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A Conversation Between Joe Christian and John the Ex

by John the Ex  

February 1 at 9:22pm

John,

You recently asked your friends on Facebook to respond to a question you posed: What is love? I meant to, got busy, etc. I just saw this by a pastor friend of mine and thought you might be interested.

Here's the sermon...

The 4th Sunday after the Epiphany C - 1Corinthians 12:27-13:13

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

If Jesus was God, why did he pray to himself?Image by Zömßiè Inc. Wholesale zombies for over 20 years via Flickr

Today, we have the great “Love Text” from 1Corinthians, which is a favorite wedding sermon text for so many, but I think those who insist on having their wedding sermon on this text have probably never given it much thought because it is darn near impossible to live up to.

Love… what is love? Is love a puppy dog? Is love a box of chocolates? Is love an emotion?

How does one fall in love and how does one fall out of love just as easily? What do you think of when you think of love? The Beatles told us all you need is love.

Love doesn’t come very naturally to us as we know it is much easier to tear down than to build up. As a matter of fact, we for the most part don’t even know love when we see it. We often would classify love in our pop psychobabble culture as something other… Codependency, neediness or perhaps poor self-esteem.

So how shall we know what love is and how we should love? Well, as usual, we take a look in the Book for the answers.

Let us look to our Epistle lesson, in 1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13 and see if we can find what St. Paul calls “The Most Excellent Way.”

St. Paul starts by saying that all of these gifts that God used to spread the Gospel are nice, but if you don’t do them in love, or have love in them, you are pretty well useless. Now on the Love…

I) St. Paul goes on to tell us how love behaves.
A) Love is patient.
- How patient are you?
- Do others put you out?
- How about in a restaurant with bad service?
- How about with a mechanic that seems like he doesn’t know which end of the screwdriver is used to tighten a screw?
- How about with your spouse? Why is it so easy to get impatient over the smallest things with those you know best?

B) Love is kind.
- How kind are you?
- When was the last time you thought ill of another?
- When was the last time you looked down your nose at someone less fortunate, or for that matter, when was the last time you spoke or thought ill of anyone?
- This rotten economy has taught us to be careful who we look down on, we’re possibly next in line for the poor house.

C) Love does not envy.
- How about those greedy, selfish people who drive fancy cars and live in big fancy houses?
- They don’t deserve to live like that; they probably never worked a day in their lives, huh?
- After all, what about an average working stiff like me? Life is so unfair.
- Is this love?

D) Love does not boast.
- Well, I am better than those people are anyway because I am a Christian and I live a righteous life.
- Do you think that you’re special somehow? That you are a better person than someone else because you come from a certain family, or have a certain job, or married a certain person?
- Is your favorite topic in conversation, you?

E) Love is not proud
- Who are you to tell me I am a sinner pastor, have you looked in the mirror lately?
- What about your sins?
- Well, my sins are not nearly as bad as Joe Blow’s, you should hear what he did!
- An ancient Jewish prayer is “Thank you God for not making me a gentile or a woman.”
- What sort of person are you glad that you aren’t? What makes you think that God is less disturbed by your behavior than theirs?
- Yesterday, I attended a memorial service for an old friend. He was gay and he committed suicide. Don’t you thank God that you aren’t like that?
- I forgot to mention, he was a baptized child of the true God and whereas, he was probably living a prodigal life, Jesus made a promise to Brian in Holy Baptism and I’m holding Jesus to that promise.

F) Love is not rude, it is not self-seeking.
- Looking out for number one much lately?
- A little courtesy can go a long way.
- How hard is it to give a little thank you wave when someone lets you over? Instead, most of us don’t think twice and act like you were there by divine rite.

G) Love is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
- What about you? Are you easily angered? Do you keep tabs?
- Is there someone in your family that you don’t talk to anymore because of something they did? Do you even really remember what it was?
- How about an old friend that you don’t consider to be a friend any longer?
- Do you keep score of the all the things your spouse has done, which has upset you?
H) Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.

What about you? How much do you show this sort of love?
If you are like the rest of us, the answer is, not very often.

But this is how love behaves. When someone is being cruel to you, your first sinful impulse is to strike back in anger. How often do you turn the other cheek and say, I love you anyway? We get defensive when people attack us, it is natural, or at least natural to our sin nature.

We, you and I continue to stand eternally condemned if this is the measure of our salvation. Who could ever act like this? Only one person ever could and only one person in all of history has, Jesus Christ, our Savior.

What is love? 1 John 4:16 says… And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.

Our Epistle text goes on to say, Love never fails.
Lets look at the new formula for understanding this lesson.

A) Love is very nice, for love is patient, kind, not envious, not bragging, not proud, not rude, not self seeking, not angry, it doesn’t keep records of wrongs, it doesn’t rejoice when bad stuff happens to others. Love protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres.
- We do none of these things
- God is Love
- Jesus is God
- Therefore, Jesus does all of these things - we can not.

B) In Holy Baptism we were clothed with Jesus, we have all of His righteousness counted to our accounts.
- In Jesus, we have all of these things given to us.
- In Him, we are found to be the very righteousness of Jesus.
- God no longer sees us for our sin, but only for our Savior.

II) John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

A) It is through this one act of love, when Jesus counted you who do not know how to love, to be His most beloved that we are now free to love one another.

B) We are clueless when it comes to love, we are so full of ourselves that we do not even usually think of others first. But in Jesus, we have His love counted to our selfish accounts.


C) Consider your sins, the depths of your depravity, but consider this, Jesus is more loving and forgiving still.

- We can not out hate, out sin, or out selfish the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, but then again, why would anyone want to try when we see what sort of love He has for us?

Lets read this section of our text with our new Jesus equation in the text shall we? We remove the word “love” and insert Jesus, for He is love incarnate.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not Jesus, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 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 Jesus, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not Jesus, I gain nothing. Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind. Jesus does not envy, Jesus does not boast, Jesus is not proud. Jesus is not rude, 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… Jesus never fails.

Do you have Jesus? Do you believe that He took your punishment of death for you?

He did you know, you have love and that is some very, very good news.

So what is love? An emotion? A feeling? Love is having a Savior named Jesus of Nazareth, who is love incarnate for you and for your salvation.

When you despair because you are not loving or kind enough, just remember, Jesus is, more than loving and kind enough for you, whenever you feel un appreciated and unloved, remember the love Jesus has shown me, you and the whole world from His cross, through His resurrection and ascension.

In Jesus’ Name
Amen.

Joe




Joe,

Thanks! I just read the sermon. Love as punishment, sacrifice and torture does not make sense to me.

By asking the question, "What is Love?" I was/am looking for a definition of Love itself, not a list of behaviors that indicate Love. To me, all the sermon does is address behaviors, actions, and works.

Jesus as the one and only perfect human, the only one who ever loved perfectly (as evidenced by his works), and the only one who ever will love perfectly, also does not make sense to me, especially since Jesus himself said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father." John 14:12.

Thanks for sharing.

John




John,

Fair enough. I can't make it make sense to anyone. Even I frequently ask the questions you do. Why did He need to die for us. And I am always returning to simply what it says. Because He says He needed to.

1 Corinthians 1:22-24 (English Standard Version)
For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

If you were out here, I would rather discuss these things over a beer! :)

Stay warm out there and be safe on those icy roads.

Joe




Joe,

Beer sounds great! A Winter Lager to go with the icy roads. LOL! No, not drinking and driving, drinking and being thankful I don't have to drive.

For me, what it all comes down to is our fundamental/foundational beliefs/premises: The basic faith we have that something is Truth without direct physical evidence. For me, I have faith that God is perfect, He is Love, He is all knowing, and He created all things that are real. When I run into questions, confusion, doubts, I always go back to my foundation and then faithfully carry it forward into the situation I'm currently faced with. Doing this I see very few mysteries. God is not a mystery to me, His Will is not a mystery to me, His plan for me and humanity is not a mystery to me. And, this evil old universe is not a mystery to me. It all makes perfect sense, as long as I stand on the foundation of my faith.

It seems to me that all religions have a tendency to get caught up with dogma and doctrine (especially Christianity, since that is the religion I am most familiar with) at the expense of, or contrary to, their fundamental faith, and they end up raising their dogma and doctrine to the level of inviolate truth even if/when it conflicts with their foundational truths. The Bible as the Inerrant Word of God is a doctrine. It is not a fundamental truth, and this doctrine is in conflict with the faith most Christians claim in a perfect, loving, all knowing Creator. In my experience, when faced with this fact, Christians generally fall back on mystery, the "we cannot know the mind of God" argument, while seemingly ignoring the most basic truths of their faith.

Regards,
John




John,

The drink suggestion comes from listening to The White Horse Inn (internet and Radio). The introduction tells us that centuries ago men would gather in inns and taverns to discuss the most current religious ideas, etc. (not verbatim quote). I think this would be a good thing if people began doing this again. The internet has its pros and cons. People like you and I are able to carry on a real time conversation while thousands of miles apart. Yet we lack the communication of body language, facial expressions, inflection, etc. But, perhaps better than no communication at all. Perhaps it forces us to choose our words more carefully to compensate.

I'll have the Alaska Smoked Porter. And if you're concerned about the time on the Pacific Coast, let me just say it's 5 O'clock somewhere..

I'm not sure I follow you but lets see where this goes.

I believe that certain things about God are true but it is not without physical evidence. It may not be the amount of evidence that would convince all but it convinces me.

When I run into questions confusions and doubts, I too go back to my foundational beliefs. That is, I am a sinner and am imperfect. I cannot know all there is to know about God because He is infinite and I am finite. He is omnipresent and I am not. He has given me the information I need to know and nothing more.

Dogma and doctrine. Everyone has these. They are not limited to organized religions. They are nothing more than our set of beliefs. Whether you reduce yours to an organized written set is irrelevant. You still have certain beliefs you fall back to.

Here is where you lost me - "It seems to me that all religions have a tendency to get caught up with dogma and doctrine (especially Christianity, since that is the religion I am most familiar with) at the expense of, or contrary to, their fundamental faith, and they end up raising their dogma and doctrine to the level of inviolate truth even if/when it conflicts with their foundational truths. "

I have found things in the Bible which may, at first appear to be contradictory, but upon closer examination are not. Have you had an opportunity to read any of Strobel's books yet?

I need to take my son to school and run some other errands. Hopefully I'll pick this up again later.

Take care.

Joe




Joe,

No, but I have Strobel's latest in my Amazon cart. Next order, probably within the week, and it'll be on the way to my door.

(Sidebar: When I wrote "physical evidence" I did qualify it with the word "direct." I don't think there is any direct physical evidence that God is perfect, Love, omniscient, or the Creator. There is evidence, yes, but it is personal in nature, and not generally evidence that would, as you say, convince all. We have no direct witness to God creating, his perfection, etc., but that which we as individuals feel.)

Perhaps I can clarify where I lost you...

Reasoning, logic, arguments all are processes based on premises. The premises are foundational beliefs. They do not require proof, just acceptance/faith. From the premises, using our reasoning, we can arrive at other beliefs. These subservient beliefs rest on the foundation of our premises and they do not stand alone. I term these beliefs dependent beliefs. Doctrine (if it's not teaching foundation) and dogma (if it does not stand on its own) are dependent beliefs.

Sometimes we employ sound reasoning to form our dependent beliefs and sometimes we employ fallacious reasoning. If there are errors in our logic then the resulting dependent beliefs are not sound. Also, we can have premises that are in conflict with each other. If this turns out to be the case then we must reject or modify at least one of the premises.

The belief in an Inerrant Word of God is a dependent belief. It rests on the premises that 1) there is a God, 2) that this God has a will, 3) that His will is to give His Word to man, and 4) that He is capable of action to manifest His will. From these premises we can deduce that there is a Word of God accessible to man. Then to get to inerrant we must add another premise: 5) God is perfect. Given this premise it follows then that the Word of God is Inerrant.

But, what is the Inerrant Word of God? Is it the Bible? Is it the sermon you heard last Sunday? Is it that still, small voice you hear from inside? It is here that a grand leap is made, another premise formed. The Bible, this collection of ancient books, of which no originals have been found, that did not exist for early Christians, that was copied, copied again, re-copied, plagiarized into itself, edited, revised, revided again, re-revised, added to, deleted from, kept from the Christian masses for over 1000 years, and finally, some 500 years ago, stitched together into the 66 books (plus Apocrypha) of the KJV, is declared scripture, the written Word of God. And who declared it so, a premise upon which to base Christianity? The Church. And why did they declare it so? Well at Caesar's and later the King of England's instruction, of course. And now, since we've already concluded that the Word of God is Inerrant, the Bible is therefore inerrant, and this belief is elevated to have as much weight, nay, even more, than the premises upon which the dependent belief of the inerrancy of the Word is based.

Premise 1: God is perfect. Premise 2 (actually part dependent belief/part premise): The Bible is the Inerrant word of God. These two premises are in conflict as the Bible describes a very imperfect God. So, which premise is modified or rejected? Usually the perfect God one; it is transmuted into mystery that cannot be known or the definition of perfect is modified so that God is perceived as perfect in His imperfection (another mystery).

Unlike you Joe I have found that upon closer examination, what I once believed without contradiction, becomes fraught with gross and irreconcilable errors.

All the best,
John


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