Sept. 26 Sermon Synopsis — If We Have Not Love

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The video for this sermon can be found here:

The passage for the day was 1 Corinthians 13, all 13 verses. Although we could have looked at the whole passage (which is absolutely brilliant), we focused mostly on verses 1-7. There were really three parts to the sermon:

vv. 4-7 — God’s agápē love
vv. 1-3 — pleading for things to be done in love
Ramifications for our living — position & posture

vv. 4-7 — God’s agápē love

We started by unpacking the main word for love—agápē. Although most seasoned Christians are familiar with agápē, we needed to unpack it for youth or for anyone newer Christians. Moreover, we needed to stress that this is the word used for God’s love.

One of the temptations is the measure ourselves against this description of love by placing our names in the passage: “Drew is patient; Drew is kind; Drew is not envious or boastful or arrogant …” It then ends up being a sort of litmus test as to whether or not we’re living up to God’s standards. That can be profoundly unhelpful because it ends up feeding into the pattern we saw last week—trying to climb up the ladder toward God’s favor.

But Paul presents this as a simple depiction of the way love is. It just is. And if we’re patient and kind, it’s because God’s agape love is living and active within us—Christ is in us and us in Christ. Thus, it might be better to substitute ‘Christ’ for ‘love’ — “Christ is patient; Christ is kind; Christ is not envious or boastful or arrogant …” Our greatest hope is that we have been crucified with Christ and we can love like this because he first loved us and now lives in us.

Consequently, we don’t become more like verses 4-7 by trying harder, but by becoming more intimate with Christ, identifying with Christ, internalizing the love of Christ.

vv. 1-3 — pleading for things to be done in love

Having explored God’s agápē love, we then dove into verses 1-3. If we get the Gospel order of agápē right, so much good happens, but if we get that wrong, we can do so much damage. That’s what Paul’s exploring in verses 1-3.

It’s his personal testimony/lament. Sometimes we can read it as though it’s meant to instill guilt—if you can’t do this in love, you are nothing. But that’s a bad reading of the text. He’s not trying to induce guilt, but rather, inspire love. He’s using his own life to plead with the Corinthians — and with us! — that we would be able to live into this more excellent way wherein we use God gifts of knowledge, prophecy, etc in a loving way.

He wants us to do two things that we have a really hard time doing—holding two things in tension. In this case, the two things are having knowledge (or access to mysteries or the like) and needing to express that knowledge in love.

Ramifications for our living — position & posture

This is vital wisdom for the way we navigate conversations around relationships and human sexuality. We have a theological position on various life matters, and for every theological position, we also have an outward posture with which we hold that position. First Corinthians 13 shows that both are important, yet historical pattern has indicated that Christians have erred on one side (theology/doctrine/etc) instead of holding them in maximal tension (truth and grace).

In that way, Paul’s words in vv. 1-3 should haunt us. Maybe we’ve been nothing but noisy gongs and clanging symbols? Sadly, many people who have had abortions, gotten divorced, or felt same-sex attraction would testify to that being the case. They haven’t simply felt conviction from the Spirit; instead, they have felt condemnation from the church.

We’ve looked at 1 Corinthians 13 as the second passage in this series so that we navigate the rest of the series with all this in mind. We need to be crucified with Christ (Galatians 2 last week) and then live out God’s agápē love in both position and posture. Instead of being aggressive, arrogant, judgmental, and condemning, we can be loving, humble, curious, and understanding — all while articulating God’s design and the working out of that design in our own lives. In other words, we can be a winsome witness.

Questions for Further Reflection

(1) How did God speak to you through this passage or during this message?

(2) As this blog post mentions, 1 Cor. 13:1-3 should haunt the American church because we don’t have a great track record of being able to carry our theological convictions with love. If 1 Cor. 13 haunts us, we should next ask, “what would it look like for us to repent/confess as a church?” Also, is there anything you need to do as an individual—any sin to confess, any person to apologize to??

(3) In his sermon, Drew cited this recent tweet: “The American evangelical church taught me how to defend their theology and institutions but did not teach me how to love my neighbor.” That’s just one person’s reflection. What were you taught about how to hold the tension between two simultaneous matters—having theological positions and carrying them with love?

In the coming days, there will be another post about “clobber passages” — passages the church has used to ‘clobber’ sexual minorities. Be on the lookout for that.

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