Friday, May 24, 2013

Without Love, It Means Nothing


Without Love, It Means Nothing
I Corinthians 13:1-8
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.  Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,  Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;  Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;  Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.  Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

Some of us will remember the old song, “What the World Needs Now is Love.” Though it is a secular tune there is some truth in the words. Love should penetrate every relationship we have, not just romantic and family relationships. Love is not confined to boyfriends and girlfriends. Love should be shown at work, the grocery store and in the classroom.

I have had to ask myself this question many times, “Am I loving?” That could be a hard question to answer. Maybe I should ask, “Am I portraying qualities of love? Am I patient? Am I kind? Trusting? These types of questions are more a matter of the heart. How do I measure myself according to these qualities of love? The Word of God says, “If I don’t have love, I am nothing.” 

Jesus said in John 13:35, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Making the choice to love others is not only a suggestion given in 1 Corinthians 13, it is also a command given by our Lord to those who would call themselves Christians. There are words in the Greek language for various kinds of love. The Greek word aeros is associated with sexual attraction. That is the love that just takes and does not give. Then there is phileo, that’s the love of friendship, this love gives and takes. Agape is the love that just gives and gives and commits unconditionally. This kind of love never means an emotional love with tingling sensations, or sentimentalism, it is a biblical love, an act of selfless sacrifice.

The Bible never defines love it describes love. Love is an action word and love is only love when it acts. (A verb is a word used to describe an action).  Paul writes in I Corinthians 13 that we are a nothing, a zero, if we do not love above all else. He penned for us a list of attributes that paints a picture of the love of Christ found throughout the gospels. The Christians is one who loves when he is hurt, wounded, taken advantage of and never seeks revenge. This person is called long suffering or patient.

I would like to quote a story about one of my favorite presidents, Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln made a lot of friends and some enemies but one man who became an outspoken enemy was a man by the name of Edwin M. Stanton. Stanton despised Lincoln. In print he called him "a low, cunning clown." On one occasion he nicknamed him "The original Gorilla." He stated: "It was ridiculous for people to go to Africa wandering around trying to find a gorilla when they could find one easily in Springfield, Illinois." Very bitter toward Lincoln and yet, Lincoln never replied to him, never retaliated.

When it came time to choose a man for the job of Secretary of the War Department for the United States government, Lincoln chose Stanton. Somebody asked, "Why?" Lincoln replied, "Because he's the best man for the job." As the war years wore on, the biographer said this, "The night when the assassin's bullet tore at Lincoln's life, in the little room to which the President's body was taken there stood that same Stanton, looking down into the silent face of Lincoln in all its ruggedness and speaking through his tears these words, quote: 'There lies the greatest ruler of men the world has ever seen,' end quote." Robert Todd Lincoln, the assassinated president’s son, wrote that Stanton, “for more than ten days after my father’s death in Washington, called every morning on me in my room, and spent the first few minutes of his visits weeping without saying a word.” Because Abraham Lincoln was willing to forgive and trust, he gained a friend. A very dear friend and where enmity once was, a friendship blossomed. 

Stanton couldn't resist the non-retaliating spirit of the man called Lincoln. Love forgives seventy times seven when it's been wronged. Love that is long suffering endures the insults and injuries of others and kindness pays them back only with deeds of goodness, an unfeigned love.

Thought: My dear friend, when you have been mistreated, wronged, or hurt, love them that have injured you. Love those that have caused you great harm or have inflicted tremendous pain  upon you, for in doing so, you portray a picture of the love of Christ for all the world to see.  Even though you may have fed the poor, had great faith, or even given yourself to be martyred, if all is done without love, it means nothing.

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