Epiphany 4C - 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

1 Corinthians 13:4–7 (NIV)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, 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.

Love is: - a lot of different things to a lot of different people. 

          - a warm fuzzy kind of feeling.

          - commitment no matter what – “We’ve been fighting for a week but we’ll work it out.”

- sacrifice – “I want to go out with my mates but I’m needed at home.”

          - indulgence in an intimate embrace – “Let’s turn off the lights.”

          - an unexpected gift – a rose or a new beer mug

          - a combination of these and many other things

          The Creator of the universe tells us in the Bible what love is.  Christians sum up love in the person of Jesus Christ and His example to us. 

You’ve heard the verse: John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  Love is not so much about receiving as giving – especially what God gives!

          God’s love - Jesus’ love, which we’re all called to grow into and copy, is a sacrificial love - as He gave up His life for the welfare of you, and me, and all humanity.

          Through St Paul, God specifies what love is and what it is not. Love is personified, that is, the one who loves is described as love by St Paul so we may understand what the love we are to share is all about. 

          The one who loves is tolerant of other people’s short comings.  – that is, they put up with personal wrongs and insults, laziness, faint heartedness, and weakness.    Husbands and wives need this kind of love for all kinds of reasons – you only have to live with someone a short while to know this.

          The person who loves as Jesus loves doesn’t lose their temper, nor are they nasty – they’re always kind to each other.  Husbands and wives are to be kind to each other, children to their parents and each other, neighbours to each other, nations to each other.

In regard to this matter in marriage Ephesians 5:33 says, However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.  This is about mutual love and respect.

          Love is a fruit of God’s Spirit at work in the hearts of those who desire to love each other.  To be loving is to be patient with each other and eager to maintain what God’s Spirit offers you in your various relationships – unity! 

In marriage, for example, God desires that you live in the bond of peace.  Ephesians 4:2-3with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

       In your love for each other gladly acknowledge each others success and achievements.  Be happy for each other when the other accomplishes what they set out to do. 

In love do not boast about your own power, status or abilities, but allow your spouse to support you in your gifts and abilities. If both spouses, or all members of a family, church or community are encouraging each other, love is being worked out. Others will see this and want to be a part of it.

       In pre-marriage preparation I share with couples how each person is to be giving 100% to the marriage - not 50/50 – but total commitment. 

Love doesn’t make arrogant assumptions about oneself or each other  – implying that either is better than the other. 

In any relationship You compliment each other and you are to recognize your compatibility and the unique gifts you share with each other, and how, with those gifts you can help each other. 

Where one is good at one thing – another is good at something else. It’s the same in all relationships, with only degree of intimacy being different.

       In love, rudeness is not acceptable behaviour and so you are to  encourage each other to communicate and not ignore each other, especially when you have issues you need to work through.           

       As Scripture says, “love does not insist on its own way.”  Love seeks the good of one’s nieghbour – for example, in marriage, your nearest neighbour is your husband or wife.  Even though you may be free to act in a particular way, your husband or wife’s welfare is to come first. 

You, who love, are not to be irritable or touchy, easily provoked to anger or offended when the other insists on their own way or are always “right”.

       As Christians, we are exhorted in the broadest sense, not keep a record of wrongs against each other, nor do you seek to take revenge for perceived or actual wrongs.  It’s God’s place to sort out vengeance.  Work together to sort out any grievances - before they destroy your love for each other and your neighbours.

       Even though you allow yourself to endure injury, perhaps even turning the other cheek, you, who love, should not rejoice in wrong but rejoice together in what is right and truthful. 

Be brave enough to admit when you are wrong and ask for forgiveness.  Likewise be gracious and offer forgiveness to the one who was wrong.  As we pray in the Lord’s prayer; Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

          In your love for each other you are not to chalk up each other’s failures or bring them up each time another issue arises.  But I encourage you to highlight each other’s kind and loving deeds, to rejoice in them and encourage each other with them.  So, praise each other often.  1 Peter 4:8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

       Faith and hope belong to those who love each other.  Your love believes in each other – believes that you can meet each others needs, support each other, and nurture each other. 

Your commitment to each other in any relationship demonstrates that hope you have in each other and also in what God desires to do for you as individuals and as a couple, a family and a community.

       St Paul tells us that love endures all things – this is because love never loses faith and never stops hoping even in adversity and suffering.  That’s why when you get married you promise each other, you promise God, and you promise the community, represented at the ceremony by your family and friends, “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health.” 

       Dr Vic Pfitzner, one of my seminary lecturers wrote: “Love is not weak kneed sentimentality which allows insults to go unanswered, naughty children to go unpunished or others sin to go un-reproved.”

       In love for each other you don’t passively accept everything that is good and bad. You deal with issues – showing each other respect, taking time to really listen – to understand and to seek God pleasing solutions to differences.

       In love you may endure the worst, the poorer, the suffering for the sake of the one’s you love.  This is your responsibility now – to bear with any failings of the other in your life, to encourage and build them up. 

The most important way God encourages you is in worship and He invites you to receive His love, especially the forgiveness of sins through His Son, Jesus Christ in the liturgy, sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion and preaching of the Word in the Divine Services of the Church. 

You are encouraged to explore your relationship with God and each other in the light of God’s Word.  This is good and God promises to bless you in this. 

       As we hear in the Foundation and Purpose of Marriage: “…, our Lord promises to bless those who honour His purpose for marriage and remain faithful to each other in it.” This applies to all of God’s plans for humanity for all His purposes.

Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind.  Jesus does not envy, Jesus does not boast, Jesus is not proud. Jesus does not dishonour others, Jesus is not self-seeking, Jesus is not easily angered, Jesus keeps no record of wrongs. Jesus does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Jesus always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

       How are you like Jesus with your relationships?          

Amen.