One of the most cherished words in our world today is also one of the most misunderstood and misused words. Love. In 1965, Jackie DeShannon sang, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It's the only thing that there's just too little of.”
I do believe love would solve the majority of our problems if
we could learn to love one another. This
is the biblical message of the Christian faith.
However, the love that will change our world for the better must be the true
kind of love that's defined by the Bible, the kind of love Jesus demonstrated as the
core of God’s character. In this message
series over the next few weeks, I want to study the elements of the true, biblical love God has for us
and that we are called to have for God and each other.
True love, the kind of love God offers and that the world needs now, is clearly defined in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. You may be familiar with this famous passage. It is often read at weddings to teach newlyweds how to love one another. However, this passage was not originally intended for weddings. The Apostle Paul wrote this passage to reprimand the Corinthian church for all their bickering, division, and strife and to teach them how to treat one another.
When I think of how divided our
world is today, how we argue with one another over politics and vaccinations
and wearing or not wearing masks, I think these are words about love we need more than
ever. What the world needs now, is love,
sweet love. It’s the only thing, that
there’s just too little of. But the kind
of love we need, is written in God’s Word in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful,
and endures through every circumstance.
Today, I want to focus on only the first part of the first sentence of verse 4 – Love is patient.
Patience is the ability to tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. True patience means having a good, loving attitude even in the midst delay, trouble, suffering. It is a weak, feeble patience that is constantly complaining and crying “woe is me!” the whole time they endure trouble. A person with real patience has a good, positive attitude while they endure.
Patience is an essential element of real Christian love. It is the patience Jesus demonstrated on the cross as he endured the suffering and shame of crucifixion. As the angry crowd mocked him and spat upon him, Jesus prayed for His enemies, “Father, please forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) Jesus was able to be patient because Jesus is God and God is love and love is patient. Jesus told a parable about God's patient, unconditional love.
11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them
this story: “A man had two sons. 12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
God is Patient
The father of the story is incredibly patient. He agrees to his son's request even though the son basically said, "I wish you were already dead so I could have my inheritance now." You see, this callous son doesn't really see his father as a human being worthy of love and respect, with whom he wants a relationship. To the son, the father is just a means to an end--something to use up and then leave.
Many people see God like that. God is merely there to serve our needs--to give us what we want or what we need or help us out of trouble. We don't see God as someone worthy of our respect and love and adoration. How rude we are with God!God is extremely patient with us. Right now, I feel like people simply are not focused on God. Going to church is not a priority for people in our world. While Christians in Afghanistan risk there lives just to believe in Christ and worship Him, Christians in America can hardly bother going to church. Even among “Christians”, people are not really interested in God. God is not the first priority in people’s lives. He’s not even the second or third priority. He’s much farther down the list. People say:
Of course, some will say, “Preacher, you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian. And just because you aren’t sitting in a pew every Sunday, doesn’t mean you aren’t focusing on your relationship with God.” OK, that is theoretically true. So what are you doing? If you are not attending church, how much time are you focusing on your walk with Christ?
Usually, it isn’t until people experience some crisis or tragedy that they regain some of their focus on God and His Church. Nothing gets people praying and seeking God’s help like a diagnosis of cancer or a financial disaster. However, when life’s good and our belly’s are full, we don’t want to celebrate and worship the Lord. We wanna go have some fun doing whatever we want to do so we forget about God.
God is extremely patient with us. He gives us our blessings and puts up with us while we ignore Him. He patiently waits for us to come to our senses—either because of some disaster or epiphany where we finally wake up from our sinful, selfish attitude.
13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. 14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. 15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. 16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.
20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’
22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.
The True Meaning of the Parable
In case you didn’t know, this story is about God and us. The Father in this story is God. The son who ran away and then returned home represents a lot of the people in this world who turn their back on God. The Father in the story (God) is able to welcome His wayward son home because of His patience. You see, the Father wasn’t bad-mouthing His wayward son the whole time He was gone. He continued to love His son, even though His son didn’t deserve it.
If the father wasn’t patient, He would be much be much more apt to be angry when His son retuned. He would be much more prone to say “I told you so! I told you this was gonna happen!” But we see none of that in this story. The Father sees His son coming while he is still a long way off and He runs out to greet His son and welcome him home. There’s no hint of anger or smug vindication in His attitude. The Father loves the son and is genuinely and completely glad His wayward son has come home.
That’s the kind of patience we are called to have as we love one another. You see, that is truly what the world needs now—love, sweet love. Love that is patient when people don’t do the right thing. Not an attitude of “See! I told you so! I was right! You were wrong!”
That’s the arrogant, mean spirited attitude the other brother has in the story--the older brother, the so-called “good” brother.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’
28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’
The older brother is not like his Father. He has no patience for his younger brother’s foolishness. He is angry—not just at his brother, but also at his Father. There is no love in his heart. He hates his brother. What does he want? Would he have preferred his brother had starved to death in that foreign land and never returned? That's how it seems.
When you think of the people with which you’ve lost patience for one reason or another, what do you want for them? Do you really want them to get what they deserve? Would you like to be a able to stand over them with smug indignation saying, “I told you so!” If someone doesn't get vaccinated and get's very sick or dies from COVID, do you want to be able to wag your finger at them and scream, "I told you so!" If someone does get vaccinated and then has complications, do you want to be able to stare at them indignantly and say "See! I was right and you were wrong!" And what of the billions of people who do not follow Christ, who think he is just a myth and you are an idiot for believing in Jesus? Do you want to see them burning in Hell just so you can laugh at them and feel good about yourself because you did “the right thing” and you were a “good person” and they are getting what they deserve?
That's not patience. That's not love.
31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”
When Jesus told this story, he wisely didn’t tell us how it ends. Does the older brother finally get it? Does he also “come to his senses” and realize he’s being unloving and is just as much at fault as his rash younger brother? Jesus doesn’t tell us the end of the story because you and I will be the ones who finish it. We finish it by the way we choose to live.
How will you respond today?·
Do you need to come to your senses and start truly putting God first in your life?
Do you need to come to your senses and repent of your own smugness, realizing you are no better than anyone else?
Do you need to learn to truly love people by being more patient?