The Significance and Importance of Love – “Love MUST be infused into all situations, and a part of how we treat other people… because to have a so-called VERTICAL relationship with God without a loving HORIZONTAL relationship with other people is nothing at all.”
“If I _____ , but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Sermon AUDIO – Follow along as you read TRANSCRIPTION below)
Pastor Dan Borgelt:
“Thank you choir (clapping)… appreciate it (clapping continues.. must’ve been good. 🙂 )
“Some of you might have heard by now that I have two older sisters… one named AMY and one named CONNIE… my older sister Amy lives up in Toledo, Ohio and I remember when she first got married to my brother-in-law LEE, they made sort of a pact together that whenever they would get stopped at a red light they would take the time to turn and kiss each other at the traffic light… how sweet is that, at the traffic light. Anybody else.. no, yeah (LAUGHTER).
Well anyway, they would do that, and so one day they were out driving, stopped at a light, and there they were, they were kissing each other and the light turned GREEN. And apparently because they were kissing each other they weren’t as quick to respond to the green light.. and this lady behind them she apparently had seen enough PDA ya know.. and she slammed on the horn and was honking at them… and my brother-in-law’s response was… to.. to.. show her a symbol in the rear view mirror (LAUGHTER)… you get the idea [his hand was raised as a fist missing his projected MIDDLE finger].
And so he makes a gesture back to her… and they go on and continue sort of bantering on and my brother-in-law and sister were having bad thoughts about this lady, I’m sure.. and she was having some bad thoughts about them.
It turns out that they were stopped at a traffic light driving on a Sunday morning and that my sister and brother-in-law were on their way to church. And this lady was on her way to church also… the same church. (LAUGHTER). So she follows them all the way into the parking lot… they think they’re going to get confronted by this mad lady and it turns out they’re both just going to church.
And they both were awkward and had this embarrassing experience of having had this interaction between each other on_the_way_to_church.
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And that’s a perfect illustration for this whole idea of what our passage this morning brings us to which that sometimes we can be really good at doing the VERTICAL thing between us and God, but really bad at doing the HORIZONTAL thing between us and other people.
In fact, in that example, sometimes we can be right in the MIDDLE of doing the VERTICAL thing, and be really lousy at doing the HORIZONTAL thing with other people.
Our passage this morning is going to let us know this: DOING THE VERTICAL BETWEEN YOU AND GOD without DOING THE HORIZONTAL (without showing love to other people) IS REALLY NO VERTICAL AT ALL.
VERTICAL without the HORIZONTAL for other people is really no vertical at all.
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Today we’re going to be talking about the significance and importance of LOVE… that love MUST be infused into all of those situations, and be a part of how we treat other people… because to have a so-called VERTICAL relationship with God without a loving HORIZONTAL relationship with other people is nothing at all.
So I’m going to invite you to our passage, 1st Corinthians, chapter 13; we invite you to our passage, 1st Corinthians, chapter 13, We’d love to have you open a Bible up and turn with us, if not it will be here on the screen.
We’re going to be looking at just a few short verses today; so we’re going to be taking this Chapter and dividing it over the next 3 weeks, all centered around the theme of love, and today we’re talking about the importance and significance of LOVE, vs 1 through 3.
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The end of Chapter 12 starts with these words introducing Chapter 13… that’s why we entitled our 3 week series THE MOST EXCELLENT WAY because at the end of Chapter 12 he says, “And now I will show you the most excellent way.”
Friends, I’m going to read this slowly and carefully because there are some passages that really don’t require preaching… they preach themselves… I mean I’m still going to preach but (LAUGHTER)… but it’s not necessary is all I’m saying.
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have 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 do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
This passage is so powerful, I want you to think of the context and the situation centered around this passage. This is one that often gets torn out of its context because it’s such a popular passage, First Corinthians, chapter 13, we forget that there’s a 1st Corinthians chapter 12 and 1st Corinthians chapter 14… there’s stuff that comes BEFORE it, there’s stuff that comes AFTER it as well.
And in 1st Corinthians chapter 12 we are reminded that this was a Letter written by a man named Paul to specific church.. an EARLY church in the City of Corinth, and we discover that it was a church that was a divided church.
When we look at 1st Corinthians chapter 12, just the passages leading up to this one, verses 21 through 26, listen to the divided language of this church… here’s what the Scripture says,
“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”
You can imagine what Paul’s dealing with, is a group of people who think some of them are so important and others so unimportant that this is essentially their language… “WE DON’T REALLY NEED YOU… WE’D JUST BE FINE AS A CHURCH WITHOUT SOME OF YOU BEING HERE.”
“On the contrary he says, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”
So this was a church that was a DIVIDED group of people; they had a problem thinking, ‘certain people are more important than others’… they were doing the HORIZONTAL thing LOUSY… ok? Now the problem is, it was a VERTICAL thing that caused this problem; and the PROBLEM, the Scripture tells us, was essentially the subject of Spiritual Gifts that caused the problem. By that we mean, when someone begins a relationship with Jesus Christ, they receive the Spirit of God inside them, and He EMPOWERS them in a special way and gives them the ability to do things that are supposed to be for the benefit of OTHER people. And apparently this was a highly spiritually gifted church… but it wasn’t producing a horizontal benefit. So, we move on in the passage in 1st Corinthians 12, in verse 27+ you see this at play,
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration and guidance, those who bring wonderful dishes to POTLUCKS (LAUGHTER), and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? FRIENDS… YOU KNOW THE ANSWER, “NO.. no, no, no”. Do all have gifts of healing? .. no.
Do all speak in tongues?.. no.
Do all interpret?… no.
But eagerly desire the greater gifts.
Now I will show you “THE MOST EXCELLENT WAY.”
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That is the backdrop of First Corinthians 13, THE LOVE CHAPTER that so many of us have heard at WEDDINGS, and other contexts.
And we discover that the church here in Corinth was a church that was HIGHLY Spiritually Gifted… they had this incredible VERTICAL thing happening… I mean they had people who could PROPHESY, they had people who were so connected to God they could SPEAK IN TONGUES… people so connected to God they could do MIRACULOUS things, all kinds of wonderful vertical things happening between them and God but unfortunately it had created divisions between them and the church… they were doing their HORIZONTAL thing LOUSY.. and that’s what’s happening in 1 Corinthians 12… and it is the SETTING in which 1 Corinthians 13 is written…
“NOW I NEED TO TALK TO YOU FOLKS ABOUT LOVE” …
…you obviously need to hear about this… because VERTICAL without the HORIZONTAL is no good church in Corinth. VERTICAL without the HORIZONTAL is no good church in here at KIRKMONT.
“If I speak in the TONGUES of men and of angels, but have_not_love.. I am a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal”.
The idea of speaking in tongues today, most of us associate that with speaking in Gibberish.. with a language that nobody else seems to understand, but the original understanding and context of TONGUES was that God was sending His Church on the Mission of communicating the Message of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth… and very few people who first heard about Jesus had MULTIPLE LANGUAGE SKILLS. And without a transient world and without the technology HOW WERE THEY GOING TAKE THE MESSAGE OF JESUS to a bunch of different people who spoke different languages to the ends of the earth?
Well, the way that He allowed them and equipped them to do so was to give them the Spiritual Gift from God of speaking in Tongues… which means OTHER LANGUAGES. So that some of the Early Christians would SPEAK about Jesus… and it would SUPERNATURALLY be translated into the language of other people that they could hear it so that the message of Jesus could be understood by others.
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So what Paul is saying is, IF YOU WERE SOMEONE who is doing the VERTICAL thing SO WELL, you were SO GIFTED BY GOD that He is using you on the Front Lines of the Mission Field to advance the message of Jesus to all kinds of people who have NEVER HEARD of it… if that’s YOU.. and oh by the way, just for hyperbole you’re so amazingly gifted from God you can speak such wonderful things on His behalf that YOU CAN SPEAK THE LANGUAGE OF THE ANGELS THEMSELVES.
If that’s YOU.. but you don’t have LOVE and you aren’t doing it with LOVE… then you are a resounding GONG or a CLANGING SYMBOL (pause).
That is challenging to me as a pastor. I was thinking about the number of times in my ministry that I might have been upfront in the pulpit SAYING accurate Biblical things but because I had FAILED to enter into a relationship with God, and connect with God and allow Him to break my HEART for the PEOPLE that I was talk about and the SUBJECT that I was talking about. I HAD NO REAL LOVE for what it was that I was doing… I was merely communicating the TRUTH.
I just can’t imagine how many times I got up and I’ve preached and for 20 or 30 minutes it was essentially this…
It should challenge all of us, because how many times have we spoken to our husbands or wives or our children and maybe we were accurate and maybe we were true in what we were saying to our spouse and to our kids… but because we were unwilling or unable to say it in an effective way, it was as effective as saying, “Hey honey…
“Hey Caleb, Hey Sophie, Hey Levi…”
A resounding GONG… HOW LONG? … because we’re speaking like.. by the way… some of you are like… we’re done with that [with the gong] (LAUGHTER).
“How long, and how many times have we spoken the TRUTH, but we were unable to do it in LOVE … and because of that we were SO INEFFECTIVE. It should be a challenge for all of us.
Then he goes on, he says,
“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,”
Ya know, to PROPHESY is different than speaking in tongues. When you speak in tongues, while certainly under the INSPIRATION of God, for the most part you’re still speaking your own words, but God is then supernaturally taking those words and translating them for other people to hear.
The Gift of Prophesy is different than that… the Gift of Prophesy is LITERALLY God audibly speaking TO you and you just passing those words on. The prophets of the Old Testament will often be quoted as quoting God by saying, “THUS SAYETH THE LORD”… HERE IT IS… and when they say that they don’t mean, “I’m pretty sure God wants me to write.. ” ya know, THEY ARE QUOTING GOD.. here it is, here is the audible voice of God. That’s not how most of the Bible is written, but parts of it is.
The PROPHETS had this ability, they spoke the very words of God, and as a result of it, they had the ability to have incredible insight and INTERPRET MYSTERIES… some of you remember stories like Daniel interpreting the dreams of King that no one else could… and various things like that… they had the ability to DO those types of things because God spoke to them directly.
They had such a VERTICAL relationship happening that God SPOKE to them… and what he comes along and says, that, “even if you have the gift of Prophecy”… and God is speaking to you and you have all the insight into all the mysteries of the world, BUT YOU HAVE NO LOVE… you have a problem.
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Kirkmont’s an educated church… this is an educated community.. a LOT of people here who know a LOT of things about a LOT of things. Some of you know a WHOLE LOT about certain areas and more than probably 90% of the people around you… I mean a lot of professionals in different areas of life.
I mean here’s the thing… we need to remind ourselves that as we function and interact with other people, if we begin talking about SCIENCE and you know more about Science… or we begin talking about MEDICINE and you know more about medicine… or we begin talking about POLITICS and you know more about politics.. or we start talking about GEOGRAPHY and you know more about Geography…
… ALL OF THAT, God is saying, no matter how much wisdom and insight and knowledge you have, if you’re unable to communicate that to people around you PACKAGED IN LOVE… then it is NOTHING… YOU ARE NOTHING he says.. “I_AM_NOTHING” are the words that he uses.
Then he goes on and he says,
“and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
Faith, itself is a Gift from God.
So he’s saying, there are some people in the Church today, some people in the church back then who, one of their Spiritual Giftings from God is that they are supernaturally empowered with FAITH… God has given them a measure of faith, so that when everyone else around them is panicking, they’re COOL, CALM and COLLECTED… God’s in control, He’s sovereign, relax people.
We’re thankful for those people in our lives.. right? … who have the Spiritual Gift of Faith… people who are willing to TAKE RISKS because of their faith and because they TRUST GOD. And what the Scripture is saying is ‘that’s a Spiritual Gift’ …
…but he’s saying EVEN if you’re someone who has the Spiritual Gift of Faith… you have the willingness to step out and to trust God more than anyone else around you it seems like.. he’s saying, if there’s such a thing as someone who DOES that but does NOT have a real genuine love for other people….
That to me is what I think is one of the things the World just finds just totally impossible with the church… when the Church goes around quoting things like, “God’s in control…” or “I’ll pray for you”... and we use all these expressions of faith… and it can sound like our faith is at a place where they could only imagine aspiring to, and yet we have the INABILITY TO ACT LOVINGLY towards people around us, I think people find that quite frustrating.
And Paul’s saying there is such a thing as people who supposedly have this Gift of Faith but without a real love for other people… and he says ‘if that’s the case, you actually have nothing at all’… if you’re doing the VERTICAL without the HORIZONTAL, it’s NOT really vertical at all… and then he goes on and he says,
“If I give all I possess to the poor…” …if I give all I have to the poor… but have not love.”
I mean this is a challenging one for me to read because it’s TANGIBLE.
Now he sort of moves into a different type of example… here’s an example of someone who APPEARS to be doing the horizontal very well… they’re giving ALL THEY HAVE TO THE POOR. I mean if we saw someone who was that self-sacrificing we would just assume that they are a loving person. How could you possibly be someone who gives all you have to the poor and is that self-sacrificing without actually having LOVE?
We’re reminded that there are some people who are just brought up to be good ole boys… they were taught just to care for people and that’s the way things should be and the way they’ve always been… that’s how people should act, and that type of thing.
But you can fall into a pattern of doing that without having any REAL LOVE for people. How could someone DO those types of things but not have any real love?
We are reminded also that there’s always been the temptation by religious people to try to EARN God’s favor.. to try to GIVE things to the poor; to try to HELP people out; to try to GIVE THEIR TIME away to do self-sacrificing things that gives the pretense as if they’re doing the HORIZONTAL in order to somehow earn the love of a god vertically… but that’s not the way it goes.
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We have this beautiful VERTICAL relationship with God who LOVES US and that is supposed to result in wonderful HORIZONTAL LOVE that we have for other people. And so he says that it’s possible for the religious people to be PRETENDING to do the HORIZONTAL thing very well, but not be doing it at all, and not to have any REAL LOVE.
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And then he finally says, ‘If you think THAT’S hard to reconcile, it’s possible someone to surrender their body to the flame, but not have love … and if that’s the case, he says, I GAIN NOTHING.
This is a reference to how some of our early brothers and sisters died by giving their life for their FAITH. Some of our early brothers and sisters in Christ in the Roman Empire were forced to decide whether they were going to call JESUS LORD or the Emperor Lord, and if they refused to call the Emperor Lord over Jesus many of them were put to death in various ways but this is in reference to one of the ways they were put to death.
So he’s saying, IF YOU ARE SO DEDICATED… to God… and to your religion, that you are willing to be put to death for that cause, but do not have love for other people… then you gain absolutely nothing.
There’s all kinds of ideas about what one might gain from being martyred for their faith. “You gain absolutely nothing” he says if you’re so dedicated, but you don’t have love for other people.
I couldn’t help but think of those who follow the Koran and some of it’s more radical and violent teachings in the Koran about how they should treat other people… and there’s people out there who we’ve obviously seen from that who are so dedicated to their so-called God and so focused on him that they’re willing to die for that vertical thing… but they seemingly have absolutely NO connection here with the HORIZONTAL.
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Translating it into a different context for the Christian church today here in America… I think of some of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are very VERTICALLY connected, dedicated to their relationship with God; and as a result they are willing to lose their business for some of their moral convictions.
And ahh… I wrestle with that… I wrestle with the tension of that and what I think they should or shouldn’t do in those circumstances. But I commend the fact that they’re willing to lose their business over it… ahhm, I think they need to make sure they’re reminded that their ultimate goal is communicate LOVE… ahhmm..
…and we’re going to be looking at that next week… DEFINING LOVE.
Today in our culture we’re hearing the word “LOVE” a lot. Does love always mean tolerance? Sometimes it means tolerance, but does it always mean tolerance? … we’re going to be looking at that next week, and wrestling with that tension as we continue in the description of this word “LOVE”… as we get into verse 4 and so on.
But here, either way, we see that there was a group of people in the Early Church who were so dedicated to God… they might’ve been willing to DIE for their faith, but still didn’t get the heart of the Scripture… because they were lacking the HORIZONTAL thing that flows from the vertical.
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In the Book of Matthew, chapter 22, verse 34 through 40… we read this as our Call to Worship this morning and the Scripture tells us this,
“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
So Jesus comes along and He says, IT’S ALL ABOUT LOVING GOD… and LOVING PEOPLE. And this passage this morning friends is here to remind us that when it comes to loving God and loving people there no substitute for LOVE.
I know it sounds sort of obvious and simple but we forget that we try to find ways to love God and love other people by DOING other things… but when it comes to loving God and loving people there is no substitute for a GENUINE REAL LOVE.
Now I think that might be one of the things we pray about when we close… that says, “God, I don’t want to keep going to church and doing religious things without a genuine_real_love for You; and I don’t want to serve my neighbor and do all those things on the surface without a genuine_real_love for my neighbor.”
Luke chapter 2, verse 52 the Scripture tells us this… this is the last one we’ll look at together,
“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”
“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Let’s not forget that Jesus is the one who sets the example for everything we’re talking about this morning… the CROSS behind us is a reminder that He not only LOVED GOD… had this wonderful relationship with His Father… but He has such a LOVE for you and I that He’s willing to offer His LIFE as a sacrifice for our sins.
In this passage He brings these two beautiful things together… not only did He grow in his KNOWLEDGE and did He grow PHYSICALLY… but then it says He grew in His relationship with God, and he also at the same time grew in His relationship with men.
THAT, to most people, is almost sort of like a dichotomy. For most people in the church and the world observing the church, they think the more religious you become, the MORE FIRED UP about God and Jesus you become, the LESS LIKEABLE we become.
And I want to challenge you with this… Jesus grew in favor with God and with men. As you grow in your relationship with God, you should grow in favor with men… I’m not saying EVERY-BODY is going to like everything about you, but in general YOU SHOULD BECOME A MORE LIKEABLE PERSON.
And I want ask you to think about that and bring that to God in prayer together too as we close here. “GOD, AM I BECOMING A MORE LIKEABLE PERSON… or is my so-called religion making me LESS LIKEABLE?” And if so, maybe I’ve attached to the wrong thing and I’ve missed the real heart of what you’re calling me to do… “to grow in favor with God and to grow in favor with men at the same beautiful time by the Grace of God.
Father, we’ll take a couple of those things to prayer… and umm.. we pray that You would give us a genuine love for YOU and for our neighbor. And for many of us that requires just a constant work of your Spirit upon our hearts… that our Worship of You and our other Acts of Service to You are real and genuine, and that as we go into the world we are motivated to serve and to care for… but not because of our religion or not because we’re trying to earn your favor, but because we honestly have a REAL LOVE for other people and desire what’s best for them.
We thank you that You indeed ARE LOVE, that you define love and that you are truly selfless in your love. And we pray also just for the ability to not only GROW in our relationship with You, but to grow in our relationship with others. And reveal to us… if our relationship with You has made us less and less likeable, we ask you to not only REVEAL that to us, but to CONVICT of that; and to show us how we might find that beautiful balance of growing in favor with God and with men.
And we ask these things in Jesus’s Name… Amen !!!
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