1 Corinthians 13 / The Greatest

Campus: Rooty Hill
May 30, 2021

When conflict ends up in peace then trust needs to be rebuilt with love.


Once conflict is faced and peace begins, trust needs to be rebuilt and that takes time. What heals wounds? What builds trust? What creates safety? It is love. 

The Corinthians church was known for their many conflicts. This church managed to divide on every possible issue, from Leadership to the Lord's supper to Litigation. It was a toxic and proud church, they saw themselves as so ‘spiritual’ but were so ‘immature’. Priding themselves on some gifts of the Spirit-tongues, ignoring the fruit of the Spirit such as love. To the least loving church comes the clearest outline of Love.

The question for us is what would Jesus say about you? What would Jesus say of MBM?

The first point is this gifts multiplied by no love = nothing

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. ~1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NIV)

Oh, to speak in the language of angels but without love, I am as useful as a car crash. Oh, to grasp the mysteries of the universe and to believe with so much confidence that you could park Mt Kosciusko in your front yard, but if love is absent, you are nothing! Oh, to be so generous that you give not 10%, 50% but 100% of all your money to the poor or be so committed to Jesus that you would take the bullet for Jesus and yet live a life without love. You gain nothing!

It won't be the first biography on a famous missionary who did great things for the Lord but whose personal life was a tragic loveless mess. The formulae is simple heroic gifts without Love = is nothing, you gain nothing.

Let me take you back to Maths class. If you Multiply one number with another number you get a much bigger number

5 x 8 = 40

11x12 =132

If you multiply any number with 0 the answer is always 0

100 x 0 =

10,000 x 0 =

1,000,000,000 x 0 =

Any heroic act x zero love = 0

But wait a minute, I thought giving your money to the poor was an act of love? Well, isn’t it?

Well, let see the dos and don'ts of love. The first thing you notice is love is practical it not theoretical. It's not like a love song. All of me loves all of you.

But the bible gets down and dirty with love.

Love is patient … ~1 Corinthians 13:4a (NIV)

Love is Patient… it literally means “Love suffers long…” So straight out of the blocks, we are reminded that it's love in hard places, love with difficult people, love in conflict situations, when you’re tired and annoyed, love at 6am if you're not a morning person or 11pm if you are a morning person.

The best research on Marriage comes from the Gottman Institutes. John Gottman says, When couples repeatedly begin an argument with harsh words and tones -it is the great predictor of divorce.

But Love is long suffering, which is exactly what Gods love is like.

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, ~Exodus 34:6 (NIV)

He is a long suffering God, it's why the bible is so big. It's 66 love letters. Those of us with short fuses take note, Love isn’t easily angered or provoked

Love is not easily angered… ~1 Corinthians 13:5b (NIV)

Many of us have not quite come to terms that God has placed sinful humans outside of the garden of Eden. We expect our plans to operate smoothly and watch out if anyone gets in our way. No matter how organised, life throws a curve ball, holidays can be rained in, babies cry all night, friends let you down.

Christians criticize, neglect, let down, disappoint, undermine, rebel, slander, gossip, litigate,

John Piper says

If I am to LOVE like this, something in me must die.
My strong craving for a trouble-free life must die.
My need for an uninterrupted schedule must die.
My demandingness that frustrations and interference get out of my way must die.

Love is patient it is not easily angered. There are 15 things love can and can't do, but whatever else, Love is patient.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. ~1 Corinthians 13:4 (NIV)

Love is Kind. Even the word “Kind” sounds insipid and weak but that is exactly how God treats his people who rebel against him. His loving kindness binds him to us and us to him. Have we not tasted of the kindness of the Lord.

Consider: Two men walking toward each other around a steep mountain cliff face. The path is too narrow to walk past each other or they will fall off.

Solution: One man lies down and the other walks over.

Kindness: A kind deed to help out someone who hurts you, a kind thought wanting the best, a kind word that builds up another person rather than taking them for granted. Kindness is as simple as a word of encouragement. The Corinthian Christians who received this encouraging and kind letter were impatient, self centred, rude and full of envy.

Love is described not just by what we do but what we don’t do. Love does not envy and we know envy perpetuates so much conflict.

There are sins of commission—what we should have not done. And there are sins of omission—what we should have done but didn't.

Envy feeds conflict and love starves the envy that feeds conflict. Love rejoices with the success of others. It's hard when someone else got the job you applied for when someone else got the lover you long for. The solution to envy is to thank God for the success of others and let the person know that you are happy for their success. 

We rejoice with those who rejoice equally when one part suffers we all suffer, when one part rejoices we all rejoice. Love wants to encourage, envy wants to withhold encouragement. Find that one person you envy and today send them a text, email, letter or say something to encourage them.

Perhaps you feel as if your life is more like a water polo game, you can only lift yourself up by putting someone else down. That is not love

It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. ~1 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV)

Love also keeps no record of wrongs. Just like Jesus, love keeps no record of wrongs. It's not as if once we are reconciled there won't be any more hurts. Love doesn’t keep score on the mistakes of others. It is what kills marriages, churches and friends.

Conversations that begin with…"You always do that" or "Typical you" or "You will never change" or "You’re so hopeless". Jesus doesn’t keep score on your sins and he is perfect so why do we think we can keep score on other peoples sins.

I love the idea of love when it theoretical, I love this passage except when I have to think about real people in my life who hurt me. Love will be seen in what gives you pleasure.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. ~1 Corinthians 13:6 (NIV)

Since God is love, then love does not take pleasure in evil, love is not rude but neither will it pretend, it doesn't call good evil and evil good. When faced with conflict love sides with God. It loves what God loves and it hates what God hates. Since God is love, love sides with the truth, no matter how unpopular.

We don't play that silly game of setting truth against love, you can't love people unless you love truth even if the truth hurts. Truth is a person and that person is Jesus. Love aims at being consistent, it's how we build trust.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. ~1 Corinthians 13:7 (NIV)

It always protects … it always has your back.
It always trusts … refuses to be cynical … it won't slip into sarcasm.
It always hopes …keeps handing out second chances, it's optimistic without being naïve.
It always preservers…Loves hangs in when others give up.

Love doesn’t just play the big games well but every game.

You get the parent who works 3 jobs for the family, but day by day they are moody, grumpy and critical. That is the nothing person! Gifts without love = nothing

For now, every Christian has been gifted and every gift will pass away, they have a use by date.

But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. ~1 Corinthians 13:8-10 (NIV)

Everything you enjoy at church and in this age is both imperfect and temporary. Imperfect because we prophesy in part, we know in part. I will never preach the perfect sermon. Temporary because they will disappear; they will come to an end.

The truly wise person knows what to be impressed by:

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. ~1 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV)

It's time to grow up…give a 5-year-old child a choice between a million-dollar diamond and a chocolate bar and they will choose the chocolate every time. It's time to grow up!

I love a person exercising their God-given gifts in the body of Christ but the older I get the more impressed I am by the fruit of the Spirit beginning with Love. 

When we hear of relationships scared by conflict become healed by love, the cliché “It doesn’t get better than that!” is so misused. When I heard last week of two people whose journey began when they met a person at MBM who loved them and they could see God in them. ‘It doesn’t get better than that’ 

Learn what to get impressed by. Greatness is measured by one word: love…Those who love are God heroes.

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. ~1 Corinthians 13:12-13 (NIV)

As Karl Barth put it “When the sun rises the lights go out…”

When Jesus returns and perfection comes, we get to see God face to face the gifts go out.

People are not a means to an end they are the end. Do you know why this is so liberating? You may have missed out on a range of gifts, opportunities to serve that never came your way, but know this, you have not missed out on the greatest of all. I plead with you. Do not be the 'nothing' person. Hear the warning again: without love you’re nothing! And nothing will be your reward.

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