The Carnival cruise ship, Triumph, towers about 140-feet high (that’s about the height of our city’s water tower. It measures just under 900-feet long (about the distance from this church to the Doherty Hotel). It can hold 2,754 guests (about the city population of Clare) on its thirteen decks. Four glass elevators whisk you from deck to deck, to jewelry stores and gift shops, to mini golf, to a casino with 60 slot machines, to an underground-themed arcade, to spas and saunas, to the sky lounge. A multilevel water park sprawls across the three upper decks. On the top, a waterslide stretches two-stories down. The midlevel deck has concession stands, tables, and cabanas. The lowest deck has a pool with water guns, smaller slides, wave pools, hot tubs. In case of a Caribbean thunderstorm, a retractable roof covers everyone up. If hungry, you have burger joints, Mexican restaurants, seafood, a pizza place, coffee bars, dozens of breakfast places, or you can order room service. And then, let’s not forget, this is a cruise! Triumph chugs from Caribbean island to Caribbean island so that you can take in some local life. This ship lacks absolutely nothing. It is a floating paradise.
Yet, on February 10, 2013, a fire in the engine room killed all power to the ship. No thrust, leaving Triumph aimlessly drifting in the Caribbean Sea at 5 to 8 miles-per-hour. No electricity for refrigerators holding red meat, seafood, chicken, dairy, and ice. No engines powering air conditioning, pool pumps, or bathrooms. Without the engine all those splendidly exquisite amenities sat useless. No one could enjoy anything the ship offered.
We have spent the last two weeks identifying spiritual gifts God gives and how your gifts benefit the body of Christ. Today, God highlights the one key component giving power to all those splendidly exquisite gifts. A necessary component so that we use our gifts for good. An essential component so that others might benefit from what we offer. One Love Motivates All Service. A love not seeking to get, but A love seeking to give.
So, let’s look at [1 Corinthians, chapter 13] verses 4-7. Here you see God define ‘love’ and explain how ‘love’ operates. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Now, in the English language, we have only one word for love. You can say you “love” a hamburger, “love” your friend, and “love” your spouse. The way you are using the word “love” in each of those statements is a little different. So, you have to understand the context in order to know what type of “love” is being shown to a hamburger, your friend, and your spouse.
The Greek language uses three different words for “love”— and 1 Corinthians is written in Greek. One word for “love” is (1) eros [ἔρως]— a romantic love between husband and wife. Another word is (2) phileo [φιλέω]— a friendship love. The other word is (3) agape [ἀγάπη]— which describes loving someone even when they do not deserve it. So, when God says, Love is patient, love is kind… he is using one of those three Greek words. Here, he uses the word: ‘agape’— a love shown to the unlovable. ‘Agape’ love never wonders: “How will I benefit?” Instead, ‘agape’ love always asks: “What can I do for the benefit of others?”
In case you wonder how this applies to your life, God lists some examples. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love-- if I am not thinking about how my speaking will benefit my fellow believer-- I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. I benefit no one because I refuse to reveal the meaning of the words. I only sing sweet angelic songs so that others might see me do something they cannot. I serve only to draw attention to myself. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. That is me flaunting spiritual gifts so that I look superior! Superiority causes me to look down on others. I am using my spiritual gifts to inflict pain. Maybe you stand firm in the face of cancer, and then mock a friend who struggles. “Why can’t you be more like me?” Perhaps you can clearly explain the difference between the ‘Will of God’ and the ‘Providence of God,’ but you do so for the sole purpose of appearing smart. You really want others to hover around your superior intellect. Or, you parade knowledge to shame others for not knowing as much as you do. Then they will not waste your valuable time with their so-called ‘dumb’ questions. Then they avoid challenging your beliefs. You are using your gifts to hurt. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. You can donate your car, your house, your clothes, all your savings to charity, but if you do all this so that we may praise your generosity, then your motives are wrong. You are not trying to benefit others; you want to benefit yourself. You want our praise. You want our respect. You want us to scramble to you the next trouble arises for deliverance. That is not ‘agape’-love. That is not a love seeking to benefit others, that is a love seeking to get.
God gives you (and me) spiritual gifts in order to benefit others. Yet, selfishness drives us to use those gifts only when we will receive something in return, be it praise, respect, or approval. A love seeking to get does not match God’s standard of love. It falls short of his expectations. It means, you fall short of what God expects from you.
That is why God gives us these words. The point of 1 Corinthians 13 is not to see how good your love is. Rather, it reveals one love that is good. One Love that Motivates All Service. A love not seeking to get, but rather a love seeking to give.
[Jesus] is patient… His anger does not flare up every single time we grow arrogant. He has repeatedly taught us to love others just as he loved us and we still fail each day. Instead of punishment, [Jesus] is kind… He demonstrates mercy, treating us not as we deserve. [Jesus] does not envy worldly praise and glory, as we might. [Jesus] does not boast about the power he has as God. [Jesus] is not too proud to die a criminal’s death. Too proud to be held guilty for our arrogance. Too proud to be rejected. [Jesus] is not self-seeking. He uses his blood to purge pride from our spiritual record. [Jesus] keeps no record of wrongs. If he did, who could stand? (Psalm 130:3). Rather, [Jesus] rejoices with the truth: ‘Forgiven!’
Jesus does not come to make you great in the eyes of the world, he comes to make you great in the eyes of God. That is what truly matters. When all on earth passes away, when life is over and eternity begins, the only words that truly matter are the words God will say to you: ‘Come!’ One Love Motivates All Service. A love seeking to give.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. Love puts faith and hope into proper use. Love for God leads to an increased faith, an increased reliance on him. Love for God’s Word increases eternal hope. Love for God leads to a self-giving love for others.
So, look at verses 4-7 again. This time, do not listen with a mental checklist of “dos” and “don’ts.” Instead, remember that these words describe the love Jesus poured out for you. That means, this is not list of demands for you to obey and earn something. This describes the hearts God put in us. This describe our new hearts of love.
Love is patient, love is kind… It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. You may have that sister who argues all the time. Just being with her gives you fits— and you do not always think nice thoughts. You may even go out of your way avoiding to help her. Sound familiar? How often have we argued with God’s commands, but Jesus never avoided us? He came from heaven to earth to us. That self-giving love only motivates us to be self-giving. So, you overlook her faults— not that you pretend hurt never happened— rather, you do not keep a record of wrongs. You are kind and compassionate, forgiving, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).
Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud… That means you are never too proud pulling weeds in the flower beds. Never too proud picking up scraps of paper or pushing leaves out the door. Never too proud washing a dirty dish or straightening up sloppy appearances. No one may ever see you serve, praise you, hand you an award, and pat your back. Still you serve, seeking nothing in return. You imitate Jesus’ love that gave his all—so that he might receive you in return.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Mourn with those who mourn. Encourage those who need encouraging. Pray for those who need prayers. One Love Motivates All Service. A love seeking to give.
One engine powers so many luxuries on the cruise ship, Triumph. No engine and you have no thrust to move. No refrigeration. No pools and waterslides. No glass elevator. No mini-golf. No air conditioning. No bathrooms. One crucial part is so necessary for every pleasure to be enjoyed.
One crucial part is so necessary for us to benefit from each other’s spiritual gifts—and that part is love. This is not a love which fits our terms or wants. This is a love first shown to us. A selfless Savior gave his life for us. A selfless Savior gave his forgiveness to us. A selfless Savior gave gifts to us. Gifts not to advance ourselves. Gifts not to prop up and elevate our status. Rather, gifts to give. Gifts to give so that others may be ever more intimately connected to the body of Christ and to each other.
What gifts do you have? How might you use those gifts? Set your sights on Jesus, the one key component to use those gifts for good. One Love Motivates All Service. A love not seeking to get, but A love seeking to give.