Love always endures
Series: Love Is
The big idea of 1 Corinthians 13:7: Love always endures. Enduring love in the church sounds romantic, but when we set our hearts to love the real church community that God has brought around us, the question that comes to mind: How do we do it? How does love endure? Three answers: 1. Love always bears 2. Love always believes 3. Love always hopes.
Jonathan Edwards – Charity and It’s Fruits
Phil Ryken – Loving as Jesus Loves
Ray Ortlund – The Gospel
David Garland – Baker commentary on 1 Corinthians
Thistleton – New International Greek Commentary on 1 Corinthians
Earlier this week Russell Yost, my wife Andrea’s grandfather, passed away at the age of 96. We called him Pap and he was one of the hardest working men I’ve ever known. But at the end of his life, it was his love that amazed us all. Andrea composed a beautiful eulogy for her Pap and near the end of the eulogy she wrote, “The most amazing thing, though was that for the past 8 years or so my grandmother (until her passing earlier this year), suffered from increasingly worse dementia. She became increasingly difficult about taking her medicine, eating and the things that make the household run. After an entire lifetime of not doing laundry, my pap not only did the laundry, but also the cooking, cleaning, tracking doctor’s appointments and remembering to celebrate their wedding anniversary.” Pap did all of this and more for grandma while he and grandma lived independently, in their own home, in their 90’s. I had the privilege of officiating Grandma’s funeral. Pap wouldn’t leave her side even then.
Pap is a living, breathing illustration of where the Apostle Paul takes us next in our journey into the heart of love in 1 Corinthians 13. 1 Corinthians 13:7: Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Pap embodied the truth that love always stays at it, presses on, and endures. And it’s that kind of enduring love that makes a church into a true gospel culture. A gospel-culture is a church that makes the doctrine, the truth of the gospel visible through our love for one another. A gospel culture growing strong is a church enduring always in loving one another so that the world will see us and know that we belong to Jesus.
Endurance is the big theme and the climactic point of 1 Corinthians 13:7. Love bears, believes, and hopes always so that love, ultimately, can endure always. We have a hint that the verse is moving toward the summit of endurance because the very next verse begins with the words: love never ends! There is no time too long for love, is Paul’s point. That’s what Pap taught us and that brings us to the big idea of 1 Corinthians 13:7: Love always endures. Enduring love in the church sounds romantic, but when we set our hearts to love the real church community that God has brought around us, the question that comes to mind: How do we do it? How does love endure? Three answers: 1. Love always bears 2. Love always believes 3. Love always hopes.
LOVE ALWAYS BEARS
At first glance it might seem that love “bearing” and love “enduring” are the same thing, but there is a slight difference. Enduring means that there is no time too long for love. Bearing means there is no cost too high or obstacle too great for love. When Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:7 that Love always bears, he’s saying that, “love always counts no cost too high or obstacle too great on the path of endurance.” Love bears it all in order to keep enduring in love. Now, this verse has been dangerously misapplied and so I want to say a brief word about what “love always bears” doesn’t mean. It does not mean that love remains in or bears abusive situations. Enabling an abuser is not love because, as we learned last week, love does not rejoice in wrongdoing. if you suspect you’re in an abusive relationship or are wondering if what you are “bearing” is in align with scripture, reach out to one your pastors for help. If you’re suffering abuse, love for your abuser means telling the authorities and one of your pastors. With that said, “love always bears” means that “love always counts no cost too high or obstacle too great on the path of endurance.”
Question: What costs is the Lord calling you to bear on the path of loving others in Citylight? Friends, love requires the daily decision that no cost is too high and no obstacle too great. When it comes to loving one another in this local church, I’ve thought of at least four costs you must be willing to bear. First, love bears the cost of never being done. When you’re loving real people there is no end zone, perfect solutions, or finish line. Love bears loose ends because relationship never hit a static point of ease. The Bible says in Romans 13:8 to let no debt go outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another. Love always bears never being done. Second, love bears the cost of unequal reciprocity. In the church, love bears the cost of being the one who always reaches out, always invites over, always prays and pursues even when love isn’t equally reciprocated because obedience and love are their own reward. Love bears a lot of relational risk while maintaining a lot of relational warmth. Third, love bears the cost of pain. Many of us in the church are hard to love and loving comes with the cost of pain. There are people in this church right now who are painful for you to love. Love always bears the pain of its duty. Finally, love bears the cost of productivity. Love is an affection in which others are dear to you in your heart. And affection for someone in your heart leads to generous actions with your hands on their behalf. Love is not productive or efficient. When you truly love people, then you won’t have total control over your schedule or be able to give yourself to unbridled ambition because love costs time and love is the more excellent way. What cost or obstacles do you need to bear to endure on the path of love these days?
Some of you may remember Bryan & Sharon Stoudt (picture on screen). Bryan and Sharon were members of Citylight for years and served as the directors of the Philadelphia chapter of the Christian Medical & Dental Association. Bryan and Sharon moved to Phoenix earlier this year in order to provide a more long-term supportive environment for their autistic adult son Matthew. Bryan and Sharon are a living illustration of the reality that love always bears every cost. Caring for Matthew is full-time job for Bryan and Sharon that is, literally, never done. Of course, Matthew doesn’t understand that. Matthew clearly loves his parents, but there is no equal reciprocity for their love. Bryan and Sharon have born the cost of living near their extended family in Philadelphia, they’ve born the cost of jobs that they loved here, they’ve born the cost of ambitions and productivity, and they’ve born the cost of freedoms that most people enjoy as their children become adults. Andrea and I were out to eat with the Stoudts once and commented on how amazing their “always bearing” love for Matthew truly is. I remember like it was yesterday Bryan looking at me and saying, “Matt, he’s our son.” Citylight, look around at each other for a moment. Let’s say together, “these are my brothers and sisters.” “These are my brothers and sisters. No cost is too high, no barrier too great to bear on the path of loving them with endurance. Love always bears. But how does love do that? That brings us to the second ingredient in enduring love…
LOVE ALWAYS BELIEVES
This part of 1 Corinthians 13:7 has been widely misunderstood as teaching that love is sort of gullible or blind. You know, love believes everything the beloved says. Similarly, some interpret “love always believes” to mean that love always believes the best about people. Now, love may believe the best about people, but that’s not what Paul was communicating to the Corinthians. For Paul, belief is always Godward. What Paul is communicating is that love always believes all that God says in order to always endure on the path of love. In other words, in order to always endure, love must always believe and draw strength from what God says. A Gospel culture marked by enduring love for one another depends on being rooted in the gospel doctrine of what God says. Love always believes all that God says in order to always endure on the path of love.
Question: What are some ‘hard’ truths that God says that we must always believe to endure in love? Of course, one answer is, “everything that the Bible says.” True! What the Bible says is what God says. There is one passage of Scripture that I find particularly important to always believe in order to endure in love. 1 Peter 2:20-23: For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. There are three things that God says that if we will always believe, we will always endure in love. First, believe that God smiles when we endure difficulties on the path of life. Notice that verse 20 says that when we suffer for doing good, and love is the ultimate good, it’s a gracious thing in God’s sight. He sees and he smiles. Believe that! Second, God sovereignly ordains the suffering we endure on the path of loving one another. Verse 21 says that God is the one who calls us to suffer on the path of loving one another as we follow Jesus. Believe that. Believe that God works all things on the path of love for the good of those who belong to Him by faith. Believe that and you’ll endure in love. Third, believe that there is nothing better than following the example of Christ. Verses 22-23 tell us that Jesus suffered while entrusting himself to God, leaving us an example to follow. Believe that! Believe that the way of Jesus is glorious. Believe that it’s more blessed, happier, to give than to receive on the path of love. Believe that God can be entrusted with the hardships of love. Believe that following Christ is all and you’ll keep enduring in love. What does God say that you need to always believe in order to endure in love?
Years ago, I failed to endure in love big time. There was a wonderful, godly man in our church who became one of my dearest friends. Over time he became convinced I was a false teacher. He then went around asking other people in the church if they shared his opinion. It was really painful. I’ll spare you the details, but eventually he left the church, I wrote him off, and he’s since moved far away, and I didn’t seek to reconcile the relationship. This week while writing the sermon I reflected on why I didn’t endure longer in loving him and I sensed God say to me, “you didn’t believe all that I say in my word.” What didn’t I believe? I didn’t believe that following the way of Jesus is greatest. When Jesus’ was called a false teacher, he didn’t write people off, he entrusted himself to the God who judges justly. I needed to believe that in order to endure in loving him and seeking reconciliation. What does God say that you need to believe in order to endure in love these days? The most important things to believe that God says when it comes to enduring love is what God says about the future. That brings us to the final building block of a church that always endures in love…
LOVE ALWAYS HOPES
Let’s remember where we’ve been. Love always considers no cost too high or obstacle to great so that it can endure in loving. Love always believes all that God says to endure in loving. Now we learn that love always hopes. Love always knows what God will do in the future, therefore, love is always hopeful about what God can do now to keep enduring. Love knows how all things will end. Love knows that the Lord Jesus Christ lived, died, and was resurrected for our sins. Love knows that Christ ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and love knows that Christ will return at the end of all things to dwell with his people in eternal perfect peace in a renewed creation where every tear that we shed on the path of love will be wiped away. Love always hopes. Love always knows how the story of redemption will end. Love knows that in Christ all will be ours and our sins will be remembered no more. Hope in God’s promised future makes love supernaturally optimistic in the present. Friends, if you’ve repented and believed into Jesus Christ, then this life is as close to Hell as you’ll ever be. In Christ, our eternal future is incredibly bright. Therefore, you can remain hopeful that tomorrow will be incredibly bright. Love always hopes and that’s why love is always optimistic and can always endure.
What do you need to bear, believe, and hope so that you can keep loving your church as Jesus has loved you? Whoever the person and whatever the cost, consider Jesus. Consider all that he endured to love. He endured the humiliation of taking on humanity though being fully God. He endured being mistreated and misunderstood. He endured being despised, rejected, and called a cursed false teacher. He endured abandonment from his closest friends and family. He endured the betrayal of his people into the hands of murderous Romans who beat him beyond recognition, shredded his flesh with flogging, and crucified naked on a thorny cross. He endured it all to forgive, redeem you, and adopt you as God’s own. His love always endures so that through him our love always endures.