Love. True love…will follow us forever!
If you were to believe every fairy tale ever made, you would be convinced that love is the most powerful thing on earth. Or, at least “true love’s kiss.” A simple peck on the cheek is the solution for eternal comas and maybe even death! And an act of true love can even unfreeze your icy body. Wow. That’s some cool stuff. If I had a cup of that every morning, I wouldn’t need coffee. Do you think if I kissed my test with true love that I’d get an A? I might have to try that…
Well, for once, the fairy tales may actually be correct. Love is powerful. Perhaps even the most powerful thing on earth. After all, God is love (1 John 4:8), and He is without rival as Sovereign of the universe. Indeed, He created love and regularly shows it to only one kind of people: the undeserving. His love can transform the world’s worst villain—a man who attempts not just murder but the genocide of a whole sect of society—into the greatest messenger of that sect (ever heard of the Apostle Paul?). And if you look at your life, you’ll see the power of love on display. You were dead in sin—and now? You’re alive! Coffee can’t raise the dead. But love can. But not just any love—God’s love.
Agape. That’s the Greek word for it. It’s a different kind of love than sexual love or love for a family member or even romance. It’s a God kind of love. And it’s a choice. It’s not something that you fall into like being engulfed by a mighty, irresistible tidal wave. It’s something you must put effort into. Something you must work at.
God didn’t “fall in love” with us. He didn’t look at us in our sin and think, “Awe, how cute! Look at these little sinners. Sure, they’re a little messed up, but they’re super adorable. I think I’ll die for them!” Nope. Because we’re not very attractive at all. But Jesus still died for us. Why? Because He CHOSE to. He chose to love us with AGAPE love. The most powerful choice a person can make.
Where do we find this word in Scripture? Why, in 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter! And how fitting, since previously on this blog we studied unity in Romans (See: Sinners United series). Paul’s writing another letter here, this time to a church in Corinth. And if you thought the Roman church had divisive issues, you ain’t seen nothing yet! The church at Corinth was more divided than Congress, with each faction claiming some mascot (“I’m with Peter!” “I’m on Paul’s team!” “Go, team Apollos!”). So Paul wrote them to tell them to cut it out and be unified. He addresses immorality, the Lord’s Supper, tongues, and other divisive issues before coming to an important chapter. After discussing the various gifts, he says in 1 Corinthians 12:27-31:
“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.”
What is the more excellent way he’s talking about? Well, glance at 1 Corinthians 13:1-3…
“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.”
After suffering through language lessons in a foreign country, I would love to be able to immediately speak another language. Just like that—I can speak Mandarin, Turkish, and even Elvish. Even cooler would be the ability to speak like an angel. Now, some people think they have the voice of an angel, but a solo in church quickly confirms that is not the case.
You know what else would be cool? To have prophetic powers—to be able to foretell the future. To be able to tell your friend, “Don’t ask that girl out—she will say no.” Or be able to predict who will win the Super Bowl (and ruin it for all your friends). Or perhaps a better superpower would be…to play Minecraft in real life. In other words, to be able to shape this world—all earth, all rocks, all trees—with the power of your hand. When you come to a mountain you don’t like, simply snap your fingers and it moves out of the way.
But maybe you try to be very spiritual. You try to serve the Lord humbly and don’t aspire to such powers. You want to live simply. And so you do the most extravagant thing you can think of—you give all you have to the poor. You donate every outfit, every car, every shoe to orphans and homeless. Wow. You’d probably go viral on YouTube! And then maybe you go one step further—you give up your very body to be martyred in a foreign field for Christ. You have nothing in this life but your body—and even that you give to Christ! You’d go down in the history books as the greatest missionary ever.
Or maybe like me…you just want ALL those things!
Or maybe like Paul…you see all those things as nothing. Pointless. A waste of time. A bunch of useless noise like clashing cymbals. Why? Because they are missing one key element: agape. True love!
Well, I think this love stuff must be pretty important! Better than all those gifts put together! Something I better understand—and CHOOSE to live out every hour and every day. Well, what is it? How do I do it? Thankfully, Paul doesn’t end the chapter there. He goes on to define for us what agape is. A list of traits—true love’s list, in fact. But this isn’t like a dictionary list, with various complicated definitions and synonyms. No, he keeps it very simple for the Corinthians. And defines agape as a list of “do’s.” A list of actions. Both positive and negative.
So join me as we study “True Love’s List.” The gift—the superpower—that all Christians can and SHOULD have.
To view all posts in this series, click here.