“Love is not…”

“Love is not…”
A Message on Philippians 2:1-5
For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
May 8, 2022
By Doug Wintermute
dwinterm@yahoo.com

1 Corinthians 13:4c-6 (NRSV)
…love is not envious or 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, but rejoices in the truth.

Philippians 2:1-5 (NRSV)

If, then, there is any comfort in Christ, any consolation from love, any partnership in the Spirit, any tender affection and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or empty conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…

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As we continue our sermon series on the “love chapter” of 1 Corinthians 13 we come to a part of the chapter where the author, the Apostle Paul, does sort of a switch-a-roo.

The previous two weeks we have explored, “love is patient,” and “love is kind.” The scripture this week changes from describing what love “is,” to what love “is not.”

“…love is not envious or 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, but rejoices in the truth.”

While the writer part of me wonders why Paul would switch from listing the positive attributes of love to listing things that love is not, the theologian in me really appreciates it. As I explained to the kids during Mini Methodist Bible study on Wednesday, if you are doing any of these things listed, you are not being loving.

For example, if you are envious, you are not loving. If you are boastful, you are not loving. If you are arrogant (had to explain that one to the kids) or rude (they knew that one), you are not loving. If you insist on things being your way, you are not loving.

You can’t be irritable and loving at the same time. The same with being resentful. And if you rejoice when someone does something wrong, you are not loving.

If you think about it, love is kind of an exclusive characteristic. To love means to have certain characteristics. To love, there are certain things you cannot be.

Now don’t get me wrong. As humans we experience a wide range of emotions, including negative ones. But it’s how we react to those emotions that is important. That is the big thing that matters.

I was struck with a very ironic moment during Mini Methodists this past week when I was explaining to them what the word “irritable” meant. Being elementary students they weren’t paying attention, especially in the way that I wanted them to. They were talking with the people next to them, fidgeting, asking questions way off the subject… just being kids, you know.

And then it dawned on me, as I was attempting to explain to them what the word “irritable” meant, that I was becoming… well… irritable! Yep. And I realized that when I felt that way, I did feel very loving. Love is not irritable. Oops!

Today is Mother’s Day, and I thought about that this past week as I read through the book of Ruth in the readings in The One Year Bible. Naomi, a Jew, moves with her husband to the foreign country of Moab because of a famine. While there the couple’s two sons marry Moabite women and life is good… for a while.

Then Naomi’s husband dies. And then her two sons die. Being a widow in those days was life threatening as there were very few ways for women to have any income to support themselves.

So Naomi heard the famine was over in Judah, so she decided to go back home. One of her daughters-in-law, with Naomi’s urging, stayed in Moab. The other, named Ruth, dedicated herself to staying with Naomi and traveled back to Judah with her, in spite of Naomi’s pleadings that she stay in Moab.

The two women travel to Judah, and Ruth works tirelessly gleaning barley for the two of them to eat, following behind the workers and picking up what little they had missed or left. She finds out the field where she is gleaning is owned by a man named Boaz. Boaz finds out who Ruth is and that she is working so hard to get food for Naomi and herself. Boaz befriends her and they end up being man and wife.

Not only that, but they have a son named Obed, who then has a son named Jesse, who then has a son that we come to know as King David. Ruth goes on and is listed as one of the few women in the lineage of Jesus given in the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. And Jesus Christ, the savior of the world, counts Ruth as one of his relatives.

I bring this up on Mother’s Day to emphasize a couple of things: first, blood doesn’t make family, love does. Ruth was Naomi’s daughter-in-law, not daughter. And yet Ruth cared for Naomi as if she were her own mother, moving to a land that was foreign to her (Ruth), staying by her side, and working very hard physically to support her. Ruth didn’t have to. She chose to. Not because she was related to Naomi by blood, but out of love for her.

In today’s world there are a lot of blended families. There are step-parents, step-grandparents, adoptive parents, and even folks that we feel so close to that we consider them family. Moms often find themselves in those situations. They can kick and fight against that, which I don’t recommend, or extend grace and love, which I do recommend. Blood doesn’t make family, love does. It’s not easy, it has many challenges, but we must remember that love is the most powerful force in the universe.

The second point I want to make about Ruth is to talk about how she exhibited love. If we compare her to the list of things about love that Paul gives us in 1 Cornithians 13 that we have studied so far we find out that she fares very well.

Ruth certainly had patience, and she undoubtedly was kind. In reading the scriptures about Ruth, she didn’t display any of the things that Paul tells us love is “not.” She is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. She didn’t insist on her own way. She wasn’t irritable or resentful and she didn’t rejoice in wrongdoing.

Ruth exhibited many of the characteristics we read in Paul’s letter to the Philippians today. Listen again to Paul’s words: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or empty conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others.”

That’s what good mothers do. And they do so because of love.

My mother had six kids. I can remember her cooking us fried chicken for supper. First she would cut up three chickens (an art that is being lost in today’s world of pre-cut-up chicken), lay the pieces out on wax paper and salt them and then begin frying them. With eight mouths to feed it took several chickens.

She would first cook the giblets (which I still pronounce as “JIB-lets,” even though that’s not correct.) first so that us kids would have some “snitchings” to quell our appetites until supper time. And when we ate she alway chose the “boney back” pieces to eat. She said she liked them and preferred them, but as I got older I realized that she was just choosing those pieces so her children could have the meatier pieces of chicken. She was making a sacrifice for her children, one of many she made.

My mother did nothing from selfish ambition or empty conceit, but in humility regarded others as better than herself. She looked not to her own interests, but to the interests of others.

So my challenge to you today, on this Mother’s Day, is to remember what love is not.

“…love is not envious or 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, but rejoices in the truth.”

Let us also remember Paul’s words from his letter to the Philippians: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or empty conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…”

And today, Mother’s Day, make sure your mom doesn’t get the “boney back” piece of chicken.

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

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