than a feeling; it’s action and behavior, it’s the way we treat people. Love is doing what is best for others no matter what it costs you.

ILL: Sociology professor Dr. Elaine Walster has studied the differences between “passionate” and “compassionate” love, and interviewed or observed more than 100,000 persons. She found that, for most couples, intense passion—the feeling we associate with love—lasts six months to two and a half years.

Love is more than a feeling; it’s a commitment; it’s action; it’s doing what’s best for others after the passion has passed. I’ve said that love isn’t something we fall into; it’s something we build, something we learn to do.

ILL: Did you know that on an average day, 3,522 fifth graders fall in love? Sam Levison once said, “Love at first sight is nothing special. It’s when two people have been looking at each other for years that it becomes a miracle.”

Love isn’t something you fall into. It’s something you do. You choose to love others even when you don’t feel like. Love is doing what’s best for others no matter what it costs you.

So how does love behave? Paul lists 15 characteristics of love in 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.

Let’s look at the last 5, listed in verses 7-8.

 

1. True love always protects.

How does true love act? Love always protects. Love bears all things, love covers and shelters and protects. The Greek word is very interesting. It is stego, and it comes from a root word that means “a roof, a cover”. So the verb stego means “to cover, to protect by covering.” Imagine getting caught in a sudden storm. You run for cover. You run for shelter. The roof that covers you protects you from the storm. That is what love does. Love shelters. Love protects. Love covers. True love is a roof!

1 Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Love covers a multitude of sins. This doesn’t mean that love is a cover-up. This isn’t a Watergate deal—Lovergate! Love doesn’t lie or deceive. But love protects. Love covers others’ failures and sins rather than exposing them. Love means that you may know something about another person that could damage his or her reputation, and you choose not to share it.

The classic Biblical example is the story of Noah and his sons in Genesis 9:20-25.

20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. 21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father’s nakedness.

24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said, “Cursed be Canaan!”

Alright, Noah drinks too much of the bubbly and gets tanked and lies in his tent buck-stinking-naked! And since he was over 600 years old, I’ll bet it wasn’t a pretty sight! Ham walks in—“whoa!”—but instead of quietly covering his father and keeping his mouth shut, he found his two brothers and said, “Hey, get a load of this! Dad’s shnockered and lying in the tent buck-stinking-naked!” Instead of covering his father and protecting his honor, he spread the news and exposed him and shamed him. And it earned him and his descendants a curse. Love would have covered Noah.

Love covers a multitude of sins. Love protects the reputations of others. We are not truly loving when we gossip or slander or stain the reputation and honor of others. So the next time you have a chance to say something negative about another person—pass! Better yet, say something good. Love always protects or covers.

ILL: Author and pastor Max Lucado said, “I come from a family of alcoholism. If there’s anything about this DNA stuff, I’ve got it.”

For more than 20 years, drinking wasn’t a major issue for Max. But a couple of years ago, it nearly became one. Max says, “I lowered my guard a bit. One beer with a barbecue won’t hurt. Then another time with Mexican food. Then a time or two with no food at all.”

One afternoon on his way to speak at a men’s retreat he began to plot: “Where could I buy a beer and not be seen by anyone I know?” He drove to an out-of-the-way convenience store, parked, and waited till all the patrons left. He entered, bought a beer, held it close to his side, and hurried to his car. “I felt a sense of conviction,” he writes, “because the night before I’d had a long talk with my oldest daughter about not covering things up.” Max didn’t drink that beer. Instead he rolled down the window, threw it in a trash bin, and asked God for forgiveness.

He also decided to come clean with the elders of his church about what happened: “When I shared it with the elders, they just looked at me across the table and said, ‘Satan is determined to get you for this right now. We’re going to cover this with prayer, but you’ve got to get the alcohol out of your life.’”

Love covers a multitude of sins, love protects. The elders of Max’s church covered him with prayer. So you know what lots of other church elders might have done! Canned him and exposed him. Instead, they offered him grace and forgiveness, room to change, and covered him in the process. That’s love. Is there someone you love who has failed? Cover him. Cover him with prayer. Don’t gossip or expose him; if you want to talk about him, talk to God.

Love protects—love takes a bullet for the other person. Love steps in harm’s way to protect the loved one.

ILL: E.V. Hill told this story about his wife Jane at her funeral. “She was my protector. Some years ago, I received quite a few death threats, and one night I received notice that I would be killed the next day. I woke up thankful to be alive. But I noticed that she was gone. I looked out the window and my car was gone. I went outside, and finally saw her driving up in her robe. I said, ‘Where have you been?’ She said, ‘It just occurred to me that they could have put a bomb in that car last night, and if you had gotten in there you would have been blown away. So I got up and drove it. It’s all right.'”

Love always protects. Love is a roof!

 

2. True love always trusts.

How does true love act? Love always trusts. Love never loses faith. Love always believes the best about other people. Someone said, “Love is an agreement on the part of two people to overestimate each other.”

When I say that love believes the best about others, that doesn’t mean that love is gullible. Love is not gullible, but neither is it suspicious and negative. Love gives others the benefit of the doubt. Rather than assuming the worst, love assumes the best about others. Love believes in others and gives them a chance to prove themselves.

ILL: Monday night, my daughters Sally and Amy, and Laina and I went on a date. We went to the movies and watched A Walk to Remember, and then out to coffee. It’s not often that I recommend a movie from the platform, but I will this one. It’s the story of a high school bad boy named Landon who falls in love with the high school plain jane. She is a Christian and the movie is the story of how she changes him.

Midway through the movie, when Landon finally asks Jamie for a date, Jamie says no. Landon assumes that she just doesn’t want to go out with him, but Jamie quietly explains, “I can’t date.” Jamie’s dad is a widowed pastor who is very conservative and protective.

So Landon goes to the church where Jamie’s dad is writing and practicing his message. He asks if he can take Jamie out to dinner on Saturday night. “No you may not,” the pastor growls over his reading glasses.

Landon assures him that his intentions are honorable, but Jamie’s dad interrupts him, “The answer is no, Mr. Carter. You are wasting my time and yours.”

Landon starts to leave, then turns back and says, “Sir, all I’m asking from you is what you ask of us every week in church: faith.” Jamie’s dad glares over his glasses, but you can see him softening. Landon got his date.

Love always trusts. Love believes the best about others, and gives them a chance.

People often rise to the level of our faith in them. They often become what we believe them to be or be capable of.

ILL: When I became a youth pastor, I began with several assumptions. The first one was that junior and senior high school students are capable of making a genuine response to Jesus and becoming devoted followers of Christ. I didn’t see myself as just a glorified baby sitter, keeping the kids busy and out of trouble. I saw myself as a disciple-maker, and I saw them as potential world-changers—their world was their home and schools and friends.

My first three weeks on the job, about 25 students showed up for the Thursday night “Hour of Power.” It was anything but that. We basically just goofed off for an hour—played ducky-wucky and ran around the church—glorified baby-sitting. At the end of the third week, I gathered the students and told them that starting next week, I would teach them how to pray. “If you want to learn how to pray, how to really know Jesus and follow Him, be here. If you just want to mess around, do us both a favor and stay home. But if you want to have a blast learning what it means to follow Jesus and change your world, be here next week at 7.” As soon as I dismissed them, one of the adult advisors rushed up and said, “Oh no! You’ve destroyed our youth group. No one will come next week.”

Next week, instead of 20 or 25 students, 40 showed up. They were tired of goofing off and were ready to be challenged. They rose to the challenge. For the next eight years, we challenged students to live the adventure of genuinely following Jesus. And they did.

These high school students took their faith to school. They started weekly Bible studies on nine high school campuses that reached hundreds of students.

They planned and executed camps and retreats and outreaches. One year, we decided to hold our spring retreat at a state campground—Silver Creek Falls near Salem, Oregon—rather than at a Christian campground. Their idea was to take our deal public, meet out in the open. But that created some logistical problems. There were no dorms so some of the high school guys banded together and gathered enough tents to house 150 students. There was no kitchen and no cooks, so some of the high school girls banded together and planned a menu, and broke it down into hundreds of food items. Registration cost for the weekend was $1 plus a food item from the list. When we arrived, these high school girls collected all the food items, organized them, and cooked meals over a wood stove in a picnic shelter for 150 students! And we ate well!

We really had only one rule at these camps: do what Jesus wants. We kept it that simple and trusted them to make good decisions. And they did! We rarely had trouble.

These students invited their friends to our weekly youth meeting, to the campus Bible studies, and to these retreats and camps—by the hundreds. At the Silver Falls retreat, we baptized 40 new Christians in a pool under a thundering waterfall.

I could tell you many amazing stories of what these students did and the lives they changed. We believed in them, and they lived up to our faith.

That’s what love does. Love believes in people. Love trusts others, and lets them live up to that trust. Who do you need to believe in? Who do you need to trust, and by trusting, help them rise to new heights? Love always trusts.

 

3. True love always hopes.

How does true love act? Love always hopes. Its hope never fails; there is no limit to her hope. Love sees the bright side of things; it doesn’t despair.

What is hope? Hope is the expectation of good. Hope looks to the future and expects something bright and positive and good. It is the opposite of despair. Despair looks at the future and wants to give up; hope looks at the future and smiles, confident that the best is yet to come.

Just like love believes the best about others, it also hopes the best for others. It expects the best, not the worst. Love never gives up hope. To Jesus, no man was hopeless. Jesus changed people—hopeless people that everyone else had given up on.

  • Zacchaeus was a tax collector, hated by his Jewish neighbors as a traitor and a cheat. When Jesus invited himself to Zach’s house for lunch, everyone in Jericho was offended. As far as they were concerned, Zach was hopeless. Jesus didn’t see it that way, and Zach became a new man.

  • Bartimaeus was a blind beggar. Physically, his condition was hopeless—there was no cure for his blindness. Socially, he was at the bottom of the ladder, with no hope of moving up. Hopeless—to everyone but Jesus, who healed him and gave him a new life.

  • We don’t know his name; he’s called “the Gerasene demoniac.” He was a guy who had been so completely overrun by evil spirits that everyone had given up on him. He lived naked in the cemetery, where he ran wild, howling and frightening people—a crazy man, a hopeless case. When Jesus set him free, his neighbors found him clothed and in his right mind—a new man.

  • Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, locked in a hopeless lifestyle, despised by everyone, even the men who used her. She was hopeless, until she met Jesus, who said, “Your sins are forgiven.” He was the first man who ever really loved her.

  • How about Peter? If there was ever an inconsistent, hot-then-cold Christian, it was Peter. One minute he earns Jesus’ praise (“You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church.”) and the next he earns Jesus’ rebuke (“Get behind me Satan.). One minute he promises, “I’ll never deny you. I’m ready to die with you.” And the next he caves in and three times denies even knowing Jesus. And finally, he gives up totally, and goes back to fishing. But Jesus didn’t give up on him. Jesus still had hope for this erratic disciple. And because of Jesus’ love, Peter eventually lived up to his name, “The Rock.”

Jesus is still doing that. He’s doing it with you. He loves you, so to Him, you’re not hopeless. He has plans for you. He expects the best for you. Jesus has hope for you, even when have none for yourself.

That’s what love does. Love hopes. It keeps hoping when others quit and give up. It expects the best because God can do anything. Nothing is impossible for Him.

So—do you have anyone you’ve given up on? Is there anyone you think is hopeless? Maybe it’s time to ask God for fresh love for that person. Ask God to help you give them another chance, a fresh start.

ILL: I was talking with someone who has a friend who walked away from the Lord. This guy was not only far from God but seemed determined to stay there. His friend was despairing—felt pretty hopeless—and asked me what to do?

“If you could wish anything for your friend, what would it be?” I asked.

“That’s easy. I want him to come back to God. I want to see the joy of the Lord in his eyes again.”

“That’s a great hope,” I said. “Hang on to it. Don’t let go of it. Love always hopes.”

“Yeah, but what am I supposed to do?”

“We both know that you can’t change him, but we both know who can. Draw a circle of grace around him—surround him with God’s love and grace—and let God work. Nobody is hopeless to God.”

Do you have someone you’ve given up on? You can’t change him or her, but God can, so don’t despair. Draw that circle of grace around them, and let God work.

ILL: A man stopped to watch a Little League baseball game. He asked one of the kids what the score was. “We’re losing 18-0,” was the answer.

“Wow,” said the man. “But you don’t look discouraged.”

“Discouraged?” the boy said. “Why should we be discouraged? We haven’t come to bat yet.”

You might feel like you’re down 18-0, but the game isn’t over—you and God haven’t been up to bat yet. Love always hopes.

 

4. True love always perseveres.

How does true love act? Love always perseveres. Love endures all things, her patience never fails. This goes hand in hand with hope. Because love always hopes, it always perseveres. Because love always hopes, it never gives up.

The Greek word is hupomeno, which combine hupo, which means “under”, and meno, which means, “to abide or remain”. So it literally means, “to remain under,” then “patience, perseverance, endurance.” The picture is of a person who is “under the circumstances”, buried by problems or trouble, but is hanging in there, staying put rather than running away—abiding under.

Now there are two ways to abide under, to hang in there. One way is to just passively resign yourself. This is Eeyore endurance: “Oh well.” The other way, instead of passive resignation, is to bear up under difficulties in a way that transforms them and triumphs. That’s what this word means. This patience or perseverance is triumphant fortitude, not defeated resignation!

ILL: George Matheson is a man who lost his sight and who was disappointed in love. He wrote in one of his prayers that he might accept God’s will, “Not with dumb resignation but with holy joy; not only with the absence of murmur but with a song of praise.

That’s hupomeno: patience, perseverance. That’s love. Love doesn’t give up when the going gets tough. Love doesn’t quit. Love is like the Energizer bunny: it just keeps going and going.

ILL: In 1989, an 8.2 magnitude earthquake almost flattened Armenia, killing over 30,000 people in less than four minutes.

In the midst of utter devastation and chaos, a father left his wife securely at home and rushed to the school where his son was supposed to be, only to discover that the building was as flat as a pancake.

After the initial shock, he remembered the promise he had made to his son: “No matter what, I’ll always be there for you!” As he looked at the pile of debris that was once his son’s school, it looked hopeless. But he kept remembering his commitment to his son.

Remembering that his son’s classroom was in the back right corner of the building, he rushed there and started digging through the rubble. As he was digging, other distraught parents arrived, weeping for their lost sons and daughters. Many of these well-meaning parents tried to pull him off the rubble.

“It’s too late. They’re dead! You can’t help. Go home. There’s nothing you can do. You’re just going to make things worse.”

To each parent he responded, “Are you going to help me now?” And he kept digging, stone by stone, through the rubble.

The fire chief showed up and tried to pull him away, saying, “Fires are breaking out, explosions are happening everywhere. You are in danger. We’ll take care of it. Go home.” To which this loving Armenian father replied, “Are you going to help me now?”

The police came and said, “You’re upset and distraught. But it’s over. You’re endangering others. Go home. We’ll handle it.” To which he replied, “Are you going to help me now?” No one helped.

Courageously he worked on alone because he had to know, “Is my boy dead or alive.” He dug for 8 hours…12 hours…24 hours…36 hours. Then in the 38th hour, he pulled back a stone and heard his son’s voice. He screamed his son’s name, “Armand!”

“Dad? Dad, it’s me. We’re here, Dad. I told the other kids not to worry. I told them that if you were alive, you would save me, and when you saved me, they would be saved too. I told them what you always promised me: ‘no matter what, I’ll be there for you.’ You did it Dad.

Fourteen students were alive in there—scared, hungry, and thirsty, but alive. And they came out alive because of a dad who loved his son and wouldn’t give up. Love perseveres.

So who is trying your patience? Who stretches you to the limit…and beyond? Who makes you want to throw up your hands and give up? Love always perseveres. Love keeps going, because…

 

5. True love never fails.

How does true love act? Love never fails. Love will last forever, love is eternal, love never ends.

What is the most common reason for divorce? “We don’t love each other any more.” Love has died. But was it love? True love? No. Your feelings may have changed, but love is more than feelings. Your passion might have waned, but love is more than passion. Love is doing what is best for others no matter what it costs you. And true love never fails. True love never ends. It is eternal.

Paul finishes this chapter by saying, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Why is love the greatest? Because one day our faith will become sight, and one day our hope will become reality. Faith and hope will both be fulfilled, but love will keep on growing forever. Love never fails.

God’s love for you is the one constant in a world where everything else changes. God’s love for you never ends, never fails. It lasts forever. Jeremiah 31:3 God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” His love for you never fails. You can do nothing to earn God’s love; and you can do nothing to lose it. There is nothing you can do that will change His love for you. That’s true love.

And that’s how we’re to love each other. With a love that never ends, never fails. A love that is eternal. We need God’s help; let’s ask Him.