The power of love is a curious thing
Make a one man weep, make another man sing
Change a heart to a little white dove
More than a feeling, that’s the power of love
Love is powerful.
The Bible has a lot to say about love. In fact, from beginning to end that is its theme – God’s love for each of us, & our love for Him, which results in our loving one another. God has a lot to say about love.
But so does the world. The problem is that the world doesn’t say the same thing that the Bible says. And because we hear the world say so much about love, we tend to get the two mixed up.
In a “Dear Abby” column in the news-papers, a man wrote: “Dear Abby, I am in love & I am having affairs with two different women other than my wife. I love my wife, but I love these other women too. Please tell me what to do, but don’t give me any of that ‘morality’ stuff.” Signed: “Too much love for only one.”
I think Abby’s answer was “classic.” She wrote: “Dear ‘Too much love for only one.’ The only difference between humans & animals is morality. So you need to write to a veterinarian.”
I think Abby got her point across. We have been made in the image of God, & God expects better of us than to fashion our lives according to the instincts of a beastly nature.
Sometimes our children understand love better than we do.
Some children were asked what love is. Their answers were interesting:
One said, “Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you’ve left him alone all day.”
Another said, “Love is when my mommy makes a cup of coffee for my daddy & takes a little sip before she gives it to him to make sure it tastes okay.”
One boy said, “When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.”
Another thoughtfully responded, “You really shouldn’t say, ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it you should say it a lot, because people forget.”
And finally, 7 year old Bobby said, “Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents & listen.”
So let’s consider once again what the Bible has to say about some of the attributes of Christian love.
This is a very popular chapter. Prime Minister Tony Blair read it at the funeral for Princess Diana. It’s a passage that has become a staple at weddings. I’ve heard it read at many weddings. Most people should be very familiar with these words.
1 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. 2 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. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Why is Love Powerful?
Love is the greatest gift.
To give us a little context: I Corinthians Chapter 12 focuses on spiritual gifts. In the passage above, I underlined the spiritual gifts mentioned. Chapter 14 goes into some of the problems the Corinthians have with their gifts. Chapter 13 is sandwiched in between—and Paul was inspired to do it this way to underscore the truth that if we get love wrong—we get spiritual gifts wrong. In fact, Paul says that without Godly love—self-sacrificing love—all other things—including wonderful things like helping the poor—are nothing. Teaching as well-spoken as that of Apollos is just noise unless every word is prompted by love. Even faith and hope is empty without love. I’m reminded of something Richard McBrien wrote: “Love is the soul of Christian existence; it is the heart of every other Christian virtue. For example, justice without love is legalism; faith without love is ideology; hope without love is self-centeredness; forgiveness without love is self-abasement—fortitude without love is recklessness; generosity without love is extravagance; care without love is mere duty; fidelity without love is servitude. Every virtue is an expression of love. No virtue is really a virtue unless it is permeated, or informed, by love.”
Like the Corinthians we need this power in our lives in order for us to be effective as Christians—and as a church. But to be more specific, we don’t need power, at least power as we define it and I say that because we usually equate power with control. But for the Christian true power is not being in control, but rather under the control of a power much greater than us—namely, God.
To quote another part of that Huey Lewis song, “With a little help from above, you feel the power of love.” And Lewis is right because that’s the way it works. We experience the true power of love when we put God in control of our lives. We feel the power of love when Christ becomes greater and we become less. It is impossible for you and me to love in the ways described in this love chapter—without Jesus in us—empowering us to do so.
In the Greek language there are four kinds of love. There’s phileo — the love between brothers or friends. There’s storge – the love of a family or a community. There’s eros — a physical love. And finally there’s agape — a self-sacrificing kind of love. The first three are common in this world—but the last is rare. Agape is the love used in this passage. It’s a no strings type of love. It’s a choice. Agape is a love that works for the good of the one loved even if it costs the love-er everything.
What does love look like?
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
I John 4: 16 says, “God is love.” Sometimes I put God where it says, love. God is patient, God is kind.
Love Overcomes Evil
One of my favorite illustrations of the nature of love is to think about the fake plastic food that we find in displays at the store. Sometimes they are very real looking. I remember picking up a block of cheese, only to discover it was not real cheese. It was rubber! Let’s say we look at a barbecue grill and there is a steak on it. We can’t tell whether it is real or not. One way to test it is to light up the grill and start grilling the steak. If it were a real steak, what would happen? It would first start to sizzle. It would let off a pleasing aroma. Juices would start running off the steak as it begins to turn into a golden brown color. Our stomach would start growling as we anticipate a good steak. Now, let’s say it is a plastic steak. What would happen then? It sure wouldn’t sizzle, but would start to melt. Instead of a pleasing aroma, it would let off toxic fumes. Instead of your stomach growling, we would probably get sick to our stomachs at the fumes. Instead of turning brown, the steak would melt and turn into an ugly, sticking, useless black lump of burnt plastic.
That is the different between “real” love, the love of God, and other kinds of love. When the heat gets turned up, when things get ugly, when it gets hard, self-defined plastic love gets ugly. It can even make you sick.
As Christians, we have a high standard of what love is. Love is patient. How do we know if we have patience unless it is tested? We see what’s inside of us when heat is turned up! Then we see what is there and it will cause us to pray more, depend on Christ more.
For the last aspect of love, Let me close with this story that illustrates it:
Back in 1994 in Oceanside, CA doctors discovered a lymphoma in 5th grader Ian O’Gorman’s small intestine. They operated and removed a malignant tumor and then began an 8 week chemotherapy treatment.
Back in his 5th grade class, 10-year-old Kyle Hanslik realized that Ian would lose all of his hair. “The last thing he would want is to not fit in, to be made fun of” Kyle said, and he began to talk to the other boys in the class. Then (with their parents permission) all 13 boys in the class went down to the barbershop and had their heads shaved so their sick friend wouldn’t feel out of place.
The boys’ teacher, Jim Alter, was so inspired that he, too, shaved his head.
When they visited young Ian in the hospital, he knew they cared for him.
Those boys and their teacher had faith in the doctors.
They hoped for their friend’s recovery.
But what made the real difference for little Ian was that they loved him so much they were willing to do something to show him how much they cared.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Love is lasting.
In the song, “The power of Love” Huey Lewis writes, “love might just save your life.” Our response to the love of God in sending Jesus WILL save our life. Christ has the power to forgive all our sins, to take away the sting of death. Christ has the power to give our life abundance and purpose. Will you join me in responding to the love of Jesus today? I need Jesus power to love my wife, children and people in my life. How about you?