1 Corinthians 13:9-12

Sermon preached on May 15, 2016 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2016. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

When I was in my teens I knew a guy who was an exceptional hockey player. He was a couple of years older than me and for his age he was probably the best hockey player in our whole area. I remember one important hockey game he was playing in when he and two or three other players got tangled up in a big pile in a corner. When he got up everyone could see that the back of his hockey pants were ripped in the back from the top to the bottom. They were still together at the top and bottom but there was a big open area and you could see his underwear. But the thing was he didn't know that his pants were ripped so he kept on playing. Back then teams didn't have extra equipment like hockey pants. Everyone had their own equipment. When the coach saw the big tear in his hockey pants and realized that R. didn't know they were ripped, he shouted to all the other players on the bench that they were not to tell him that his pants were ripped. He was the best player on the team and the coach didn't want to lose him for that game. So he played the rest of the game with the big tear in his pants.

Sometimes part of something is no good at all. Pants, even hockey pants, need to be complete. Pants with a big hole in them are inadequate, they're not doing their job properly.

Last week we looked at how love should not be in part. We saw that love is part of the perfection. Unlike knowledge and prophecy, which are 'in part' and which will not survive the transition to the eternal age—love is not 'in part', it is not part of the imperfect. We must strive to show love that is not 'in part'. We should strive to show love fully, completely.

That's one of the great implications of our text. It reminds me of Jesus words in John 13:34. Jesus said to His disciples,

"A new command I give you: Love one another.
As I have loved you,
so you must love one another."

We must be careful to note the qualification Jesus made. He told us that our goal is to love each other,

"As I have loved you…"

That's the standard. He loved us so much that He gave Himself for us. He died in our place. Half measures don't cut it. They're inadequate, insufficient. As Peter put it, we are to, (1 Peter 1:22)

"love one another deeply, from the heart."

Unfortunately we often restrict love in two unfortunate ways—ways in which love was never meant to be restricted. We're going to look at the first of them today.

How do we restrict love? How do we show love that is 'in part'?

One of the we restrict love is in that

we only show it to certain select people.

God doesn't want us to love some and not others. Jesus made this clear in Matthew 5:43–48. He said,

"You have heard that it was said,
'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
But I tell you:
Love your enemies and
pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be sons
of your Father in heaven.
He causes his sun to rise
on the evil and the good,
and sends rain on the righteous
and the unrighteous.
If you love those who love you,
what reward will you get?
Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
And if you greet only your brothers,
what are you doing more than others?
Do not even pagans do that?
Be perfect, therefore,
as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Again, our love needs to be like God's love, like the love that Jesus had for us. He came and died for us when we were His enemies. Romans 5:10 says,

"when we were God's enemies,
we were reconciled to him
through the death of his Son,"

As Christians, we pay lip service to this great principle but it's another thing to put it into practice. When someone hurts us, insults us, betrays us, is terribly unfair to us—we naturally turn against them. We try not to hate them. We try to forget about them. We become indifferent to them. In doing so we think that we're doing good because we don't actually hate them.

But indifference is a far cry from love. If God was indifferent to us after Adam and Eve fell into sin—we would not have been saved. The Father would not have sent the Son to die in our place.

So I ask you, do you love your enemies—those who have hurt you, those who have treated you unfairly?

Another way that Christians have sinned is in only loving those of our own race. In the past there has been incidences of great racism in the Christian church. In certain times and places Christians have not loved people of different races and have, at worst, persecuted them and at best, didn't help them. Last year in the General Assembly of the PCA, a resolution was introduced to apologize for its past,

"involvement in and complicity with racial injustice…"

The resolution had to do with the civil rights era. I'll quote from an article from Christianity Today on September 18, 2015.

"Instead of apologizing imperfectly for racism this year, the second-largest Presbyterian denomination in America will wait to repent more perfectly. The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) voted 684–46 during this year's general assembly to defer action on a resolution that apologizes for 'involvement in and complicity with racial injustice' during the civil rights era. Supporters called the resolution an essential step toward reconciliation in a time of growing diversity; the 350,000-member denomination is now only 80 percent white. But some pastors questioned the need, since the PCA didn't exist until nine years after the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Reformed Theological Seminary chancellor Ligon Duncan III, who introduced the resolution alongside church historian Sean M. Lucas, said it grew out of his friendship with African American pastors. 'When you become friends with a person who has experienced oppression, and you begin to love that person,' said Duncan, 'you begin to care about the things that have hurt their heart.'While the PCA didn't exist during the civil rights era, many of its churches did, said Alex Shipman, a leader of the denomination's newly formed African American Presbyterian Fellowship. Some of those churches barred blacks from membership, or stood silently by as Southerners fought to maintain Jim Crow segregation, he said.'I've heard folks say that because that was not their sin, they didn't want to deal with it,' he said. 'But we believe in covenant theology. There are examples in the Old Testament that we confess the sins of our fathers. One example is Daniel 9…"

Church history contains far too many accounts of racism. How poorly we apply God's command to love others.

Joseph Goebbels, the diabolical Nazi propaganda minister, kept a daily diary. At the beginning of it he wrote, (From Time magazine, Aug or Sept 1987)

"May this book help me to be clearer in spirit, simpler in thought, greater in love."

But his view of love was very restricted. His love was not for the Jews, for the people of eastern Europe—but for those who were Aryans. He hated others and sought to either exterminate or enslave them. His love was partial and because of that it was despicable.

That illustration shows us how love must be whole.

If love is not whole, if it's in part, something else is in the other part.

Whether it's indifference or, as in the case of Goebbels, it's hatred—to the extent that love is not whole, another quality takes its place. If your heart is not filled with love than that means that it is partially filled with love and partially with something else. How does this sound—your heart is half filled with love and half with indifference? That's woefully inadequate. How does half filled with love and half with hatred sound? That's an abomination. Yet that's what Goebbels had.

We must love. We must fill our hearts with love towards all. So often we who are Christians choose to love selectively. How poorly we apply God's command in this area. In Romans 12:10 Paul wrote,

"Honor one another above yourselves."

Paul continued, (Romans 12:14)

"Bless those who persecute you;
bless and do not curse."

We often play lip service to that, but don't put it into practice. Again, Paul wrote, (Romans 12:16–20)

"Do not be proud, but be willing to associate
with people of low position.
Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil…
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you,
live at peace with everyone.
Do not take revenge, my friends…
If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty,
give him something to drink."

We do that very imperfectly. We do that 'in part'. How cold our hearts often are.

Often we are so indifferent to those who are not like us, those who do not know the Lord. How different was the psalmist who wrote Psalm 67. (For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm. A song.)

"May God be gracious to us
and bless us and make his face shine upon us,
that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.
May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you rule the peoples justly
and guide the nations of the earth.
May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you.
Then the land will yield its harvest,
and God, our God, will bless us.
God will bless us,
and all the ends of the earth will fear him."

After Jesus rose from the dead He said to His disciples, (Matthew 28:18–20)

"All authority in heaven and on earth
has been given to me.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name
of the Father and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit,
and teaching them to obey everything
I have commanded you.
And surely I am with you always,
to the very end of the age."

Do we realize that in glory there are going to be people there who are not like us? In Revelation 7:9–10 John wrote,

"After this I looked and there before me
was a great multitude that no one could count,
from every nation, tribe, people and language,
standing before the throne
and in front of the Lamb.
They were wearing white robes
and were holding palm branches in their hands.
And they cried out in a loud voice:
'Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.' "

How glorious it's going to be to be in heaven with people from every nation and tribe, people and language. Yet, here on earth, we are so often indifferent or callous.

But it's not just those from other races that we have problems with—there are some in our own race that we have a hard time loving.

I had a service at the County Jail the other day and there were five guys in attendance. I was telling them that we are called to love all others. I told them that they are called to love the Correctional Officers who are over them. I used another example that I knew was hard for them. I told them that they are called on to love police officers. Many people in jail have a problem with police Correctional Officers or anyone else in authority. They need to love all others.

But someone might say—but you're a conservative church. You don't love gays. You think that homosexuality is a sin and you're not a welcoming and affirming church. Isn't that a flaw in your church? How can you hate gay people when you say that you are to love everyone?

How are we to answer that?

Do we hate gay people? No. We're called on to love them like everyone else. Are they welcome in our church? Certainly. We are to welcome them with open arms. The gospel is for everyone.

But do we affirm their lifestyle? Absolutely not. In many places in the Bible God tell us that homosexuality is a sin, and that like other sins, it needs to be repented of. The gospel calls people to righteousness. For example, in Titus 2:11–14 the apostle Paul wrote,

"For the grace of God that
brings salvation
has appeared to all men.
It teaches us to say 'No'
to ungodliness and worldly passions,
and to live self-controlled,
upright and godly lives
in this present age,
while we wait for the blessed hope—
the glorious appearing
of our great God and Savior,
Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us
to redeem us from all wickedness
and to purify for himself
a people that are his very own,
eager to do what is good."

To come to faith in Christ means that you have to renounce sin.

But of course, according to the wisdom of this age, if we think that homosexuality is wrong, that makes us people of hate. If you think that homosexuality is wrong, you hate gays.

But that logic is all wrong. It's actually deceptive. You can be against something and yet not hate the people who practice it. For example, I believe that adultery is wrong. It's sinful. One of the 10 commandments tells us specifically,

"You shall not commit adultery."

Does that mean I hate people who commit adultery, people who continually do it? No, not at all. It doesn't follow. It's just not true. I've had people who have been very close to me commit adultery. I've had close friends who have fallen into that sin. I've had close family members who have committed the sin of adultery. But all through it I believed that adultery was wrong, that it was a sin. Did that mean that I hated these people who committed adultery? No. I still loved them. I loved them deeply. That love for them caused me, if I got an opportunity to speak at length to them, to tell them that what they were doing was wrong, was sinful and they needed to repent of it.

You can believe and teach that something is a sin and still love those who practice it.

The logic of this world is sometimes wrong. Those who promote this wrong logic are being deceitful. They can't win their case by using the truth so they sometimes resort to deception by using faulty logic. The problem is that smart people, who should see the holes in the logic—don't see it. They blindly accept faulty, deceitful, logic.

So don't think, or let anyone else tell you that Christians who believe the Bible and try to follow it's commands don't love gays. If you follow the Bible's commands you will love gays and want them to come to Christ. You will pray for them and wish the very best for them. We are to love them. We are to love them so much that we urge them to repent and find true life in Jesus.

Now what about you personally?

Do you love all others? Do you have people in your life that you don't love, that you don't show love towards? Is your life selective, only toward a certain few? If so, you need to widen your horizons. Do you love your enemies, those who have hurt you, those who have betrayed you, gossiped about you, told lies about you, tarnished your reputation? Do you love gays? Do you love adulterers? Do you love them enough to become friends with them and attempt to point them to repentance and faith in Jesus?

Do you love family members who have hurt you? Do you love the neighbor who has cheated you? Do you love the person who stole from you?

Do you love that person sitting on the other side of the church that you know nothing about?

Jesus loved us. In spite of our sins, our vileness, our hatred toward Him and righteousness—He sought us out. He gave Himself for us—dying in our place for our sins. He died not just to wash our sins away—but to make us holy—to give us the Holy Spirit so that we can live according to righteousness. He died that we may live the life of the age to come, here and now—by loving all others, excluding no one.

May God give us grace to do so.