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May
29

What is Core: Love

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Love8

 

 

And these remain, faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love! (1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV).

We are on a journey to highlight, emphasize, make central, and live by What is Core. Yet this is not a quest to find something new… or novel… or faddish. There are plenty of those things out there.

We are NOT asking the question, “What is Core?” We are NOT hunting around for some secret hiding place where God, or previous church leaders, have hidden What is Core. It is not like this is something that has been hidden or hard to find in the Scriptures.

It’s just that we can get so busy with our lives, so busy with our ways of doing things, and so busy with our church stuff that we misplace What is Core and we begin to live life without what is most important, without what is the source of everything else important.

We begin to live on spiritual junk food — the latest book, the latest song, the latest idea, the latest video, the latest tweet, the latest forward; and all of these may be quite good, just not core. Before long, however, we are overweight with cool ideas that will quickly become passé and we find ourselves becoming spiritually sick because we have forgotten to eat what makes us strong, whole, and gives us life… real life.

So we come back today and remind ourselves that LOVE is CORE!

And these remain, faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love! (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Ooo! Wow! Cool! Amazing! Shocking!

NOT!

I mean, come on, everyone knows love is CORE, right? God is love! Love makes the world go ’round. Love is a many splendored things. Love is the bomb. Love is the real deal. Make love and not war. Love. Love. Love. Who can quarrel about love being important, being core?

The problem is, we’ve said the word “love” so much, that saying it is important doesn’t really mean much because love is a sloppy word, at least as we use it.

  • I love Dr. Pepper.
  • I love my wife.
  • I love Mexican food.
  • I love my grandkids.
  • I love being outdoors.
  • I love God.
  • I love the Dallas Cowboys… oops, uh, scratch that one! I love the Texas Rangers.
  • I love my parents.
  • I love Duck Dynasty.

What a sloppy word, this word love is. At least as we use it.

So why is love CORE? And if love is What is Core, how do we understand what love means… I mean surely, it has to mean more than loving refried beans or chocolate pie?

Well here is our Bible passage that reminds us that love is CORE. It claims it. It defines it.

“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” (Matthew 22:36-40).

This is the GREATEST commandment … or really greatest two commandments. Found again & again in both the Old Testament and in the New Testament. We are to love God and love our neighbor. This is What is Core!

And these remain, faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love! (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Great. Yeah. I get it. Love is CORE! But again, what do we mean when we say the word “love”? We’ve already said that love is a sloppy word, so what does the word “love” mean?

If you know Victor Hugo’s story, “Les Miserables”, then you know the story begins with a man, Jean Valjean who has served 19 hard, brutal, oppressive, dehumanizing years in a French prison doing the hardest manual labor imaginable. He was sent there for stealing a little food to help his sister feed her starving children.

Upon his parole release, no one will house him or give him food, until he knocks on the door of a church and The Bishop, much to the surprise of everyone else in the house and also to Valjean, offers to not only feed him, but also give him a place to stay. During the night, wrestling with nightmares, bitterness, and self-condemnation, Valjean gets up and steals all the silver silverware. Yet in the middle of his heist, The Bishop comes in to check on the noise and catches Valjean in his thievery. Valjean hits him and knocks The Bishop to the ground, then runs off with the silver.

The next day, French soldiers search his knapsack because they recognize Valjean’s clothing and haircut as that of a convict. When they find the silver in his knapsack, they return him and the silver to The Bishop. While expecting The Bishop to press charges, he instead asks Valjean why he did not take the silver candlesticks which are worth so much more than the silverware, since he had “given” Valjean everything. He orders that the candlesticks be given to Valjean and that he be released because he has wasted so much time.

When the soldiers leave, Valjean is stumped… dumbfounded… and speechless at first. Then he asked, “Why?” Why would The Bishop forgive his thievery and his violence? Why would he even offer him more to begin his new life out of prison? And The Bishop, clearly living out the character of Christ — love your neighbor, love those who persecute you, love your enemies, and even turn the other cheek to those who abuse you — says in essence, “I have bought your pardon and your soul with this silver. You have a new life. Now go and do the same for others.”

The rest of Valjean’s life, he lives as a new man — he lives by the principles he learned from The Bishop and his forgiving, risking, all-encompassing love.

And these remain, faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love! (1 Corinthians 13:13).

You see, love turns the other cheek. Love pays the price for others sins. Love bears injustice so that justice can be served and grace be given. Love risks forgiving when forgiveness isn’t deserved. Love makes us new people!

The Bible says it this way.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. … For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (Romans 5:6-10).

 

Love is what we do with our passion and compassion.

Notice the power of love. This is what we were: powerless, ungodly, sinners, and enemies of God. Not a great resumé for heaven! We were a bunch of Jean Valjeans. Dangerous criminals with nothing but a yellow passport defining us as dangerous, unchangeable, and hopelessly flawed.

Then Jesus died for our sins… was buried because of our sins… raised to life to defeat the power of our sins and give us new life… because he LOVES us!

And now, we are sons and daughters of God. We are brothers and sisters of one another. We are princes and princesses of the King of glory!

 

Love One another

 

That is the power of love! That is why love is CORE!

And these remain, faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love! (1 Corinthians 13:13).

But we must notice two things about this kind of love.

First, this kind of love is so much more than just a feeling… a fleeting infatuation… a surging lustful passion. Yes, it is as powerful as those things, and sometimes feels like those things… but it is much more tenacious, forgiving, and enduring.

This kind of love is ALWAYS demonstrated! Let me give you an example.

For over twenty years, I have challenged people to find me a passage that just says God loves us… that he has feelings of love for us. And every time someone says, “I found it, we have looked around and seen how God demonstrated that love… how with God love is always a verb and never just a noun! The most famous example is, ‘For God so loved the world… ‘! See, I found it!”.

Yes, it does say God loves the world… that he loves us. But look more closely at what it says: “For God so loved the world, that he GAVE…” (John 3:16). God always defines his love by his actions!

Now some folks want to define love by the Greek words — agape, philia, eros, storge. The winner, of course, is always agape — the kind of love and the word you often find in the New Testament. Interestingly, however, when the New Testament was written, agape was used pretty much like our word for love is used — very sloppy, and used for everything from loving the first century equivalent of Dr. Pepper and fried chicken to loving one’s children and spouse! Then something happened to the definition of agape. It was tied to what God did through Jesus by those who wrote about Jesus. Suddenly, agapemeant a whole lot more.

You see, God defines love by what he did and what he does! And when he makes love our CORE, he calls us to do the same:

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. …This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 3:16 & 1 John 4:9-11).

What would have happened to Jean Valjean if The Bishop had said, “I love you man!” but never offered him a place to stay, food to eat, then turned the other cheek and forgave his violence and thievery to defend his innocence to set him free? Love is what we do with our passion and compassion!

So love, and its actions, are costly and messy because it’s so much more than a feeling… it’s real, gut level, hands on, action to redeem and bless another at our cost!

And these remain, faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love! (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Second, our love doesn’t come first. Love doesn’t begin with us. Love is far more than mere obedience to love God and love others. Jesus died for our sins…

Say that out loud: Jesus died for our sins…

Our love is always our response to God, who demonstrated love to us, first.

Our love is rooted in Jesus, and his sacrificial love for us when we were unworthy and unlovable.

We love, because God first loved us! (1 John 4:19).

We were loved overwhelmingly, sacrificially, undeservedly when we were powerless, ungodly, sinners and enemies!

So when we love God with all that we are, and when we love our neighbor as ourselves, our impact on others brings about new people… a new Jean ValJean… to new life!

And it brings us the reminder of who we are and what we are about and why we are here and What is Core: Jesus and loving God and loving others like Jesus!

Which brings me back to the questions of last week:

  1. Do I believe this?
  2. Do I let this change who I am?
  3.  Do I let this guide me to what is important in life, in fellowship, in worship, and in doctrine?

 

How can I not, when I’ve been loved so graciously by God?

 

About the Author

Phil Ware
Phil Ware works with churches in transition with Interim Ministry Partners and for the past 18 years, he has been editor and president of HEARTLIGHT Magazine, author of VerseoftheDay.com and aYearwithJesus.com. For more details, click here.