Fruit of the Spirit: “Love”

 

Fruit of the Spirit: “Love”
A Message on 1 Corinthians 13

For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
May 27, 2018
By Doug Wintermute
dwinterm@yahoo.com

 

1 Corinthians 13 (NRSV)

 

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly,[b] but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

 

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Today we are beginning a new sermon series with the unoriginal and uncreative title of “Fruit of the Spirit.”

 

Now I probably should confess something. I had intended to start this series on Pentecost Sunday, which was last Sunday. But we had scheduled Youth Sunday to be last Sunday, and they already had scripture picked out, tshirts made with the scripture on it, and if you were here you witnessed just how great a service it was.

 

So, we’re starting it a week late. Mea culpa.

 

The reason I was going to start it on Pentecost is because that is when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples. We refer to it as the “Birthday of the Church.” And it’s hard to have fruit of the spirit without the Holy Spirit.

 

Paul, who ironically was NOT present at Pentecost, gives us a list of the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22, “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

 

There’s a song we sing at church camp to help kids remember the fruit of the spirit. The lyrics go something like this:

 

“The fruit of the spirit’s not a coconut

The fruit of the spirit’s not a coconut

If you want to be a coconut, you might as well hear it

You can’t be a fruit of the spirit

 

Cause the fruit is:

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, Hey!

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

 

What we will be doing today and the next eight Sundays is to examine one of those “fruit” of the spirit each Sunday. And today we begin with looking at the first one listed: love.

 

Now part of the challenge we face in looking at fruit of the spirit is language. The word “love” is a good example of what I mean.

 

I love to fish. I love tacos. I love my wife. I love my daughters. I love God.

 

Now even though I use the same word to describe those relationships, they are not the same. And thank goodness!

 

So what is love?

 

The late C.S. Lewis wrote and entire book on the subject. Titled The Four Loves: An Exploration of the Nature of Love, he divides love into four catagories: affection, friendship, Eros, and charity.

 

Now that is a whole other sermon series for the future (and I encourage you to read the book) but today I want to focus on what Paul says about love in 1 Corinthians 13.

 

Known as the “Love Chapter,” this scripture is often read at weddings. I think it’s a great fit and very appropriate for couples beginning their lives together.

 

He starts out by emphasizing that love should be at the root of everything we do. As humans we applaud achievements. We are still congratulation those who have recently graduated from high school and college. But no matter what we achieve, Paul says it means nothing if we don’t have love.

 

It doesn’t’ matter how eloquent in speech we are, how convincing we can be through the use of language, Paul says that if we don’t have love we’re just making noise.

 

He goes on to say we can be deeply religious but again, if we don’t have love it doesn’t matter. “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

 

I know some people who know the Bible backwards and forwards. They can quote scriptures from memory and beat everyone in Bible trivia. But they have trouble with the love part, which I find ironic because to me the scriptures are ABOUT LOVE!

 

Paul then goes on to say that someone can be very generous and yet if they don’t have love, they’re missing out. “If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

 

Atheists can be altruistic. Satanists can be generous. It’s not enough for followers of Christ to be generous, we have to love or it means nothing.

 

This past week one of our church members heard we were going to be having another baptism this Sunday. They heard the person being baptized wanted to be immersed. They also knew that the “portable baptismal font,” as I call it, which is a water tank, was only four feet long, making it difficult for some people, especially tall ones, to be immersed. (When I baptized Taylor Swinney he’s such a big guy I though for a while I  wasn’t going to be able to get him underwater!)

 

So this person, who insisted on anonymity, approached me and volunteered to purchase a six-foot tank, making baptisms easier on the person being baptized. They didn’t do it for attention. They didn’t do it for a tax deduction. They did it out of a love for seeing people come to Christ and being baptized.

 

After talking about generosity, Paul then begins a list of what love is and what it is not. “Love is patient; love is kind.” Both of those are positive attributes.

 

Now what love is not: “…love is not boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing.” All those are negatives. If you are boastful, arrogant, rude, selfish, irritable, resentful, or happy when bad things happen, then you don’t have love.

 

He finishes up the list with another positive thing that love is: “[Love] rejoices in the truth.”

 

Then Paul uses some verbs to describe love: “It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

 

After talking about how love grows as we spiritually mature, Paul concludes with this: “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”

 

Years ago Tina Turner recorded a song titled, “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” in which she sings, “What’s love, but a second-hand emotion?”

 

I hate to break it to Ms. Tina Turner, but love is not a second-hand emotion. And love has EVERYTHING to do with it!

 

This weekend is Memorial Day weekend. While we think of it as a three-day weekend and cooking out and swimming and fun things, it’s important for us to remember that the holiday is to remember those in our armed service who, out of love for their country, made the ultimate sacrifice.

 

Love is important. I think that’s why Paul lists love as the first fruit of the spirit. It’s the most important.

 

In Romans 5:8 Paul writes, “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”

 

In 1 John 4 we read that God IS love. “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.”

 

Earlier in the service we had a young man that has accepted the love the God has for us. Dustin was baptized as a public proclamation that he accepts the love God offers to him through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His baptism symbolizes the washing away of sins as well as new birth. He is now a new creation in Christ. And all of it is because of love.

 

So my challenge to you this Sunday is to go and love. In all the you do, in every place at every time of the day, love others the way God loves us and shows us his love through Jesus Christ. Love radically. Love unconditionally. Love even those who hate you. (And especially love those YOU hate.)

 

Love is not just a fruit of the Spirit, it is the most powerful force in the universe. But it isn’t any good if you don’t use. Go and love.

 

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

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