I hope you did something nice for a mom in your life this weekend. If you didn’t, it’s not too late. You can make a card out of an offering envelope if you’d like. Or you could take her out to dinner and just pretend it was a surprise the whole time. Little does she know you were just as surprised as she was.
I saw this online somewhere a few weeks ago, but what you can do is say, “Mom… I’m taking you out to your favorite place as a surprise for Mother’s Day.” She’ll be amazed and think how wonderful you are… Then she’ll say… “where are we going?” And you say, “guess.” And wherever she says, go there. No matter what. Go there.
A few weeks ago I was at the library with my son Nathanael, and we checked out a berenstain bears book from the library called “Mama’s Day Surprise.” And in the book, the bear family makes momma bear her favorite breakfast in bed… buys her a new bath robe, and cleans up the whole mess… and after we read this story, my son Nathanael started whispering and he said, “we should cook mommy breakfast in bed, buy her a robe, and clean up the whole mess…”
And I said, well buddy, we don’t want to set the bar too high for next year buddy, so let’s scrap the gift.
Breakfast in bed is a classic mother’s day treat. It’s a great way to demonstrate to a mom how much they are loved.
I love that my son wanted to show his mom love because demonstrating love is an important thing for Christians.
God demonstrating his love is the reason Christ came.
Jesus lived a life of love… he calls Christians to love one another AND to love our enemies.
One of the churches Paul started was totally missing the love thing. He wrote them a letter because they thought were nailing it. They were looking around at their situation, and they felt like they were killing the whole Christian thing. I kind of imagine them at church meetings high fiving each other… giving out awards for “best church choir” “best food pantry” “best Christian Church.” They felt great about themselves… but the reality is, they were missing the mark by a longshot. And as we read 1 Corinthians 13, Paul shows us that all their shortfalls stemmed from one missing ingredient.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (each verse on it’s on slide) 1 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
Can you imagine being a young athlete with an extraordinary gift for their sport? Maybe it’s a quarterback? I’d imagine that being in a position like that would make it very easy to think you’re the best… to think everyone else is holding you back… to use everyone else to boost your stats. Instead of using the gift to encourage other players and build up the team to be the best it can be, having a special gift could make someone conceited or arrogant.
Every one of us in this room has gifts that God wants us to use for his purposes in the world… and the Corinthians had gifts too… but some of them thought they were better than everyone else because they had gifts they perceived as “more significant and more important.” This led to arrogance, and instead of using their gifts to build up and encourage the church, they were looking down on others and building themselves up… But Paul says this is using their gift without love and it doesn’t honor God at all… in fact, he compares them to idol worshippers. Clanging cymbals were part of heathen worship to false gods in Corinth.. and Paul says that using your gifts in arrogance or to build yourself up, or in other words without love, is as worthless as idol worship.
Then he goes on in verse 2.
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 do not have love, I am nothing.
There was a man that visited his doctor and found out that he had some health issues and the doctor said he needed to rest so he could heal. He called his employer who happened to be a strong Christian man, he had a strong faith… and he shared with him what his doctor said. And this employer answered his request with the most faith filled message. He said, “I have a strength inside me which allows me to carry on even when it’s hard.”
Now, was this man filled with faith? Absolutely. Did this man have an ounce of love? Doesn’t appear that way. For some in the church, they had strong faith, and they knew what was okay and what wasn’t okay, but they had all of that at the expense of younger Christians who weren’t ready for it. Instead of building up the body of Christ, they did what was good for themselves. They had faith and knowledge, but they didn’t use it with love.
Paul continues on, and this one is a bit more shocking.
3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
When I was in college me and a couple of friends drove into Philly to get cheesesteaks. While we’re sitting there enjoying our cheese wiz covered steak on a delicious roll, this man comes up and asks us for money. And a friend of mine, without missing a beat, reaches into his wallet and gives the guy $5. Now, we all looked at this gesture, and were like, wow… that was really cool. And as soon as he walks away, my friends face starts to turn red, he pounds his fist on the table and says, “I hate when people ask me for money like that… it’s so awkward… what am I supposed to do, say no?”
Paul’s saying, it doesn’t matter if you give $5 away, or sell your house and give it all to the poor… if you give it away with contempt or with anger or honestly, even out of obligation… it’s not good… Paul says it’s worthless
The missing ingredient in the actions of the church was love. They saw their spiritual gifts, their acts of charity, and they looked at how much money they gave and they looked at their church attendance and they said, “Look at how spiritual we are! We are so great! We’re doing it all right! We’re amazing!” but they were missing the love.
Let me paint a picture for you that will help you demonstrate why love is so important.
Imagine a mother’s day morning… you and your kids get the table all ready to celebrate mom… not only do you wipe it down, you decide you better sand it down and refinish it… you set the table with your finest china that only comes out on super special occasions. You get out great grandmas silver, crystal glasses… not only that, but you go out and pick a bouquet of flowers for a center piece. You look at the table and you think… yes! Buddy, we nailed it. High five. We did great. Let’s go wake up your mom.
You wake up mom and say, come out to the dining room and look what we have for you! She comes out and she sees the beautifully set table and she says… where’s the food?
You see… The table and the plates and the flat ware and cups were never created to be an end in and of themselves… they were meant to be a means to serve food.
And Paul says to the Corinthians you’ve put together a great looking table but you forgot the food. The spiritual gifts and the acts of charity are not the end goal. Having faith that can move mountains is not the end goal. The end goal has always been to pour out the unconditional love of Jesus Christ that turns sinner’s hearts to God.
They thought they had it. They thought they were nailing it… they thought they were doing what God wanted, they were checking off the box …
But no where in the Bible does it say that what God really wants is serving, giving, or using our gifts on their own… instead, we see over and over again the reality that what matters is this missing ingredient…
1 John 4:7-12 – 7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
“Anyone who does not love does not know God.” This is why Paul is so adamant about the Corinthians getting this right. Because while they think they’re nailing it, Paul knows they’re not even aiming for the right target. The point isn’t the gifts they use… the point is Christ’s love being demonstrated… And if you’ve missed the point… nothing you do really matters…
I was thinking about how Paul might write this letter if he wrote it today… what are we tempted to do apart from love… I think he might write something like this…
If I go to church faithfully every Sunday… but have not love…
If I share Spiritual sayings on facebook…
If I tithe 10% of every dollar I earn to the church pretaxed!… but have not love
If I go to a Sunday school class or small group but have not love…
If I go to See You At The Pole…
If I volunteer at the food bank….
If I’m a pastor in a church, but have not love…
Love is what matters. All these other things are good and they’re important… a beautifully set table is good for mothers day… but without food… without love, we’re missing the main ingredient.
And thankfully, Paul continues on and shows us what love looks like.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, 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.
This is an active love. Paul’s not talking about emotionally loving someone… or admiring someone… or liking someone even. To have love is to ACT in love. This is love that Christ modeled for us. He laid down his life for us. He washed the feet of the disciples. In essence, Paul’s describing Christ when he describes love.
It is so easy to be unloving, isn’t it? It’s so easy to want to look out for our own image or our own best interests or our own advantage first. I like the way Paul says it in Philippians. It’s kind of a summary of what we just read.
Philippians 2:3-4 – Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Love takes the focus off of us and onto the people around us… love looks around the room we’re in… whether it’s your office, your home, your neighborhood, your cafeteria… and love asks this question: “how do I best serve these people that Christ died for, whatever my own desires are.”
if you desire to be transformed into the image and likeness of Christ, here’s what I invite you to do.
We’re going to read this text again out loud, together. But instead of saying love… put your name in there.
And ask yourself, is this true? Is David patient? Is David not self-seeking? And pay attention to the ones you know feel a little off.
_____ is patient, _____ is kind. _____ does not envy, _____ does not boast, _____ is not proud. 5 ______ does not dishonor others, ______ is not self-seeking, ________ is not easily angered, ______ keeps no record of wrongs. 6 _______ does not delight in evil. ______ rejoices with the truth. 7 _____ always protects. ____always trusts. ______ always hopes. ______always perseveres.
My guess is, some of those felt less true than others, because we’re not perfect. And as God shows us the areas of our lives we have yet to submit to him, we don’t have to beat ourselves up… we simply confess it, and ask God to transform us.
And then every opportunity we have, choose love. When we feel our ears or our neck getting red in anger… ask for the power of the Holy Spirit to change you.
And trust me, you’re going to have lots of opportunities…
Inevitably, on your way home today, there will be someone who shouldn’t have a license that pulls out in front of you or cuts you off.
Your kids will not brush their teeth after you asked them four times.
That one guy in your group project will forget to do his part on time.
You’ll hear about a neighbor who is going through a difficult time.
You’ll see a need in the world that you can help with.
We don’t have to do this on our own … Romans 8:11 tells us that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in those who follow Christ! God will give us what we need. God will transforms us. Ask him for his strength. It’s going to take prayer. It’s going to take us daily asking him to transform us.
And every opportunity we get with every person we get we ask for God’s power to help us to choose to act in love. And over time, we will see God’s power to transform in our lives.
But here’s what’s awesome. It’s not just about the act of love… the result isn’t that we are amazing and awesome Christians. When we act in love, people come to know Christ. Our children understand better the love of their heavenly father. Other Christians are encouraged to continue pressing on in the life of faith.
The end product isn’t even love, is it? It’s the people who experience it, and through it experience the love of God.
And when the church acts in love… the sound won’t be a hollow, clanging cymbal… the sound will be praise and glory and honor to our God.
The sound will be people being freed from addiction and self-hatred…
The sound will be a child in foster care being found by a family who will keep him forever.
The sound will be a broken relationship restored.
The sound will be a kid at school knowing how valuable she is, just the way she is.
Our acts of love in the world point people to the goodness and love of our God… And our God has invited you and me to be part of his mission in the world.
1. Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-7. What stands out to you as you read it?
2. Read through vs 4-7 again. This time, replace love with your name. Which one of the characteristics of love do you think God wants to continue to shape in you?
3. How would your life look different this week if God brought about change in that area of your life?
4. Each day this week, before breakfast or on your way to work, pray something like this: “God, I want to grow in love. Give me the strength I need to act in love. Show me where I need to improve. In Jesus’ name, amen.