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“Love Is . . .”
1 Corinthians 13:1-12


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Second Sunday after the Epiphany—January 20, 2013

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Our text is these familiar verses from today’s Epistle Reading, in which St. Paul describes what Christian love is: the love God has for us, and we have for God and one another:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.”

St. Paul addressed this letter to the Christians at Corinth because they had big problems.  They were constantly fighting and arguing; they were selfishly concerned only about themselves; instead of helping each other, they were stabbing each other in the back; they were hurting each other and ruining their lives all because of a lack of love.

St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is also addressed to us, today, because we are sinners too.  Like the ancient Christians at Corinth, all too often our lives are scarred by a lack of love.  A lack of love in our relations with others: fighting and arguing; selfishly concerned more about ourselves than others; instead of helping each other, stabbing each other in the back.  We too end up scarring our lives and the lives of those around use because of our lack of love.

Jesus says, “The evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart . .  out of the heart come evil thoughts, hatred, adultery, immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”  Don’t get the idea that Jesus is just talking about someone else.  He is talking about you, your sinful heart, your sinful, scarred life.

“But,” St. Paul says, “I will show you a better way.”  The way of love.  “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.”

Love is patient.  St. Peter tells us that is why God is holding off the end of the world, in his patience giving sinners like you and me a chance to repent: “He is patient with us, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  God’s love is patient.

Love is kind.  In Acts St. Paul describes how God shows kindness to us by providing for our daily, earthly needs: “He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”  And in Titus, St. Paul writes how God also shows kindness to us by providing for our eternal, spiritual needs:  “When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.”  God’s love is kind.

Love is not self-seeking.  In Philippians St. Paul beautifully describes Christ’s selfless love for us: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. . .  He humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!”  Jesus put it this way:  “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”  In the ultimate act of selfless love toward you, Christ gave himself up and sacrificed himself for you.  As St. Paul says in Ephesians, “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a offering and sacrifice to God.”  Christ’s love is not self-seeking.

Love is not easily angered.  Psalm 30 says of God, “His anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime.”  God is not angry with our world; God is not angry with you.  Jesus took away God’s wrath by paying for your sin with his life and death.  Because of Christ’s sacrifice for you, God in his heart has for you no wrath, no rage, not one drop of anger, but only and always love.  Psalm 86 says, “You, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love.”  God’s love for you will never turn to anger.  God’s love is not easily angered.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.  Psalm 103 says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”  There is no heavenly ledger keeping record of your sins.  Your sins are all forgiven, and forgotten.  In Isaiah the Lord declares: “I am he who blots out your transgressions . . . and remembers your sins no more.”  God’s love keeps no record of wrongs.

Love never fails.  St. Paul asks in Romans, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . .  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Through it all, God’s love never fails.

Jesus said, “The first and greatest commandment is this: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.’”  Respond to God’s love for you first by loving God and living for him.

Jesus continues, “The second greatest commandment is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  Respond to God’s love also by showing toward others in your life the Christian love St. Paul describes in our text.

“Love is patient, love is kind.”  Elsewhere, St. Paul puts it this way: “Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. . . Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  Love is . . . patience and kindness.

“[Love] does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. . .  it is not self-seeking.”  St. Paul in Philippians, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or self-centered conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  Love is . . . serving one another.

“[Love] is not rude . . . it is not easily angered.”  In Ephesians and Philippians St. Paul writes, “Let your gentleness be evident to all . . .  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger.”  “[Love] keeps no record of wrongs.”  Unlike God, most of us do keep a mental ledger of past wrongs against us.  But, St. Paul writes Colossians, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”  Love is . . . forgiving and forgetting.

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”  In his explanation of the Eighth Commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor,” Martin Luther says: “What does this mean?  We should fear and love God that we may not deceitfully belie, betray, slander, nor defame our neighbor, but defend him, speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.”  “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”  Love is . . . not gossiping, but always defending our neighbor, speaking well of him, putting the best construction on everything.

“[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.”  St. John writes: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love for us: He sent his only-begotten Son into the world that we may live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

Or, as Jesus himself said in beautiful and simple words at the Last Supper, the night before he laid down his life out of love for us, “My command is this: Love one another as I have loved you. . .  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.”

That is Christian love.  The love God has for you, and the love you respond with, toward God and one another, as he has loved you.

Amen.

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