But have not love 16 Feb 03 AM LS
But have not love…
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 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. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
1 Corinthians 13 1-3
Yes, I know, I missed it by two days; and would you believe it I actually received an anonymous message on Valentine’s day too?
How we do trivialise love!
But there is no trivialising of love here in this famous passage. The greatest example of poetry at the hand of Paul. “It was the life of love that Jesus lived which made the psalm of love which Paul wrote possible.”
I did not choose it because of the 14th – no matter what you may think – but because I believe very strongly that the Lord wants us to know more as a fellowship of His love and to express as a fellowship more love to Him and to each other.
It is that recurring phrase that sounds like a drum beat in each verse “BUT HAVE NOT LOVE…” that preoccupies us as we gather at His table this morning.
There is a beautifully simple structure:
A possible boast – a challenge – a striking reality
If I speak but have not love a resounding gong
If I have much but have not love I am nothing
If I give all but have not love I gain nothing
Paul eloquently reminds us that without love we are noisy, empty and without purpose.
But before we examine this challenge together consider:
Without Christ this notion is impossible
It has often been suggested that to understand what Paul is saying you have to substitute the name “Jesus” for “love” – and I know what they mean by that. Nevertheless Paul uses “love” because what he has to say is about love in all its aspects.
However without Christ and His love that is the measure of all other loves his words would be what many people understand the verses to be: a poem about love. So they think they can be as sentimental as they wish. How many times is the passage used at a wedding? And of those times how many times by those who love the Lord?
Apart from Jesus – all the love we know is secondary. It may be very deep and very significant – but it is secondary.
Christ is the living demonstration of the LOVE OF GOD to us
Christ sets alight in our lives a love like this
The heart of His nature and His gospel is this GREAT LOVE
such love NEVER FAILS.
The deepest love I have felt – the most enduring compassion fades and falters but HIS is an abiding love – everlasting love – and that NEVER FAILS
Consider what it would be like to be WITHOUT LOVE
Even on a human level the prospect is frightening – to be without love!
to be unloved
not to matter to anyone
to be of no significance, no value, no dignity
to be unattractive, undesirable, unlovely
to know no love for others
a life unresolved, without warmth, without the need for any other
We cannot bear the thought of a world without love, without caring, without feeling
YET – Paul is saying we often live our spiritual lives WITHOUT LOVE
And a spiritual life without love is no spiritual life at all – it is a sham.
Consider how important LOVE is in your life
Love as received of family
To matter, to be valued, to be needed
of husband or wife
We should take INVENTORY more often.
Love as given to recognise the unique warmth and purpose that loving others brings to us
even when it is seemingly unreciprocated
the unique dimension that only LOVE brings to the human spirit…
The love of GOD Who can reckon up its value?
Measure its height and depth, breadth and length?
Account for its transforming power
To be able to say “GOD SO LOVED ME…”
Love FOR God How shall we live BUT HAVE NOT LOVE?
But however precious, these are in a sense GENERAL OBSERVATIONS.
To love and to be loved is not the sole prerogative of Christians!
So then REMEMBER TO WHOM PAUL ADDRESSES THESE MEMORABLE WORDS
He is sending this message TO THE CHURCH
To the Corinthian Church in particular – which, for all its problems was a powerful group – exercising spiritual gifts, declaring a powerful Gospel – needing to reign in a particularly active worship.
Not to the world – but to the Christian
And so especially to ME and to YOU!
There has never been a time here in this Church when we have not needed LOVE – but I say to you – here as we approach the Lord’s table – that there has seldom been such a time as this time when we need LOVE.
“BUT HAVE NOT LOVE”
We may have orthodoxy
A whole range of works
A welter of assumptions
A veritable Pandora’s box of opinions
and, yes a DEEP LONGING TO BE RIGHT BEFORE HIM
But recent events remind us that we are described here in this poem by Paul
We have so much – BUT HAVE NOT LOVE!
Oh I know – the word is misused perhaps more than any other. Like the world around us we read “love” and interpret it so widely and often so ineffectively.
Does that mean we can just shrug and move away – from Him, and from our brothers and sisters in Christ!
PAUL SETS THIS WORD AGAINST A THREEFOLD BACKDROP
There is a beautifully simple structure:
A possible boast – a challenge – a striking reality
1. If I speak but have not love a resounding gong
2. If I have much but have not love I am nothing
3. If I give all but have not love I gain nothing
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 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.
3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
À I may be one of those who is often heard. (I fit that category!) I can be altogether well-intentioned – and always have SOMETHING TO SAY – but if I have not love I am exactly like those annoying motorcars that drive around demonstrating megawatts of acoustic power – thrub thrubbing the atmosphere with NOISE! I convey no message – because I have not love!
À I may be one of those who KNOWS - I know what’s wrong, I know what should be done, I know what choices should be made – I may pride myself on the breadth of my understanding – my long experience in the Christian life. & I may even be one of those who believes effectively – a mountain mover! – but it can ALL be cancelled out IF I HAVE NOT LOVE – I am nothing
À I may be happy to lie down and let others walk over me – dedicate everything to the service of others – surrender in the ultimate way – yet WITHOUT LOVE I gain nothing – I am a great fat ZERO.
In the world around us it is those things that count:
SCIENCE even belief systems
You can see it at work in the great humanitarian movements, you can see it in the vast numbers of the Hajj
But if it does not have that which lies at the very HEART OF GOD –
BUT IF I HAVE NOT LOVE – nothing!
So where will I find it?
If my response to this is “Ah it’s a wonderful word but what does it mean?”
Then I point you to the rest of this short chapter – especially verses 4-7
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Oh Lord how I fail that test!!
If my response to this is “Yes, all very well David but HOW?”
Then I remind you it is a PROCESS (verses 9-12)
I will make it my business to move from the partial to the perfect
I will daily measure myself against my Lord
I will daily subject myself to these words
I will begin to look at my brothers and sisters in the light of these things
I WILL COME TO THIS TABLE
I WILL CONSIDER HIM
I WILL GO OUT AND ACTUALLY TRY TO LIVE THIS LIFE
I will take off my Raeburns – my evangelical fashion statement - and see “FACE TO FACE”
See HIM and See THEM for whom He died.
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ, my Lord;
All the vain things that charm me most
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
27 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognising the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heaven, to earth come down,
Fix in us Thy humble dwelling,
All Thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, thou art all compassion,
Pure, unbounded love thou art;
Visit us with Thy salvation,
Enter every trembling heart.
Breathe, O breathe Thy loving Spirit
Into ev’ry troubled breast;
Let us all in Thee inherit;
Let us find the promised rest;
Take away the love of sinning,
Take our load of guilt away;
End the work of Thy beginning,
Bring us to eternal day.
Come, almighty to deliver,
Let us all thy life receive;
Suddenly return, and never,
Never more thy temples leave.
Thee we would be alway blessing,
Serve Thee as Thy hosts above,
Pray, and praise Thee without ceasing,
Glory in Thy perfect love.
Finish then Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be;
Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee:
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love and praise.