Friday, January 04, 2008

Sincere Love - Part 1

"What's Love Got To Do With It"
(Tina Turner)

Oh whats love got to do, got to do with it
What`s love but a second hand emotion
What`s love got to do, got to do with it
Who needs a heart
When a heart can be broken?

Tina Turner doesn’t have much use for love... at least in song. But almost everyone I know longs for an experience of true, sincere love. A love that is not marred by self-interest or hypocrisy.

The Bible has much to say about love like this and one of the chief places is in Paul’s lengthy doctrinal letter to the Christians in Rome. In chapter 12:9, Paul stands two words up on their own as a powerful place-marker: SINCERE LOVE.

Our English Bibles add a verb: “Let love be” – and that is okay. But I think Paul is standing up these two words as a fixed point from which hangs all the rest of this chapter – this is what sincere love is and does...

That Paul wrote of love should not surprise us. Almost every letter he wrote contained the command to love.

That Paul wrote of love should not surprise us. Almost every letter he wrote contained the command to love. It is funny to me when people suggest that Paul was some kind of harsh, doctrinaire chauvinist that thought very little about anyone else. Obviously they have not read much of the New Testament!

It was Paul who wrote:

Romans 13:8-10 “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”

Romans 14:15 “For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.”

1 Corinthians 14:1 “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts...”

1 Corinthians 16:14 “Let all that you do be done in love.”

Galatians 5:6 “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”

Galatians 5:13-14 “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Galatians 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love...”

Ephesians 4:2 “bearing with one another in love...”

Ephesians 4:15 “Rather, speaking the truth in love...”

Ephesians 5:1 “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...”

Philippians 1:9 “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment...”

Philippians 2:1 “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”

Colossians 3:14 “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

1 Thessalonians 3:12 “...and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you...”

1 Thessalonians 4:9 “Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another...”

1 Timothy 1:5 “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

1 Timothy 4:12 “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”

Titus 2:2 “Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.”

Titus 2:4 “and so train the young women to love their husbands and children...”

And, of course, it was Paul who wrote that most amazing description of love in 1 Corinthians 13:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Did you read all those quotes? I urge you to go back and do so if you skipped any. It may shock you to see how much love matters to God!

In almost every letter Paul wrote, the first point of application to that local church was the working out of love. If we read the words of Jesus, or John or Peter or Luke we see the same pattern and the same commands. We love because He first loved us and because He IS love.

One might even suggest that the primary means to a God-glorifying life is to love. Didn’t Jesus say:

Matthew 22: 37-40 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

I do not think I need any further proof on the need for Christians to love one another!

But all good things can be spoiled by sin... and one of the worst ways of spoiling something good is to counterfeit it.

During World War II, the Nazis attempted to wage an economic war against the Allies with Operation Bernhard. The Nazis took Jewish artists in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp and forced them to forge British pounds and American dollars. The quality of the counterfeiting was very good, and it was almost impossible to distinguish between the real and fake bills. The plan was to get these bills into circulation and thus devalue the currency of the Allies.

But the Germans could not put their plan into action, and were forced to dump the counterfeit bills into a lake. Over one billion American dollars were forged, and economists estimate that that would have seriously undermined the war effort.

Love, like money, can be faked, forged and feigned all too easy.

Love, like money, can be faked, forged and feigned all too easy. When counterfeit love floods the church – when it becomes the currency of exchange in the church – it will not be long before division, dissension, disunity and decay set in with a fury.

Knowing that ever-present danger, Paul is quick to describe the nature of true, Biblical love. He begins be describing what amounts the attitude that is the base or foundation of love. From there he will move on to describe the actions of love within the local church. We need to hear both!

That is what I will endeavour to do in this series.