"Love is the greatest" (1 Cor 13:13b, N.T. Wright, The Kingdom New Testament, 2011). Powerpoint: 1.7.18LoveIsTheGreatest1Cor13
My singular hope and constant unchanging prayer, even if not explicitly stated, is that everyone, myself included, will taste and know the love of God.
Exactly 10 years ago on the first Sunday of 2008, we held our first Sunday Worship Service at West Loop. 10 years ago, Grace Fitch was 4, Mary Lomahan was 5, Mary Cook was 8, Noah was 7 and Lukey wasn't born yet. Many parents--Austrias, Penas, Wadas, Hwangs, Kouadios--still had no kids. Kids born to us at West Loop in the last 10 years was such a joy! By God's grace all of my 6 grandkids were born in the last 9 years.
It is only by the grace of God that the last 10 years have been the best years of my Christian life of 38 years, if not the best years of my entire 6 decades of life. What makes everything so good? God, his goodness, grace, generosity, mercy and his infinite love.
My greatest labor and satisfaction over the last 10 years have been the study of countless less familiar books of the Bible. The last few years have been particularly exhilarating and exciting (and exhausting at times!) when I extensively studied and preached through the major prophets: all 66 chapters of Isaiah in 2 years, all 52+5 chapters of Jeremiah and Lamentations in half a year, and now we are half way through Ezekiel. I learned that indeed the word of God (2 Pet 1:20-21) is the word of life (2 Tim 3:16), and that all of Scripture, including the Old Testament point to Christ (Lk 24:27; Jn 5:39; Ac 10:43).
When we began West Loop in 2008, yes, there was controvery and severe birth pains. It was because some people loved us so much that they wanted us to remain with them in Roger's Park forever, and not leave. Nonetheless, God alone and God Himself--by His own sovereign will and plan--opened the way and by his grace alone, we began our church plant at UIC/West Loop.
Truth be told, there were also some rough tough unpleasant times because of church politics and a clash of egos. In retrospect, that was inevitable, since the problems with the church always have to do with people, with myself being the chief culprit!
Yet all in all, nothing but the goodness and the love of God has prevailed and even overwhelmed me on too many occasions. Indeed, I tasted grace (Ac 20:24), rest (Mt 11:28-30) and freedom (Gal 5:1)--like that of an eagle soaring in the sky (Isa 40:31). I experienced over and over and over again that God loves me with an everlasting love (Jer 31:3).
It is thus fitting that on our 10th anniversary we spend the entire first month of January 2018 on the theme and topic of love. We began last week with Real Love (Rom 12:9-21). This week, we consider what Paul regards as the grestest attribute and virtue (1 Cor 13:13). To Paul, the primary and basic application and character of a Christian is love--love for God and others.
Several excellent questions were posed last week during the service:
- Paul says, “Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically [set on fire by the Spirit]” (12:11, NLT).
- How do you work hard and rest in God (Mt 11:29)?
- “I am gentle and accommodating in heart” (Mt 11:29).
- How do you accommodate others and not enable them?
Other questions to consider:
- Is there anything else beyond loving God and others?
- "Is love a feeling? Is love an act? Is love an art? Is love voluntary or involuntary, or both? How is self-love related to love of neighbor? Does love extend to enemies? What is the relation of love to sexuality? Can love be commanded? Is love redemptive? Is love divine? Is divinity love? How does love form and inform our existence?" Carter Lindberg, Love: A Brief History Through Western Civilization, 2008.
- What's the point of everything?
- "A definition of love is especially necessary because love ... is the point of everything. If we do not know what this love is ... then we do not know the point of everything. We only know the word. If we are to put all our eggs in love's basket, what could be more practical, more essential, than to know it is the right basket and not another?" Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You.
- The point, the virtue, the most important word.
- Love is the "superstar virtue of virtues" and has to be "the most watered down word in the English language." Krista Tippett, Becoming Wise, 2016. To define love better we must get past the conventional definitions of love, such as a term of endearment, a feeling of strong attachment or deep affection, sexual passion, or the beloved who is the object of such feelings.
- What is love and who are we to love?
- "Agape describes a life-enhancing action that flows from God to humans (Rom 8:37; 2 Cor 9:7) and vice versa (Mt 22:37). The commandment to love regulates human conduct within the church: 'Love one another' (Jn 13:34; 1 Thess 4:9; 1 Pet 1:22; 1 Jn 3:11; 2 Jn 5); and husbands are commanded to love their wives (Eph 5:25, 28; Col 3:19). But those outside are to be loved: the neighbor (Rom 13:9) and enemies (Mt 5:44; Lk 6:28, 35)." William Klassen, Love (NT and Early Jewish Literature), 1992.
(1 Corinthians 13) If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom (know) all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing (It’s useless to me).
4 Love is patient (magnanimous, great-hearted), love is kind. It does not envy (knows no jealousy), it does not boast, it is not proud (puffed up). 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking (does not seek for things of its own, doesn’t force its rightful claim), it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs (does not take account of the evil deed, doesn’t bear a grudge). 6 Love does not delight in evil (doesn’t cheer at others’ harm) but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects (Love bears/tolerates all things), always trusts (has faith in all things), always hopes (hopes in all things), always perseveres (endures all things).
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me (I did away with infantile things, I threw off childish ways). 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully (completely) known.
13 And (So, But) now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love (and, of them, Love is the greatest).