Part 4—1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 1 John 4:7- 21
Do any of you watch movies more than once? I have a friend who can watch a movie a week after he’s seen it and not remember a thing. It’s like seeing it the first time! Of course, he hides his own Easter eggs too.
Do you ever see a movie a second or third or fourth time and notice things that you missed before? We’re going to take one more look at the description of love in 1 Corinthians 13, but from a different angle. God is love, so all these characteristics of true love are also characteristics of God. As we explore this passage one more time, I’m hoping that you’ll see something about God and His love for you that you’ve never seen before. I’m hoping you’ll see True Love.
Introduction: God is love. So Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 is also a description of God and how He treats you.
Love is doing what’s best for others no matter what it costs you. Together.
We’ve spent three weeks thinking about true love and how it behaves. I hope you’ve been challenged to love others more truly. But the truest of all loves is not our love for others; it is God’s love for us.
1 John 4:10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
God’s love is true love. In fact, God is love.
1 John 4:8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
1 John 4:16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love.
He is true love. And our love for each other is the overflow of His love for us.
1 John 4:19 We love because He first loved us.
1 John 4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.
God is love. Love comes from God. We love because He first loved us.
So I’d like to return to 1 Corinthians 13 and read again Paul’s description of love. But this time, instead of thinking about how we ought to behave, how we ought to love, let’s read it as a description of true love, of God’s love for us. This is how God loves us. It is unthinkable that God would do any less for us than what He asks of us. If He asks us to love this way, it’s because He already loves us like this. So I’d like to finish this series by just soaking in the love of God.
Let’s read this out loud together.
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.
1. God is patient.
Love is patient, and God is love, so God is patient. The Greek word is makrothumia, which combines makro meaning “long” and thumos meaning “passion or anger.” This word means you take a long time to get angry. You have a long fuse. You can put up with a lot and not get angry or blow up or strike back. King James translated the word “longsuffering.” God is longsuffering, slow to anger, patient. He has a long fuse with us. God is patient with us! This means that He puts up with a lot from us—a lot more than we realize.
How often do you sin? Remember, sin is anything that you think, say or do that falls short of God’s perfection; it’s any violation of God’s law, God’s standard of righteousness, holiness and moral perfection. It’s not just murder, lying, stealing, adultery, and drunkenness—the obvious outward sins. It’s also lust, pride, selfishness, greed, jealousy, envy, anger, irritability, hatred, discord, and idolatry—the sins of the heart. So how often do you sin? Once a day? Twice? Three times? Ten times? How many of you think that you might sin more than ten times a day…on a good day? How many of you think you might sin more than 100 times a day? Ok, let’s say that you are a good, conservative sinner and only sin an average of 10 times a day.
By the time you were 10, you would have sinned 36,500 sins.
By 20, 73,000 sins.
By 30, 109,500 sins.
By 40, 146,000 sins.
By 50, 182,500 sins.
By 60, 219,000 sins.
By 70, 253,500 sins.
By 80, 292,000 sins.
That’s a very conservative estimate…10 sins a day. And that’s not counting leap years! And God still loves you! God is patient. Think about it. If I racked up a quarter million sins against you, would you still love me? God does! This amazes me! God is patient!
2. God is kind.
Love is kind, and God is love, so God is kind. God wants to help us, and do good for us. The Greek word for kindness comes from a root word that means “useful.” God is always looking for ways to help us.
I noticed something in the Bible this week that I had never seen before. In Mark 10, Jesus was approached by James and John and by a blind beggar named Bartimaeus asking for favors. Jesus said the same thing to both of them. “What do you want me to do for you?” Or, “how can I help you?” (Mark 10:36, 51) There is the heart of Jesus: “what can I do for you? How can I help you?” That’s God’s kindness.
Now the interesting thing is that Jesus said yes to Bartimaeus’ request and no to James and John, but was kind to both. Blind Bartimaeus asked to see, and Jesus happily healed him—an act of kindness. James and John selfishly asked Jesus if they could be the vice-presidents in His Kingdom—top dogs. “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” Jesus said no and explained why—they didn’t know what they were asking. Jesus wasn’t going to Jerusalem to be crowned king and sit on a throne, but to be crucified, hung on a cross. To be at Jesus right and left hand, they would have been crucified. Even His “no” was an act of kindness.
God is kind. He is always looking out for you, doing what’s best for you, even when He says no to something you want.
3. God does not envy.
Love does not envy, and God is love, so God does not envy. God is not envious of your success, achievements or advantages. He is not jealous of you. Even saying that sounds silly. How could God, who is all-powerful and all-knowing and has everything, ever be envious or jealous of us or what we have? That would be like Bill Gates envying me for my money, or Tiger Woods being jealous of my golf swing, or Arnold Schwarznegger being jealous of my body! (Well, maybe I could understand that last one.) It ain’t gonna happen anytime soon! God envy us? Out of the question!
So God is never envious or jealous when good things happen to you—He is happy. He rejoices with you. Some people say, “Things are going so well for me right now, I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop.” It’s like they think God can only tolerate so much blessing in their lives before He says, “Whoa! You are getting just a little too blessed for your britches! I’d better knock you down a couple notches!” God wants the best for you! So God is not envious when you get it—He’s rejoicing.
But wait! Doesn’t the Bible say that God is jealous? Yes! There is a good and bad jealousy. Love is not jealous—it does not envy or resent others’ success, achievements or advantages. That’s bad jealousy. But true love is jealous in the good sense—God is jealous for your love. God loves you so much that the one thing He wants is your love in return, and when you don’t love Him, He is jealous. That’s good jealousy.
ILL: Laina loves me. When I succeed, she’s happy—it’s her success too. We’re partners. When something good happens to me, she’s happy. I don’t think she ever envies my success, achievements or advantages. I think she’s excited about them.
But is she jealous for my love? Oh baby! If she thinks you’re getting fresh with me, she’ll claw your eyes out—in love, of course. She’s very protective of me and our relationship. That’s a good jealousy.
Yes, God is jealous—with a good jealousy. He’s jealous for you, not against you.
4. God does not boast.
Love does not boast, and God is love, so God does not boast. Again, this one is almost funny to think about. It’s hard to imagine God boasting or getting in bragging match with someone, doing the one-ups-manship thing—“I’m better than you.” Why do people do that? Because they are insecure and are trying to prove themselves, trying to show you and everyone else that they are better than you are. But God doesn’t need to do that. He’s very secure. God knows who He is. He knows that He is better than you, and doesn’t need to flaunt it. Instead, He likes to make you look good!
ILL: A mother, wishing to encourage her young son’s progress at the piano, bought tickets for a Paderewski performance. When the night arrived, they found their seats near the front of the concert hall and eyed the majestic Steinway waiting on stage. Soon the mother found a friend to talk to, and the boy slipped away. Minutes later, the spotlights came on, the audience quieted, and only then did they notice the boy up on the bench, innocently picking out, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” His mother gasped, but before she could retrieve her son, Paderewski strode across the stage and quickly moved to the keyboard. He whispered to the boy, “Don’t quit–keep playing.” Leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around the other side, encircling the child, to add a running obbligato. Together, the old master and the young novice held the crowd mesmerized. When they finished, the crowd erupted in applause and Paderewski and the boy shared a bow together.
A lesser man would have shooed the boy off stage. “This is my concert. I am the master; you are a novice.” But Paderewski shared the stage and the applause, and made the boy look good.
Psalm 18:35 says, “you stoop down to make me great.” Love does that. Rather than boasting and putting us down, I think the Lord loves to do something beautiful in our lives. He surrounds us and whispers in our ear, “Don’t quit—keep playing.” And as we do, He makes us look good.
5. God is not proud.
Love is not proud. God is love so God is not proud. To be proud is to be self-centered. Love is others-centered.
If God is not proud, what is He? He is humble. Let me give you a great definition of humility. Humility is having a true estimate of yourself and being comfortable with who you are. God knows who He is; God is comfortable with Himself. And because He is totally secure, He has nothing to prove. God can serve us because He knows who He is. The great example of this in the Bible is John 13. It begins this way.
John 13:3-5 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
It was Jesus’ final meal with His followers. They had been arguing about who was the greatest. Why? It was customary at a dinner party to welcome the guests and have a servant wash their feet. But there was no servant at this dinner party. One of them would have to do this very humble and menial task. So while they were arguing about who was greatest and who should wash their feet, Jesus got up and began doing it. But look at verse 3: Jesus knew who He was. He knew that He had all power, that He had come from God and was returning to God. He knew who He was. And He washed their feet. That’s humility.
That’s love. And that’s our God. He’s not proud, but humble. He knows who He is and stoops to make us great.
6. God is not rude.
Love is not rude. God is love so God is not rude. To be rude is to be discourteous, disrespectful, inconsiderate or impolite. God is never rude. God treats each person with respect and dignity.
ILL: One of my favorite examples of this is in John 8. Jesus was teaching in the temple when some religious leaders brought in a woman caught in the act of adultery. They dumped her in front of Jesus and all the people and announced her sin, and then asked Jesus, “The Law of Moses says we ought to stone her. What do you say?” Of course, they thought they had cornered Jesus. If Jesus said, “stone her”, He would be breaking Roman law, and they would report Him to the Roman authorities as a lawbreaker. If Jesus said, “don’t stone her,” He would be ignoring Jewish law, and they could discredit Him in front of the crowd. Jesus said nothing. He bent over and began to write something in the dirt, and finally said, “If any one of you is without sin, you throw the first stone at her.” Then he started writing in the dirt again. One by one, everyone left until only Jesus and this woman were left. “Where are they? Did no one condemn you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you. Go and leave your life of sin.”
The religious leaders were rude; they had no regard for this woman’s feelings. Jesus treated her with courtesy, with respect, with dignity—even though she was a sinner! That’s true love—the love God has for you.
I’ve often wondered why God doesn’t just show up, and with His great power simply force us to believe. But that’s not love. Love isn’t rude. Love treats people with dignity and respect, so God doesn’t force us. He invites us and gives us room to respond. God is not rude.
7. God is not self-seeking.
Love is not self-seeking, and God is love, so God is not self-seeking. Love isn’t selfish; love is others’ centered, not self-centered. Love is doing what’s best for others no matter what it costs you.
Of course the supreme example of God’s selfless love is the Cross. Jesus willingly gave His life for us. He loved us and did what was best for us, and it cost Him His life. A couple of weeks ago, I reminded you of His prayer in the Garden on the last night of His life. “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.
Moments later, a mob came to arrest Jesus. Impetuous Peter drew a sword to protect Jesus. He managed to lop off the ear of man named Malchus, the servant of the high priest, one of this arresting mob. Jesus told Peter to put his sword away, and then made this comment. “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”
“Peter, if I wanted to get out of this, I could. If I wanted to save my life right now, I could do that. One word from me, and an army of angels would be here like that! I could get out of this, but I am not going to. They are not going to take my life, Peter; I’m going to give it. Put your sword away and let me give my life for you.”
Then Jesus reattached Malchus’ ear! That’s a replay I want to see someday! Jesus is being arrested, and He stops to heal a man who’s arresting Him! That’s true love—the love of God. He’s always looking out for you.
8. God is not easily angered.
Love is not easily angered, and God is love, so God is not easily angered. God is not thin-skinned. God is not touchy and irritable. Nine times in the Old Testament God describes Himself as “slow to anger, abounding in love”.
So many people imagine God to be just the opposite: quick to anger, irritable, touchy, thin-skinned. I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Jesus is coming soon…and boy is He ticked off!” Some people imagine God with a permanent scowl on His face, and fire in His eyes. He’s just waiting for you to screw up so that He can scorch you. “Go ahead, make my day.”
ILL: When I get tired, I can be irritable. It’s not a pretty sight. Laina might say something to me, and I’ll respond with an irritated tone of voice. I’ve made a career out of apologizing! I’m a classic over-reactor! Is there anyone else here that can identify with me?
Thankfully, God is not like me! God is not easily angered, irritable and short-tempered.
Does God get angry? Oh yes. The Bible has lots to say about God’s anger, which is always directed toward evil. But even that anger is an expression of love. If you were to hurt my wife or one of my kids, I would be angry with you. I love them and am very protective of them. In the same way, God gets angry when people do evil and hurt others. But God’s anger is very deliberate and focused. He is angry with evil. He’s never just irritable and touchy.
9. God keeps no record of wrongs.
Love keeps no record of wrongs, and God is love, so God keeps no record of wrongs. God is not keeping score of your sins! God chooses to forgive you and forget what you’ve done.
Isaiah 43:25 “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”
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.
God isn’t keeping score. Why? Because God is love and love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs.
God isn’t keeping score of your sins. Revelation 20 describes the final judgment and mentions two types of books. The first are books that contain records of what people have done. And then there is the Lamb’s book of life. When you begin to follow Jesus, your name is written in the Lamb’s book of life, and the other books—the ones that record all that you did—are destroyed. Hurled into the depths of the sea. Blotted out and remembered no more.
“But wait a minute! What about the good things I’ve done? Are those all blotted out and forgotten too?”
Hebrews 6:10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.
God chooses to forget your sins and remember your good works. That’s true love.
10. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God is love, so God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God wants the best for others, so He rejoices when truth and righteousness win out, but never when evil or wrong does. God can never be happy when you are wrong, or when you are wronged.
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?
God finds no joy in punishing people for their sins, even though they deserve it. God rejoices when people find the truth, when they return to Him and live. In fact, Jesus said that all of heaven breaks into an enormous party every time one sinner repents.
Jesus told the story of a father with two sons. The younger one took his share of his father’s estate, moved far away and squandered the money in wild living. When he was bankrupt, he came home and begged his father to take him back—not as a son, but as a slave. But the father was so overjoyed to have his son home that he threw a party. “Kill the fattened calf, bust out the frozen cheesecake, and let’s celebrate. For my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” The father wept over his son’s lostness, but rejoiced in his return. That’s love—the true love of God for you.
11. God always protects.
Love always protects, and God is love, so God always protects. God covers you. God is a shelter.
ILL: After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park, forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the fire’s damage. One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched on the ground at the base of a tree. Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick. When he gently struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother’s wings. The mother could have flown to safety but had refused to abandon her babies. She had been willing to die so those under the cover of her wings would live.
God is love and love always protects.
Psalm 91:4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.
God is our refuge. God is our shelter. When life is hard, when you feel attacked or overwhelmed or undone, where do you go? Where is your safe place, your shelter? I can go home. I know that my wife loves me no matter what. I can tell her anything. She’s my shelter—I can snuggle up under her wings! That’s what God is like. He always covers us, always protects us.
12. God always trusts.
Love always trusts, and God is love, so God always trusts. God believes in you. This one boggles my mind. I believe in God; I trust God, and for good reason. He is trustworthy. He is faithful. But why would God trust me? I drop the ball often. I screw up. I’m a sinner. Hang around me very long and I’m sure to disappoint you. But God trusts me anyway! God believes the best about me. That’s love!
ILL: Ben Zander is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and a professor at the New England Conservatory of Music. He begins his classes each year by announcing that everyone in the class has an “A”. The only requirement is that they write a letter dated nine months later at the end of the school year that describes in detail what will have happened to earn them this grade. They are to place themselves in the future, look back, and report on all the insights acquired and milestones attained during the year, and then write about them as though they had already happened. A Taiwanese student wrote this letter:
In Taiwan, I was #68 out of 70 students. I come to Boston and Mr. Zander says I am an A. Very confusing. I walk about, three weeks, very confused. I am #68, but Mr. Zander says I am an A student. I am #68, but Mr. Zander says I am an A. One day I discover much happier A than #68. So I decide I am an A.
This young man began to play like an A instead of #68.
God believes in you. God gives you an A. He trusts you. When I think about all that God has entrusted to me, it really lights a fire in me. I want to live up to His trust. Every gift that God has given you is an expression of His love for you—a love that always trusts. God trusts you!
13. God always hopes.
Love always hopes, and God is love, so God always hopes. I told you last weekend that one of the things I love about Jesus is that no one was hopeless. Jesus changed people that everyone else had given up on:
Zacchaeus the crooked tax collector.
Bartimaeus the blind beggar.
Mary Magdalene the prostitute.
Peter the flaky follower.
No one is hopeless to Jesus. You are not hopeless to Him. Even when you feel hopeless about yourself—when you think, “I’ll never change”—He still has hope for you.
God has hope for that spouse that you’ve given up on.
God has hope for that child who has broken your heart.
God has hope for that friend whose heart seems so hard.
God has hope for you.
Love always hopes, which is why He never gives up.
14. God always perseveres.
Love always perseveres, and God is love, so God always perseveres. God never gives up on you; He never quits. He keeps loving you no matter what you do. Frances Thompson called Him, “The Hound of Heaven.” He keeps pursuing us, He never gives up. Like this sermon, He just keeps going and going and going!
You might wonder if God has given up on you, and the answer is no. He loves you, and love always perseveres.
15. God never fails.
Love never fails, and God is love, so God never fails.