1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13
In 1979, I visited a church in the USA, where the members of the congregation greeted each other with these words: "God loves you, and I love you." A year later, after my return to Scotland, I heard a song with the words: "God loves you, and I love you, and that's the way it should be." The love of God is not merely words which we speak. The love of God is to be seen in the lives which we lead.
"God loves you, and I love you." "God loves you, and I love you, and that's the way it should be." these words have stuck with me over the course of the years. When I conduct a wedding, I read the words of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and 1 Corinthians 13:13. I give the couple a motto to carry with them into their married life: "God loves you, and I love you." I emphasize that human love is founded on divine love. Our love for each other is based on God's love for each of us. I stress to them that there are times, in every marriage, when you become painfully of your partner's weaknesses, times when you are very disappointed in your partner. At such times, it is difficult to share your love with your partner. These are the times when we must remember the love of God. When you find it difficult to love your partner, remember God's love for you. God sees your weaknesses as well as your strengths. He sees your bad points as well as your good points. He knows all about your faults and failings, yet He continues to love you. When you think of such love, you will find it so much easier to share your love with your partner. The words, "I love you", will come to mean so much more when both husband and wife are seeking to build upon the love of God. This is the advice that I give to newly married couples; Build your human love on divine love. Build your love for each other on the love of God for both of you.
Our theme is not marriage. It is discipleship. In the Church, we are to live as disciples of Jesus Christ. In the world, we are to live as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. When we consider the life of discipleship, we must learn to think of it as a life of love. Jesus said, "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). Sharing our love within the context of marriage is, for some of us, a part of life. Sharing our love as disciples of Jesus - this is something we are all called to do. Living as disciples of Jesus means more than just saying the right words. It means living the right way. It means letting the love of Christ fill our lives. His love is to shape our attitudes. His love is to inspire our actions.
The importance of having love in all that we do is emphasized in a modern song, entitled, "Witness": "I witnessed to a man today. I witnessed to his wife. I told them 'bout the way and I told them 'bout the life. I told them that they needed to surrender to the Lord. I told them 'bout the power of His double-edged sword. I witnessed to a drunkard outside a tenement. I told him he was shameful and he needed to repent. I witnessed to a blind men beggin' money on the street. I put a tract into his cup and did not miss a beat. I passed out all the tracts with all the Scripture underlined. I handed one to each and every one that I could find. I'd shove one in their hands and I'd walk on to the next. I must have reached a hundred souls with my salvation text. I gave out little Bibles, with the Gospel of St. John, into a hundred hands before my Bibles were all gone. I told each one I met the words of John3 verse 16, and sandwiched in a little bit of Matthew in between. I finished out the day and yet I was not satisfied. And, on my way back home, it hit me, and I almost cried. I'd given them the message and I'd given them a little shove, but I'd missed the most important thing. I had not given love." (from Chuck Girard's album, "The Stand).
All that we do may sound very impressive, but, without love, it is nothing - nothing at all. Living as a disciple of Jesus does not mean being a "Bible-thumper." It means loving Jesus and loving other with the love of Jesus. We are not called to hit people with a book. We are to love them with the love of Jesus. We are not to bombard them with words. We are to show them the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Words have their place, but we must practise what we preach. In our everyday life, we must live out the love of Christ. Love - this is what really makes the difference. Love - this is what really draws men and women to Jesus Christ.
A well-known atheist, Nietzsche, once said, "His disciples will have to look more saved if I am to believe in their Saviour." This is very challenging. The only "Bible" many people ever read is the "Bible" of our lives. They never read the Bible we carry with us to Church, but they watch how we live our lives. They watch like a hawk, and they make up their minds about Christianity on the basis of what they see in Christians. A Marxist writer, Machovec, has pointed out that "critics practically never reproach Christians for being followers of Christ, but ... for not being such" (A Marxist Looks At Jesus, cited in H. Kung, On Being a Christian, p. 558).
1 Corinthians 13 is the most well-known Bible passage on the theme of Christian love. When we read 1 Corinthians 13, it is most important that we understand that true Christian love is not something which comes naturally to us. true Christian love is nothing less than the love of God: "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (Romans 5:5). True Christian love is not something which arises from deep within our own hearts. It is the love of God which has been poured into our hearts by God Himself. True Christian love grows in us as we allow our lives to be brought under the control of Jesus Christ. In 2 Corinthians 5:14, the Apostle Paul wrote, "The love of Christ controls us. The love of Christ constrains us."
The life, filled with Christian love, is the life which is controlled by the love of Jesus Christ. The life which is controlled by the love of Christ will be a life of service, a life constrained by the love of Christ - constrained to reach out to others with His love.
When our lives are controlled by the love of Christ, there will be both love for God and love for our neighbour - not one without the other, but both together. We will offer praise and worship to God. We will give ourselves in the service of needy mean and women. Through our words and actions, we are to show the love of Christ. We cannot be content with words only, for words without actions are dead.
Let us live for Christ. Let us speak for Christ. Let us pray that the love of Christ will shine brightly in our lives, as a light which draws men and women to the Saviour.