THE CHALLENGE OF AGAPE LOVE

 

  

By Gerry Blackwood

 

 

…but the greatest of these is love! (Lesson 1)

…but the greatest of these is love! (Lesson 2 - Patients)

Elijah.

Isaiah.

Jeremiah.

Ezekiel

…but the greatest of these is love! (Lesson 3 - Kindness)

…but the greatest of these is love! (Lesson 4 - Jealousy)

…but the greatest of these is love! (Lesson 5 - Boasting)

…but the greatest of these is love! (Lesson 6 – Arrogance or Proud)

…but the greatest of these is love! (Lesson 7 - Rudeness)

…but the greatest of these is love! (Lesson 8 – Selfishness – Seeks not her own)

…but the greatest of these is love! (Lesson 9 – Anger – Not easily provoked)

…but the greatest of these is love! (Lesson 10 -  Keeps no record of wrongs - Revenge)

…but the greatest of these is love! (Lesson 11 - Rejoices not in wrongs but rights)

…but the greatest of these is love! (Lesson 12 - Bears, Believes, Hopes, Endures)

LOVE BEARS ALL THINGS.

BELIEVES ALL THINGS.

HOPES ALL THINGS.

ENDURES ALL THINGS.

…but the greatest of these is love! (Review)

THE CHARACTER OF LOVE..

Patient, Long Suffering.

Kind.

Love is not Jealous.

Boasting.

Arrogance.

Rude.

Selfish.

ANGER..

No Record of Wrongs.

Love rejoices with the Truth.

 

 

…but the greatest of these is love! (Lesson 1)

Good evening.

Today we begin a thirteen-week study on the most important characteristic God expects from His servants…love. Love for Him and love for our neighbors…love for our brethren…love for our enemies.

This subject is extremely important in God’s view, and it is one of the most difficult to live out in our daily lives. Yet the fact it is difficult does not diminish its importance one iota. If all people the world over embraced our subject, this world would be a much safer and more peaceful place for human beings to exist. Just think about all the strife in the world and what solution would stop each and every one.

The Bible is a book on relationships…vertical and horizontal. The primary subject from Genesis through to Revelation is love…it is a thread that weaves throughout scripture tying all of life into a manageable set of circumstances.

When Jesus was asked what was the greatest command, He did not hesitate in stating “love God with all you heart and soul and mind”. Then he quickly added “and the second is like it…love your neighbor as yourself”. Matthew 22:36-40. Now if these are the two greatest commands, what are we doing to meet them, to live by them, to allow this command to be our guide in developing and sustaining a relationship with God and, secondly, with our fellow man? This is one of those ‘peg’ scriptures…you know the type…I better put a peg down right here because this is important, this is where I need to hang my hat, or build my life on.

Love is at the very heart of Jesus’ teaching. If Christians are ever supposed to be anything, they are to be loving. This is the very nature of God. A church, which lacks love, needs to be called back to its basic nature and purpose. This is what Paul observed at Corinth and he didn’t mince words in defining their shortcomings and the solution to correct it.

The New Testament was written in Koine Greek. The word Koine denotes “common”, because this style of Greek was the language of the common man-on-the-street during the time of Christ.

Koine Greek came into vogue about 300 years before the birth of Jesus, and it became an obsolete language about three centuries after the Lord’s death, resurrection and ascension into heaven. It was the most precise instrument for the conveyance of human thought that the world has ever known. Without doubt, this language was providentially employed by God in giving the world the New Testament revelation of His Son.

Koine Greek had several words representing different aspects of love.

  1. Eros generally had to do with sexual love. From this term derives the English word “erotic”. This word, however, is never found in the New Testament.
  2. Then there was the noun storge. This term was primarily used to describe family affection. Paul used a negative form of it in describing the base traits of certain pagans of his day. He spoke of those who were “without natural affection” (astorge…Romans 1:31).
  3. A very common word for love during the apostolic age was philia. It is the word for genuine affection…heart love. It is seen in the name, Philadelphia (brotherly love). Jesus had this kind of love for his closest disciple, John (John 20:2), and for Lazarus (John 11:3).
  4. The noblest form of love, however, was agape. William Barclay noted that “Agape has to do with the mind; it is not simply an emotion which rises unbidden in our hearts; it is a principle by which we deliberately live”. In other words, a ‘code of conduct’ which governs the way we deal with everyone. It is the kind of love we must have for all men…even our enemies (Matthew 5:44). The Christian must always act out of agape love, i.e., in the best interest of his fellow human beings…in other words, we make up our   minds to seek the best for others so when feelings come and go, this love remains because it is a mental decision.

Unquestionably, the most exhaustive treatment of what this kind of love involves is found in I Corinthians 13. Within this context, the inspired apostle gives more than a dozen descriptives, which define the operation of agape love. And what a challenge they are. To study them carefully is to come to the rude awakening of how far we fall short of measuring up to the divine ideal of concern for others.

Read I Corinthians 13.

Now what is the context for these words of wisdom for us today? By imposition of apostolic hands, some members of the church in Corinth had been given supernatural gifts (e.g., the gift of healing, speaking in a foreign language, translating a foreign language, etc.) See Acts 8:18 and I Cor. 12:8-11. Now some of these gift-holders were abusing their spiritual privileges…exercising the gifts as an end within them selves and not out of regard for the family in the Lord. Example: sometimes there would be multiple verbal presentations simultaneously, creating a climate of confusion…hardly conducive to learning.

In addition, Paul noted that the time was coming when these gifts would be removed from the church’s possession. When the revelatory process was completed, that is the finished product of the New Testament, these gifts would cease (I Cor. 13:8). Our discussions over the next quarter will contrast abiding love with the temporal character of miraculous gifts…how God knows what leads man to be the outflow of His essence…not miraculous power but service through seeking ways to help others.

We will be focusing in verses 4-7 in our study. Today lets take a look at the first three verses of this chapter, which set the stage for a more complete understanding of this love concept.

Why was it necessary for Paul to write such a lengthy and specific discourse on the subject of love? Early Christians had the same problems we face today…gossip, divisive subjects that are human generated, unwilling to hear the other person, to accept them as they are, to avoid judging each other, etc. Paul addressed these troubles head on with the power of God’s love. He shows us that every problem can be worked out if we love each other. And we have to remember that Paul was an inspired man. But we must first understand what love is and we must make it a part of our lives.

Paul was not introducing a new way of life for the Jews had been instructed to love God and their fellow man from the beginning…Deut 6:4, Lev. 19:18.

So, how do we love God? We are not loving Him if we try to manufacture holy feelings and call them love. Basically, we love God by revolutionizing our priorities. That means nothing be more important than seeking God’s Kingdom. We must constantly try to put God in the very center of our hearts and let everything else revolve around the center.

Now, let’s re-read the first 3 verses of this chapter and pay close attention to what Paul is saying. Pretty radical isn’t it? We could have all or some of these special talents he describes but exercised without love and we are spiritual zeros. Shocking isn’t it? But when we get down to the bare facts it dawns on us that this “love business is important.”

Just think how Paul would have written this message to us today where we place some people at levels of high  importance in the church. A well-known preacher, or highly regarded educator, or well-trained scholar, or influential writer, or famous debator…Paul would say, “Even with all this you are nothing-if you don’t exercise your talent with love”. That would raise some eyebrows for sure!

Now turn that around…some of the potentially greatest Christians are people you don’t know…they just do their thing in the background without fanfare but love is their motivation. Gifts, kind words, visits, sacrifices and caring-love exhibited in so many forms.

How do I practice this kind of love…both for God and my neighbor? Fortunately, God does not ask us to do something impossible, something He want help us to do. We face an ideal, a difficult ideal. We fall short of this ideal but you can know God is pleased with our efforts. But it is more important to know that God will transform us into loving people if we will let Him. To be loving is not a goal we achieve by ourselves. Divine power leads and molds us into the very nature of God…loving. We reach out and claim God’s strength and He gives it. (Rom. 5:5) He changes our attitudes and actions.

So, a lot of prayer is in order. God plans for us to have victorious growth within ourselves and in our relationships with each other. The future for people surrendered to God is bright.

 

…but the greatest of these is love! (Lesson 2 - Patients)

Tonight we begin looking into the characteristics of Agape love…what this special love is all about. Last week we opened this study by defining Agape love as “seeking what is best for another”, that this type of love is a code of conduct that drives our every action. Paul’s message in I Corinthians 13 was clearly needed at the time of his letter and is equally needed today. I truly believe that if we can get this part of our Christian life closely aligned with God’s will, that all the rest of the Christian life will fall into line.

How do you remember a series of numbers? Look at the display of 10 numbers…now, how do you remember these after a short look?

Most use some type of system…like breaking them down to a phone number…area code, three then four numbers.

When the inspired Apostle Paul determined he needed to address the subject of love with the Corinthians, he decided to give an overview then use a system to drive home what love really is all about by breaking the bigger subject up into small descriptive characteristics.

How many of us have mastered patience? Is this a challenge for us? Paul stated in vs. 1-3 of this great chapter that without love the expression of our talents in any manner still renders us a spiritual zero. This applies to all the attributes we will be looking at over the next 12 weeks. To put it more directly, without the attributes of love being exercised we are nothing…no matter how much faith or knowledge, etc we have. And then he begins describing love with the word PATIENCE. Remember, without patience, in my manifestation of love for others, it profits me nothing!

When a list of attributes or characteristics is given, there is usually some significance put to the order of the listing. Sometimes the most important is listed first to build a base upon…other times the list is given in ascending order of importance. Why do you think Paul starts with patience?

Patience is the ability to control our emotions in difficult situations, to remain calm, to endure hard times. What do we know about the Corinth church at this time? There was division over preachers, lawsuits among Christians, dissension in worship, gossip, temper tantrums, suspicions, choosing sides, bad feelings…all symptoms of people unable to deal with each other. Patience was missing!

The Greek word makrothumei means ‘taking a long time to get hot’. In the New Testament it has to do with how we should respond to abuse or behavior by others that does not fit what we expect or desire. Love patiently waits and attempts to win over one’s adversary. We are dealing with relationships and how we set our feelings to function with people. We are not addressing in animate objects…although it is rather difficult to understand how I can get upset with my dead car battery and not have this type of feeling carryover to become my reaction to a neighbor who crosses me or deals out abuse. Or a brother or sister!

Why is this important? If we are to be Christians then we must be like Christ. He was the perfect example of what love and patience is all about. No other person in history has been rejected more than Jesus. No person in history has ever shown more patience with man than Jesus…willing to leave perfection to become human and show us the way to spend eternity with Him. Since God is love and we are to be like God (or Christ), then we must demonstrate love in our relationships and exhibit it’s characteristics…in this case patience.

God demonstrates patience with us by over looking our stubbornness and offering a plan for redemption. Read II Peter 3:15 “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him”. Because God is patient with man He gives us repeated opportunities to repent. Romans 2:4…”Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance.” Look at II Peter 3:9 where we read “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” This is love in action…demonstrated by God for us and to us.

Scripture is full of examples for us from the human side also…take Paul, the “chief of sinners’ yet God waited on him to change and redeem him…and what a change he made. James spends a large part of his writings on staying power, the use of patience when things are not going as expected. He talks about the farmer who must wait through the growing season to reap the harvest. Impatient people want their profit “now”.

Look at the prophets, men of courage who had to withstand many difficulties in their declaration of God’s message. There were numerous opportunities for these men to give up in their efforts but God’s grasp on them would not let them.

Elijah…at Horeb (I Kings 19:18), thinking he was standing all alone yet knew there were a few who had not bowed the knee to Baal.

Isaiah…preached over 50 years even though God had informed him that people would resist the message. He didn’t give up…staying power.

Jeremiah…preached about the same length of time as Isaiah and was called the weeping prophet. Timid and sensitive he struggled under the burden of preaching yet he kept at it because the message burned within him and he would not stop.

Ezekiel…Jeremiah’s counterpart faced such hardheaded opposition that God told him his forehead would have to be made harder than those of the people who heard him (3:8&9).

James used these examples of staying power to show how we should have the same inclination with people…that is the ability to lovingly stay the course and win over the adversary.

II Timothy 4:2. Here we see Paul speaking to his protégé to be patient in his convincing, rebuking and exhortation. This was great counsel and Paul reminded Timothy that he had followed this same course in II Timothy 3:10.

We must all remember that God loves people and wants them to change into the model exhibited by Jesus even if that change is slow to happen, can be measured a little at a time and takes a lifetime to happen. God demonstrates enormous patience with us…and it is out of love that He is able to do so.

So, how do we make sure we are developing patience in our agape life?

  1. We must have the right frame of mind…the more we center our thoughts on the patience of God exhibited toward us, the more that knowledge will help us change our lives. We become what we believe and think on daily. When we are able to awake each morning and purposely concentrate on being Christ like in our relationship with others, patience will become a natural function for us.
  2. Place others ahead of ourselves on our personal priority list. When we get stuck on our egos we can become angry or defensive and even take retaliation against others because what is important to me has been violated. The more we learn from Jesus the concept of self-giving, the more patient we will become.
  3. Pray for God’s help…to recognize our faults, our selfishness, our lack of concern for other’s well being. God can do marvelous things in our lives if we will just turn it over to Him or let Him.

Historical event…Lincoln and Edwin Stanton. “There lies the greatest ruler of men the world has ever seen” Patience had conquered.

 

…but the greatest of these is love! (Lesson 3 - Kindness)

Over the last two weeks we have begun a study on the subject of agape love described best in I Corinthians 13. Agape love is a decision to seek the best for others. Last week we looked at the first characteristic of this love as described by Paul addressing a troubled congregation at Corinth …patience. Patience is the ability to endure abuse by another without reacting in a negative manner. That abuse may be real or perceived but the reality is how do I handle the situation and what is my motive for the other person.

Tonight we begin a look into the second characteristic given to the subject of agape love…kindness. I Corinthians 13:4 says love is kind. In Proverbs 19:22 Solomon says “that which makes a man to be desired is his kindness”. Solomon, inspired by the Holy Spirit, understands what is important is developing a relationship with another person and that is kindness. Have you ever known anyone who you enjoyed being around or you could call a friend that was unkind? It would take a rare situation for that to happen.

How would you define kindness?

Kindness is ‘goodness in action’. Terms which describe kindness include friendliness, compassion, generosity, and tenderness. To be kind is to be God-like (Luke 6:35). It is God’s kindness that allows Him to continue to invite men to repent (Rom 11:22).

 

…but the greatest of these is love! (Lesson 4 - Jealousy)

Over the last three weeks we have begun a study on the subject of agape love described best in I Corinthians 13. Agape love is a decision to seek the best for others. We have reviewed two descriptive characteristics of thus agape love…patience and kindness.

Tonight we will begin looking at a serious of negative descriptions that will last for several weeks…love is not jealous or does not envy. The next few weeks are descriptions that are viewed from an antithesis angle…that is love does not have these characteristics.

How do we look at jealousy or envy? Is it something that we allow to exist in our lives even though we know it is wrong? Or maybe allow it to exist to bring balance to our lives?

Jealousy or envy is defined as ‘a feeling of displeasure caused by the prosperity of another, often accompanied by the desire to wrest the advantage away from the person who is the object of one’s envy. Have you ever observed someone receiving an honor or doing something outstanding and thought ‘that is really good’ but deep down inside wished it was you in their place? Or rationalized the situation by giving ‘objective criticism’ like ‘that was ok but…’. We camouflage our jealousy or envy by objective analysis or by ignoring the person who is the object of attention.

Lets take a look at Paul’s comments regarding the church at Corinth in the chapter preceding our study material. It appears Paul is having to define the importance of the various gifts or skills that members of the church possessed…that each held a place of importance in the overall scheme of things or the work of the church. Why do you think his explanation was necessary?

Most likely, it was necessary because some in the church were either bragging about their abilities or others were feeling ‘down’ cause their gifts or skills weren’t up to the level of others. A very likely scenario for bragging and jealousy. We will look at bragging later. Some were probably feeling displeasure at the prosperity of others creating a situation that required direct response by Paul. A very good lesson for us today…address the jealousy displayed by some immediately and don’t allow a cancer to develop.

Lets take a moment to look into this word jealousy…

The original word found in the New Testament could be translated two ways…as a verb or a noun. The word could mean ‘zeal’ which in most cases was a positive attribute or it could be mean ‘jealousy’ which in most cases was bad. Examples of good;

  1. John 2:17-Jesus had zeal for the temple
  2. Romans 10:2-Jews had zeal for God
  3. II Corinthians 7:7-Corinthians had zeal for Paul
  4. Phil. 3:6-Paul was zealous in his persecution of the church
  5. Acts 5:17-Sadducees were filled with jealousy
  6. Acts 13:45-Jews filled with jealousy
  7. Romans 13:13-Jealousy is condemned
  8. I Cor. 3:3-Paul describes the condition of the church as worldly

All these examples show an intense concern, a basic single-minded self-devotion. Now this can be good if the energy is devoted toward God but most of the time it is devotion to self or fervent self-centerdness.

As Christians our lives are to be like who?

Is God a jealous God? Look at I Cor. 11:2-Paul states in the original “I am jealous for you with a jealousy of God”. How can God be jealous yet leave instructions for His creation to not exhibit that trait.

 

Since jealousy is an intense self-devotion, God, by His very nature is intensely self-devoted. This may sound strange because we are thinking in human terms as if God was human. God’s jealousy is not the peevish, anxious, irritably, capricious thing that human jealousy is. God calls man to Him-to turn their life to Him. This is what man needs, where man is blessed, where man enjoys the love of God. God wants us for Himself while our jealousy produces a path away from Him and focuses on ourselves.

What motivates man’s jealousy? What is the desire in our heart when we are jealous?

  1. We want equal or more than someone else
  2. We want them to have less than we have.

Advertisers know this better than we do. They appeal to our base desires…

why shouldn’t we have more than others, or better. We are a competitive society and jealousy is a natural byproduct when there are winners and losers. How often do you see a mean spirit exhibited when someone is advanced in your work environment ahead of his/her peers? Or you see someone gloat when a good Christian turns out to have feet of clay? Jealousy is a serious disease that will destroy rather than build up as it is a heart problem that is opposed to what agape love is all about…seeking what is best for another.

So, what can we do the counter-act the base desires of a jealous heart?

  1. We must realize that everything other’s have is a gift from God. We must accept what God has made of others and remember that He is sovereign. He has blessed them for a reason that we may never understand.
  2. We must realize that we have all we need in Christ. Why should I covet physical things when I have a marvelous relationship with our creator and savior…a far more valuable possession than anything this world has to offer.
  3. We must consider, as Christians, all that has been given for us and to us. We are called to give ourselves for others…to serve. The more I give and love, as the Lord did, the more I am free of the mentality that leads to a jealous heart. Generous service is the antidote to jealousy.
  4. We must look to God for help through prayer asking for His guidance. Turn our lives over to Him and our heart will be tuned to rejoice in spite of other’s success…a true manifestation of agape love. Again, we must remember that God will not ask of us anything we cannot do with His help. If we truly want to demonstrate agape love without the jealousy that is such a common trait of our human lives, we must depend on God for help.

 

…but the greatest of these is love! (Lesson 5 - Boasting)

How do we define agape love?

What characteristics have we discussed so far? (patience, kindness jealousy) Has anyone of these been of significant value or you found to be a problem in your life?

How do you feel when you are in the presence of a braggart? Why does this bother you?

Braggarts are attempting to draw attention to themselves through words or deeds that over emphasize their worth.

Proverbs 27:1-3

James 3:4-6

Scripture is full of guidance regarding how we should control our tongue. Are there examples of boasting in scripture and the consequences?

Matthew 6:1-6…what is Matthew warning against? Don’t try to do things to be seen of men. God knows the heart…if love is not the motivation it profits us how?

Acts 5:1-11...what is the basis of this example? The two conspired to hold back a part of the selling price but wanted praise for their generosity…

Impress but with greed. Their deaths were their reward.

Luke 18:9-14…the Pharisee not only bragged but attempted to boost his own ego by downing those around him…push my head higher by pushing the heads of those around me down. Boasting is bad enough by itself, but its corruptness is multiplied when it leads to greater wrongs.

Now recall chapter 12 and Paul’s comments on the Spiritual gifts problem(s) within the Corinth church. In verse 21 we can see the pride exhibited by some having the ‘better’ gifts and the logic would lead us to believe that boasting was taking place. Why else would Paul have to address the blending of gifts to make the whole and that one without the other doesn’t work.

What about today? Do we have boasters today?

Boasting usually highlights what I have done…is there other ways you can boast or observe others boasting? What have you heard lately?

In every case, I either have to top whatever you have done or be associated with people that make me look important.

Have you ever heard someone say ‘it ain’t boasting and it ain’t bad if it is the truth’? Relating what has happened isn’t bad in and of itself…you have to understand the motivation behind the statement. It is wrong if the motivation is self centeredness. Two people can tell the same event…one will be accepted while the other is rejected due to the motivation of the individuals…one is for informational purposes while the other is for self promotion.

Why is boasting so prevalent?

  1. We boast to protect our wounded pride. This helps compensate for our failures. When we fail we think it shows we are incompetent. To cover the hurt we put up a bluff or show to divert attention away from the lack of performance to something we feel shows high competence.
  2. Our boasting covers in adequacies in our lives…either in word or in actions. Bullies on the playground or even in the work place are classic examples of ones who doubt their abilities and they resort to force or intimidation to overcome their feelings.
  3. We boast to conceal fear. Whistling while passing a cemetery is a form of boasting showing we are not afraid when in fact we want to run as fast as we can. People don’t want to show their fears so they make their boldest assertions of superiority at times of greatest anxiety.
  4. Then there are those who actually feel they are superior. Rather than hold their feeling, they must blow their own horn and slap themselves on the back.

Boasting is a deep focus on self…self centeredness. The Christian realizes that God comes first, others second and, finally, myself third. Self centeredness draws in and is grasping, Christian love reaches out and is giving. It offers words of encouragement for the lonely and down trodden and assists those who need uplifting. Love notices others for their good. God’s love for us is un-describable and is greater than our love for ourselves. No matter how much we brag, no human recognition will ever compare with the infinite recognition God has given us through His Son. The man or woman whose self-esteem is grounded in the goodness of God has no reason to boast. They understand their personal worth is not based on high-octane performance or stunning appearance but on the value God attached to their life through Christ. Agape love is not boastful because it comprehends God’s grace as it works to transform us into people of value.

When we put everything into perspective, God has provided us with the best possible situation so there is no need to be braggers…we need to become sharers. We have what we need, more than anyone else who has not looked to Jesus as their savior. So our task is one to share, to help them become possessors of the most valuable gift ever given. When we take the focus off of us and put it on others, as a Christian is directed to do, we loose sight of those few material things that have a way of placing us in classes and allows us to see the big picture with Christ at the center reaching out to serve others.

 

…but the greatest of these is love! (Lesson 6 – Arrogance or Proud)

Over the last four weeks we have looked at characteristics of agape love…

patience, kindness, not jealous, and not boastful. The later two have been from a negative view or something that love is not. When we review and understand these characteristics, a major challenge is before all of us to live a life that God, through His Spirit, left as a guide for us.

Tonight we look at arrogance or pride or puffed up as the various versions of scripture report it. Love is not puffed up or proud.

How would you define arrogance? (An inflated opinion of one’s importance). Can you picture a big old cream puff, a pastry just pumped full of that filling where the whole thing is about to explode? Or maybe you can picture a bellows where the pumping on the handles produces short but powerful burst of air…usually to increase the oxygen flowing into a fire to increase the temperature? Inflated or caused to swell.

Do you have the privilege to work with or know someone that exhibits these types of traits? How do these people make you feel? Do you enjoy being around them? Why?

Several things happen when arrogance or pride enters a persons life:

  1. There is unreasonable self esteem
  2. Insolence
  3. Rudeness (rude treatment of others)

Lets take a quick look at what scripture has to say about pride in our lives:

Arrogance is the opposite of humility. Humility is defined as unpretentious, modest, unassuming, in other words not drawing attention to self.

Why does arrogance exist? It is the result of thinking about my dignity and what I am and have achieved in this world (with no recognition of what God has done to bless me). It follows a similar pattern to boasting we discussed last week…where self-centeredness takes our focus away from others and makes our lives the hub around which the world rotates.

Lets take a look at Gal. 6: 1-5. What does Paul say about pride? Is pride wrong? Obviously, it is not or he would not have stated that we should take pride in ourselves. But what is the context? Don’t compare yourself with others…when looking at his own actions based on his abilities. It is a ‘results’ accountability.

Now turn to I John 2:16. We have referred to these as the three root causes of sin…lust of the flesh, lust of the eye and the pride of life. Pride and arrogance are bad characters and do not have a place in the Christians lifestyle.

How would you describe Jesus’ life? One of humility, caring and service to others (agape love)…certainly not arrogance or unconcern for people. In Phil 2:5-8, Paul describes Jesus very nature and includes humbleness in that description. He left equality with the father to become sin in His death on the cross. You cannot serve others from above, looking down on inferiors. It just doesn’t work that way no matter how much we deceive ourselves into thinking we can.

So how should our lives be described? No one in Christ should be puffed up over another. Lowliness is the key to discipleship. In fact, the higher one gets, the lower one must descend. It’s a paradox…”the greatest shall be the least and the least the greatest”. The highest of all became the lowest of all.

 

So what causes this lack of humility or arrogance in us?

  1. Wealth. I posses more than you therefore I am better than you. And don’t forget our advertising friends who feed on this chink in our Christian armor…how do most advertisements appeal to us-through our vanity or our desires to be “one up on the Joneses”.
  2. Our feelings of being a superior Christian. I have been a Christian far longer than you. We cannot discuss the bible from the same view point or intellect. You are just and infant in learning God’s will.
  3. Intelligence. I am just flat out smarter than you and can out think you on any subject. Do you ever get a sense that academia or scholars speak frequently with such an air of authority/knowledge or superiority that you don’t dare challenge their thinking…they know more than you.
  4. Racial. I am of a certain skin color so I am superior to you of a different color.
  5. Convictions. I know I am right and that makes me better than you and closer to God. We, in the church, are noted by other religious bodies as having stated “we are the only ones going to heaven because we are the only ones that have the right interpretation of God’s directions” We must be right with God but humble in that attitude when discussing His will with others.

There are many other possibilities that lead to arrogance or pride in our lives but each is as wrong as these few examples we have discussed. So our objective is to counteract this bad human trait and we can use the following:

During the first few classes it was noted that we are talking about values that effect relationships…especially the horizontal ones. Arrogance takes us out of the position to relate to others. Discussions involve a give and take and the arrogant person cannot really discuss. Agape love by its nature is always seeking what is best for the other person. My attitude of superiority certainly cannot come across as a spirit of helping the other person. Even if I do help (for whatever the reason), it does not help me as activity by me, without love at heart, gains me nothing.

 

…but the greatest of these is love! (Lesson 7 - Rudeness)

Tonight we reach the half way point in our study of the subject of agape love. I trust this has been a meaningful study to this point. As I have mentioned on numerous occasions, I believe this is the foundation of the Christian life and, once we get it and it becomes our guide for living, the remainder of what God expects of his children just falls into place.

We have discussed the following characteristics of agape love as described by the inspired writer Paul:

  1. Patience-the ability to endure abuse weather real or perceived and not react negatively
  2. Kindness-goodness in action and expecting nothing in return
  3. Not Jealous-not having a feeling of displeasure at the prosperity of another.
  4. Not boasting-not attempting to draw attention to ourself through word or actions that overemphasize our worth
  5. Not proud or arrogant or puffed up-not exhibiting an inflated opinion of one’s importance or un-reasonable self-esteem.

These descriptions make up the entity we call agape love or the seeking of what is best for another.

Tonight we look at another characteristic from a negative or love ‘is not’ behavior.

Well, how did you handle that 6:30 PM telemarketer’s call right in the middle of supper?

What are we talking about? Rude behavior or behaving unseemly. The Greek word aschemoneo has two meanings…”to behave disgracefully, dishonestly or indecently” and the other is “to feel that one ought to be ashamed”. The first indicates what we do, and the second indicates how we should react to what we have done. Rude behavior is also described as ‘without form’.

Can you ever imagine a way you can be practicing agape love and be rude?

Lets take a moment and hear from you on observations you have made of rude behavior. Driving, parking, pollution, dumping liter, wasting energy, sleeping is our assembly, nagging, disturbing others in service (giggling, talking, passing notes), dress, language, forcing my bible translation, progressive vs. conservative ideas (traditions), etc.

Since agape love involves me and another person, we are talking about relationships. Agape love will not cause offense or shame to another person…it will not humiliate, belittle or be inconsiderate since all these actions cause shame in our fellow man. Agape love does not deliberately seek to be offensive, abrasive or disrespectful of others.

In scripture there are several examples of rudeness and it’s impact on others:

I Corinthians 8: 4-13.  Paul discusses ‘food offered to idols’. Paul states that this meat is OK because idols have no real existence. But all people don’t know this. Food is morally neutral, but some people, by eating this type meat, might damage their faith. The Christian who insisted on his own rights to eat, at the expense of another’s relation to the Lord, would defeat the purpose of the cross. So Paul vowed to avoid eating meat if it caused a brother to fall. Rudeness is the antithesis of the gospel…the former builds barricades while the latter destroys them. Any act that blocks a brother’s growth is rude!

Have you heard the argument ‘do we allow the weakest person in a group of Christians dictate or determine what we say or do’?

To a degree I think the answer is yes if that response does not violate scripture…where God has allowed us to use discretionary judgment. If The question is something I can do in private without harming a brother’s faith, then I have the liberty to do so without fanfare (respecting the brother’s views). I would not want to force my judgment on others.

There is a watch out, however. We must be careful that we don’t allow a brother to become an ‘insisting self’ who wants to dictate what we do…there are very conservative brethren who want to bind rules and regulations that scripture does not enforce…likewise, there are those who want to push the envelope and always be trying new things believing that change keeps us from becoming stale. Both of these are folks looking inward for satisfaction instead of looking to God for direction to their lives (and all those they are attempting to influence).

In I Corinthians 10: 23-33 Paul again addresses eating of meats but this time meat sold in a market. Such food can be eaten without questions of conscience. But if someone wished to abstain because that meat came from a pagan sacrifice, Paul called on his brethren to respect that person’s decision.

Romans 14:15-23 Paul writes to the Roman church nothing should be done to injure a brother, that all things would be for peace and mutual up-building and that nothing be done which would make someone fall or stumble.

In Acts 21 we see a good example of how to respond to others when anger and frustration would be our normal behavior. Paul has returned from his third missionary journey and is faced with false accusations on his teachings. He could have rejected the accusations but he chose to listen, The elders advise him to do some things for purification. He does these even though the procedures were not effective or necessary so that he could use the time to teach. He practiced agape love by seeking what was best for others rather than becoming rude and gaining a momentary sense of satisfaction. He was sensitive to their needs, did not sacrifice any moral points and did what he could to promote church unity.

How do we avoid rude behavior? We don’t overcome rude behavior by keeping rules. We overcome rudeness by becoming considerate and caring. Common courtesy and good manners…our vocabulary should include please, thank you, no-you first, may I help you. Our actions should include helping with doors, not crowding into line, offering our chair, treating our elderly with respect, etc. Being thoughtful toward others. The terms ‘gentleman’ and ‘lady’ should reach there zenith in the context of Christianity.

As we close, we must remember that we must be sensitive and consider others thoughts and feelings if we are to practice and live a life of agape love. We cannot shame others by our behavior. It is not always easy to maintain a Christian life style as we swim with sharks each day but God will help us. His strength is made greater in our weakness that is recognized by us. If we carry our short comings to Him our attitudes and whole life can be changed by His power to be more like Christ.

 

…but the greatest of these is love! (Lesson 8 – Selfishness – Seeks not her own)

As we start the second half of this study, we have looked at two positive characteristics and four negative characteristics of agape love as described by Paul in I Corinthians 13:4-7.

  1. Patience-the ability to endure abuse whether real or perceived and not react negatively
  2. Kindness-goodness in action and expecting nothing in return
  3. Not Jealous-not having a feeling of displeasure at the prosperity of another.
  4. Not boasting-not attempting to draw attention to ourself through word or actions that overemphasize our worth
  5. Not proud or arrogant or puffed up-not exhibiting an inflated opinion of one’s importance or un-reasonable self-esteem.
  6. Not rude-not behave in a manner to bring shame on another.

These descriptions are a part of the entity we call agape love-the seeking of what is best for another (resulting in action on my part). Can we see how these negative characteristics, described by Paul, cannot be present in our lives if we truly are practicing agape love? We can fool ourselves into being “kinda in the mold” some of the time but our goal is to be practicing agape love all the time.

Tonight we look into the subject of selfishness. This may be the one characteristic we all have in more abundance than we would like to admit. Selfishness or insisting self is defined as ‘intent upon personal advantage; greedy at the expense of others’. It means we are pursuing our own interest and having little, if any, regard for others. I cannot think of any characteristic that is so opposite of what God wants of us.

Every quality we have examined, positive or negative, relates to whether we first seek our own way, or first seek to serve God or others. “Love does not insist in its own way” could be a heading with the others being subheadings explaining various parts of it.

Selfishness then can be viewed as the base or besetting sin for all of humanity. If this characteristic (selfishness) could be solved, all of the world and society would miraculously improve.

How does the mind of man work? What is our motivation for acquiring money or material things? What do we want? How do we plan to use a higher salary, an expensive car, a work of art, or a fine home? How much human suffering have we caused over selfishness for more things? How much crime is caused by greed? How many people have compromised their values because of greed? Considering what we have considered briefly tonight, what do you think of the philosophy which says a product or service should be sold for the highest price the market will bear? Isn’t that what we commonly call the ‘supply and demand’ principle that drives our economy?

Share ideas on competing churches in a community…where the interest is in keeping our members vs. working to God’s glory.

Our culture stresses the importance of climbing the ladder, whether socially or in business, politics and education. But this forces us to be focused on ourselves considering their own importance and progress. The ‘climber’ sometimes hurts others in the process. How can a person who is determined to ‘get ahead’ at any cost relate to others out of love…putting their best interest ahead of ours as agape love calls for?

Is any interest in self wrong then? No! God has built us with a need for self interest which is healthy. Selfishness goes way beyond self interest to make me the center of the universe, to put self ahead of all else. Self interest says I need sleep. However, a friend is having a marriage crisis. What do I do? Sleep and satisfy self or go help my friend and, maybe, loose a nights sleep attempting to do what is best for them. To insists on sleep would be selfish. However, the time may come when I have lost so much sleep that I am close to collapsing. In that case, if I force myself to stay awake it will do neither him or myself any good. So I get my sleep. Then after resting, I can come back and help him in a better way.

Consider Jesus. His self interest led him to pray that the cup might be taken away. The impending separation from His Father, as He took on the sins of the world, was horrible for him to bear. Yet when it became clear He could only do God’s will by drinking it and fulfilling the great plan of salvation, he did not become selfish and insist on his way. He gave up his self-interest for the greater good…the cross and the salvation of man.

As we have discussed before, here are two types of people in the world:

  1. those that think about their rights
  2. those that think about their responsibilities

 

…but the greatest of these is love! (Lesson 9 – Anger – Not easily provoked)

We have completed 7 of the unique characteristics that define what makes up agape love and how they impact the Christian’s life. Paul described these characteristics in I Corinthians 13 with emphasis on verses 4-7.

We have defined agape love as ‘an active decision we make to seek what is best for others’. In the course of this study we have covered:

Patience

Kindness

Jealousy (envy)

Boasting

Pride (arrogance)

Rudeness

Selfishness

Tonight we take a look at a characteristic that is very prevalent in our society and in the Christians life because we associate with the world…it becomes an accepted trait because of the nature of the world we live in. We are speaking of anger or not easily provoked.

The Greek word used by Paul is paroxysm meaning ‘a sudden violent action or emotion’. Paul is literally telling us not to explode. Agape love does not have a short fuse, it does not stroll about with a chip on its shoulder ready to go off when someone or something crosses its path. Looking for a fight!

There are three other N.T. passages that use this same word for ‘explosion’ and it can be either good or bad depending on the circumstances.

  1. Acts 17:16 Paul is provoked or greatly distressed by observing idols so prevalent in the city of Athens . He is driven to preach daily in the market place.
  2. Hebrews 10:24 The writer gives another message on how to stir up one another to love and good works-over come lethargy, find ways to jolt each other, consider what can be done to promote zeal…promote paroxysm.
  3. Acts 15:37-41 Here we see a contention between Paul and Barnabas on the qualifications of John Mark as a missionary. It wasn’t just an academic discussion…there was considerable passion. These two literally exploded at each other and resulted in them going their separate ways.

So there can be good and bad paroxsms. We need to learn how to meet the love guidelines by not allowing ‘bad’ explosions disrupt our relationships.

Is anger always bad? Ephesians 4:26-27. ‘In your anger do not sin, do not let the sun go down while you are still angry’. Anger in the right place can be a great virtue. Several weeks ago, the incident of Jesus cleansing the temple was brought up by a class member regarding our study of rude behavior. I probably ‘babbled’ a few words to slide by and moved on to something else, but it is clear that Jesus experienced a powerful anger in response to a violation of the Father’s will. This example demonstrates that an ‘anger explosion’ under the right circumstances is OK…to uphold truth, protect human character, oppose evil, defend an important principle.

Note that we are addressing issues that effect relationships. Since love concerns people, Paul is considering irritations that occur in human relations. I may become irritated at my alarm clock when it fails to go off (doesn’t ring) or the plane is late or the battery dies in the car. I haven’t effected anyone else except me. However, it would be different if I threw the clock at my wife, chewed out the ticket agent for the plane delay or ranted at the auto parts agent over the failed battery. These actions would be a violation of God’s will for me with regard to agape love.

A realty check needs to be held (a check up from the neck up). Can we really think that I can explode at things but hold the course and not explode at people? This emotion is not turned ‘on’ and ‘off’ at will. The nature has to be controlled at all times. I will say this though…there are times at work where I will have ‘a controlled emotional display” to get across a point where a subordinate has failed to understand/complete an assignment in a timely or acceptable manner. This display is for effect only and not a function of emotion. It can be quite effective if used infrequently and at appropriate times.

Any irritation that comes from ego-centricity harms others and self. Self centeredness makes us explode at others and it is the opposite of patience discussed in our second class in this series. If you think about the times you blew up, inside or outside, you will probably conclude you were thinking about yourself.

If I am genuinely practicing agape love, my heart will be set on concern for others where their faults will not exasperate me…their slowness, undesirable traits, inefficiencies, talkativeness, etc. Whether we are irritable with others or not depends on our own selfish or selfless traits discussed last week. If we are filled with concern for others, we will still likely experience paroxysms, but we will not let them generate hostility toward others. They will be absorbed by our concern for them as we both are immersed in living out our lives.

Share Gene Stallings example on the side lines. He exploded quite frequently at the events in a ball game but rarely if ever exhibited anger toward his players. His anger was aimed at making them play better, to see where they were making mistakes or were deficient in effort. Now I will have to admit he had more paroxysms than most of us wanted to see but his genuine affection for his players resulted in them growing in their understanding of what they were gifted to accomplish.

Genuine love does everything possible to avoid conflict. Lets look at some ideas on ways to diffuse irritable situations:

  1. Agape love identifies trigger mechanisms and develops ways to overcome them so a breaking point is not reached. In this way, I am actively looking for things that upset me so I can be prepared to handle them vs. reacting to the circumstances in a negative way.
  2. We must constantly remind ourselves of the call to service which God challenges all His people. Putting others needs ahead of mine (remember our priority list) will take my ego out of the equation so the drive/reaction to get upset is taken away.
  3. We need to take a long range view of life. Our anger or becoming provoked is normally our quick reaction to events or circumstances that don’t fit our short term views. By looking at life from 30,000 feet, we can get a better view of the events and what kind of wake I am leaving for others to navigate. Once viewed like that, my tendencies to react violently or emotionally become muted as I see the consequences of my actions. This view helps to prevent the need to ‘undo’ or ‘unsay’ something that I regret having done because of short sightedness.
  4. We need to ask God for help…prayer is all powerful if we genuinely want help to change. God has told us He will never put on us anything we cannot bear. He is there to help if we want His help. We must learn our motivations and present them to God in prayer. The victories of another day may come more easily.

In closing, the following helps define how our control of this ‘anger’ characteristic takes place…as a spark which falls into the sea hurts not the sea as it is extinguished, so an evil thing falling on a loving soul will be extinguished with no uneasiness present because God is present. Who can define the limits of God’s power?

 

…but the greatest of these is love! (Lesson 10 -  Keeps no record of wrongs - Revenge)

We have completed 8 of the unique characteristics that define what makes up agape love and how they impact the Christian’s life. Paul described these characteristics in I Corinthians 13 with emphasis on verses 4-7.

We have defined agape love as ‘an active decision we make to seek what is best for others’. In the course of this study we have covered:

Patience

Kindness

Jealousy (envy)

Boasting

Pride (arrogance)

Rudeness

Selfishness

Anger

Tonight we look at the 9th characteristic of agape love…love keeps no record of wrongs, it harbors no bitterness, it doesn’t keep score, it does not seek revenge.

Why do we have memory systems? Our memory stores up the learnings and experiences to help us live present day lives…BETTER! These experiences cover regrets, enjoyable times, things to ponder and consider, things to help us make decisions that will result in improved relationships, things to forget…FORGET?

How many of us have gone through life to this point and never been mistreated? Have you been lied too? Cheated? Talked down too in a condescending way? Abused physically or emotionally? We all have experienced these types of behaviors, to some degree, by others. Paul says the Christian does not make a permanent record for the purpose of getting even. Getting even can include actions like…being resentful, having self-pity, acting coolly toward others, avoiding contact, choosing sides against another, refusing to help, gossiping about others, maybe smearing someone’s reputation.

I heard someone say last week after our class on anger…”I don’t get mad, I get even”. This was stated in a joking manner but it is a real reaction that some in our world take routinely.

Can we just turn our memories “on” and “off”? Remembering good things and wiping out the bad things? Our minds don’t operate like a computer…we don’t have delete keys. Our task, in order to meet God’s will, is to use the bad memories in a constructive way…in a way that helps the offending person and us also. How many have used the statement “I can forgive but I can’t forget”. The very fact this statement is being made indicts the person saying it as it gives an insight into what the person’s motivation is. They are stating the memory is strong and effecting their lives (most likely from a negative perspective). The forgiveness is in word only…the mind keeps going back to the incident and reliving it probably creating bitterness. Agape love doesn’t forget but it takes steps to make sure the bad memory does not influence the actions or words to hurt the other person…in fact, forces me to look for ways to help the other person.

The Greek word we are studying tonight is loqidzomai…meaning ‘to take into account’. This is an accounting term. Love does not enter evil done to a ledger to consider later. Mo matter what wrong is done, it should not be found in the Christians account book. Paul’s guidance says love is not resentful reminding us of our deepest commitment. Without love, we are nothing (13:1-3), with resentment we are nothing! We may want to harbor bitterness but because of Jesus, we drive these thoughts from our minds. I let words of recrimination die on my lips, I relax my clenched fists, my frown disappears.

Lets look at the richness of the Christian’s position. In II Corinthians 5:19 Paul states “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not counting their trespasses against them”. God has plenty of justification for remembering the evil we have done and for treating us the way we deserve to be treated. It would be foolish for any of us to say that we are good enough that God is obligated to bless me. But God, because of Christ, offers us reconciliation. He rejects any claim for vengeance. He does not want ‘to get even’ despite the rejection he gets everyday. He wants to save us. Those who will be saved, he saves. Those who reject him will not be saved, although he continues to call and offer salvation through his Son.

Turn to Matthew 18:23-35. The point of Jesus story is too clear to miss. God has forgiven us so much. We forgiven ones should forgive others. And if we are to forgive, we must drive resentment out of our lives because it is caused by an unforgiving spirit.

But it is hard not to resent. Our sense of self importance demands that we get even. Our emotions get involved when we get hurt, so we tend to forget what is reasonable and Christian. We feel that no one else has faced a situation quite as difficult as we are. So we justify the situation and feel sorry for our position until it wears off or fades away.

I want to make sure that there is no misunderstanding of the subject of remembering or reacting to wrong doing. Paul says love does not keep an account of wrongs. Does that mean all wrongdoing is to be overlooked, ignored? Lets look at Romans 13:1-7. Paul says the civil government must identify wrongdoers and punish them. The Christian must oppose wrong and stand for right. The church must champion the cause of those suffering from oppression (read the book of Amos…maybe 5-6 pages in your bible). We must withstand ungodliness in our communities. When wrong must be opposed and/or punished, it must be done with an attitude of concern for the wrong doer…seeking what is best for them...this may mean them having to endure hardship for their actions to, hopefully, help them understand that behavior modification is their only answer. Any other motive violates God’s will for his children.

As humans, we can create a potential problem in handling our ‘keeping no record of wrongs’. We can be proceeding on principle of being noble and forgetting but resentment may really by lying under a thin veneer. God knows the heart…we may fool those around us but our creator knows us!

Lets look at some suggestions on how we can improve or manage this nature of being vengeful in reacting to mistreatment:

  1. As we are dealing with people, we need to attempt to understand what may have perpetuated their actions. This may not explain the actions but can help us realize where they are coming from. If I take time to learn what they are experiencing, it might change how I feel about the situation. This process allows us to exhibit compassion over resentment toward the offending person. (Walk a mile in their shoes).
  2. As we discussed last week, looking at events from 30,000 feet gives us a long range view. Is what happened really important? Will it matter after a little time has passed> Will the course of history be altered by this event? We don’t need to loose our values or convictions due to the actions of others.
  3. We need to learn a lesson from the cross. Jesus did not deserve death. He voluntarily accepted it for our sake. The way we react to wrongs will influence others. If we are wronged, and bless rather than curse, we are linked to God like Jesus. When we overcome resentment, we experience God’s power in a special way. It should be clear that the way of life God expects of his people is one of giving…even our pride, to help others overcome their problem in relating to others.
  4. Remember all we have done wrong and how it may have hurt others. They may have reason to resent us. By our example of non-resentment, they may be able to see a pattern to model in their lives.
  5. Prayer. If we are having a problem with resentment or harboring bitterness, turn it over to God. He has the power and will help the citizens of his Kingdom in ways we cannot even comprehend.

Love is not resentful. What spirit could be more contrary to our Lord’s life and mission?

 

…but the greatest of these is love! (Lesson 11 - Rejoices not in wrongs but rights)

We have completed 9 of the unique characteristics that define what makes up agape love and how they impact the Christian’s life. Paul described these characteristics in I Corinthians 13 with emphasis on verses 4-7.

We have defined agape love as ‘an active decision we make to seek what is best for others’. In the course of this study we have covered:

Patience

Kindness

Jealousy (envy)

Boasting

Pride (arrogance)

Rudeness

Selfishness

Anger

Keeps no record of wrongs

Tonight we look at the 10th characteristic of agape love…love ‘rejoices not in other’s wrongs but their rights’. This is a mixed lesson…looking at positive and negative reasons for rejoicing or what to rejoice in. Our lessons to date have mainly been focusing on attributes that agape love does not have.

                The Greek word we are discussing is chara…meaning ‘to exult with delight, to be exceedingly glad’. Notice I have not used happiness. Happiness is my reaction to circumstances…joy is a decision to delight in something, to delight in the Lord and what he offers us.

Do you remember what our services were like back in the middle of the 20th century…50s and 60s? We got a lot of ‘fire and brimstone’ lessons, got our feet stepped on severely, scolded for ineffectiveness, etc. The church grew then but ‘fear’ was a major factor in all we did…fear of the God who created us. I’m not saying this was wrong (not at all) just there was little attempt to balance the scales. I don’t recall ever hearing lessons on joy and the grace of God…that the Christian life is one free from oppression of sin and its control of our lives. We were working, not out of the love for what God had and was doing for us, but out of fear of not doing enough. I’m not sure I could call that time as a joyous period in my Christian life.

Christianity is a joyful life. Joy is at the heart of being a Christian. God invented joy and He intends to give it to His people. Jesus didn’t come to make us miserable. The Gospel means ‘good news’ not ‘bad news’. Paul says ‘love does not rejoice in wrongs but rejoices in right’. This gets to the center of Christian joy…it isn’t a superficial ‘rah-rah’ thing. We don’t manufacture it out of emotions…it comes deeply from the heart of God. When we live by joy, we are basically what God meant us to be. When we depart from it, we live a lie and any rejoicing is actually hollow.

All the attributes discussed in prior lessons, including patience and freedom from resentment, deal with our own attitudes. They refer to what I should do regardless of how others act! But now Paul looks at us and the question is how do we react to wrong in the lives of others. How will we react to those who have gone astray? This has nothing to do with how they are treating me but what is happening to them and my glee or concern for them.

Lets look at the church in Corinth where many ‘Christians’ rejoiced in the wrongs of others. How about the man who was living immorally with his stepmother (5:1-2)? The church, rather than withdrawing from these immoral members, associated with people who were guilty of all kinds of wrong doings…greed, idolatry, reveling, drunkenness and robbery (5:9-11). Brethren hauled each other into court to be judged by pagans (6:1-8). They lacked sensitivity. The prevailing thought was “I’ll do what I want and no one should or will care”. Jealousy and proud attitudes corrupted their worship. Paul was dismayed at their thinking and chastised them with stinging words. Unfortunately, this situation isn’t unusual…we can find brethren, today, rejoicing at the wrong of others.

Why?

  1. Their wrong doing being discovered may bring me some advantage. (Remember being a kid and your sibling being caught in a wrong, how it made you feel you gained an advantage with Mom and Dad…or in school)
  2. We can feel spiritually superior (deep down inside…not openly expressing this to others). Compare Jesus association with tax collectors and prostitutes and how others were ‘too good’ to do so.
  3. Resentment can come to light in our lives. Remember this could be lying under a thin veneer as we discussed last week. They get what they deserve when caught. Ever seen someone ‘smirk’ or ‘show delight’ in the fall of a church leader?

In Luke 19:41, we find that Jesus wept as He approached Jerusalem …this was the center of Jewish rejection of God’s Son. Jesus loved us so much he became flesh. As we discussed last week, God’s plan is to reconcile the world to Him. He cares so much that we NOT sin that He has done everything for us short of forcing us to obey Him against our will. His joy is in our redemption not in our failings. He wants us all to be with Him…but not all will because evil has control pf their lives. If I rejoice in the wrongs of others I contradict God’s purpose for making, sustaining and redeeming us. I violate the very essence of God’s plan for man…I cast my vote for a universe where evil, not good, rules our lives. Jesus died to defeat evil. How can I find joy when evil wins in someone’s life?

God’s call for each of us is to serve others…to help deliver them from Satan’s control. There has to be a drive within me to help wrongdoers…to feel a joy in their salvation.

Paul says ‘Love rejoices in right (or truth). Right or truth is something unchangeable and reliable and good. The idea is something which remains the same even when everything else changes or becomes unreliable. It is steadfast, dependable, and constant. Love rejoices in God…the one we can have absolute confidence in and dependence upon. All joy in right or truth is joy in God Himself.

Since Agape love deals with human relations, we see that our joy should be complete when others put on God’ nature and live it out in their lives. We rejoice in right or truth when:

  1. others are drawn to Christ (evangelism)
  2. help is given to the needy (benevolence)
  3. all are strengthened in their love and understanding of God (edification)

We rejoice in:

  1. virtue
  2. victory over sin
  3. strengthened relationships
  4. people reunited
  5. church divisions are healed
  6. overcoming bad habits
  7. observing others strengthen their relationship with God

Moral actions are more significant than simply keeping or breaking laws. They tell us how to be godlike. Loving people rejoice to see the kingdom of God increase and to see more people place themselves under the sovereignty of the Lord. God’s love leads us to this goal. His love works in us to help others, giving us a part in full-filling his purpose for all humanity.

If I love people (seek what is best for them), I rejoice in their successes and not in their failures.

 

…but the greatest of these is love! (Lesson 12 - Bears, Believes, Hopes, Endures)

We have completed 10 of the unique characteristics that define what makes up agape love and how they impact the Christian’s life. Paul described these characteristics in I Corinthians 13 with emphasis on verses 4-7.

We have defined agape love as ‘an active decision we make to seek what is best for others’. In the course of this study we have covered:

Patience

Kindness

Jealousy (envy)

Boasting

Pride (arrogance)

Rudeness

Selfishness

Anger

Keeps no record of wrong

Rejoices not in wrongs but rejoices in rights

Tonight we return to the positive actions that indicate agape love being at the center of our lives. The subject of love is endless and the practice of love is never fully achieved. It relates to every part of our lives. Paul concludes his list of love characteristics with four statements…bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.

These are the 11th, 12th 13th and 14th characteristics of agape love.

LOVE BEARS ALL THINGS

The Greek word stego means ‘to cover’. This conveys the picture of one object on top of another. From this picture we can draw a couple of conclusions:

  1. Concealment…the object on top is covering to keep silent, to keep secret, to conceal.
  2. Support…the object being covered is supporting the object on top, uplifting, encouraging, providing a base to build on.

Lets look at these two…one who operates out of love will cover or be slow to expose the mistakes of another. Love would rather set about quietly mending things than publicly displaying or rebuking others. What is best often requires behind the scenes activity instead of placing the troubled person on a pedestal for the world to observe their plight.

Jesus was constantly in trouble with the Jewish critics because of His encouragement (even association with) the downtrodden.  His love for them generated within Him a desire to help, to sooth troubled spirits, to release them from the tribulations that dragged them down. Jesus changed their lives by coming in touch with them…He did not turn away but lived out the message of serving that He spoke frequently of to His disciples.

This doesn’t mean that we should ignore wrong on deny it serious consideration. It does mean that a loving person will be discrete in how they handle error in others lives…not ignore but help work through. You can probably remember or have observed situations where wrongs were made public with the results being to make the situation worse rather than better. The question arises ‘Why’? with the answer most likely because it made the revealer feel self-righteous…there motive was to make themselves feel better rather than exhibiting agape love and seeking ways to help the other person.

Now after repeated attempts to correct error, there comes a time that revealing it is the answer but that is not our initial reaction. I Timothy 5:20…Paul instructs his ‘son in the faith’ about people who persists in sin. They are to be rebuked. This could be misunderstood by unloving people to justify unloving denunciations of brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul’s primary concern is not to expose the sin but save the sinner. There are times when the only mode of redemptive action is exposure and we must be prepared to do so but only because of love for them and their soul.

BELIEVES ALL THINGS

This does not mean love is gullible. Believing error is wrong and dangerous. The Greek word pisteuo (believes) is one of trust…love will give the benefit of the doubt when dealing with fellow men. Love will trust God without hesitation. The trust or belief we place in God is critical to how the rest of our lives play out. Unfortunately, we are selfish by nature and elements of life can challenge our willingness or ability to trust in God and His promises. A lack of trust in God creates critical flaws in our ability to trust men. We need to frequently reflect on the mass testimony telling us of the promises made and kept by God. Look at Hebrews chapter 11…the great chapter on faith. These verses tell us that God always comes through on His promises. He is the one absolute dependable factor in the universe. We have to realize He is supreme and what He wants for us may not match our wants for us or the methods we choose.

What do we believe? Do we really believe He forgives our sins?

Do we really believe He will provide an escape in every temptation? (I Corinthians 10:13)

Do we really believe He hears and answers prayers? (Luke 11:1-13)

Do we really believe He will give strength in trials? (Acts 4:23-31)

Do we really believe He gives wisdom? (James 1:5)

Do we really believe He loves us? (John 3:16)

The answer to that question determines how I respond to circumstances in my daily life and how I react to how others treat me.

Believing in mankind is a different story, isn’t it? Agape love says I will take the high road when dealing with others…I will not readily accept the distasteful report concerning others until the evidence is overwhelming. I will resist the temptation to quickly and recklessly be suspicious of others. I will not jump to conclusions until I know the truth. If I really love, that is seek what is best for others, I will go the extra time and distance to ensure I know the facts before loosing confidence in others. Error is so rampant today I will not contribute to it by my actions but will seek to correct it through my patience.

HOPES ALL THINGS

Agape love is optimistic, it entertains the highest expectations. Agape love does not give up on anyone no matter how far they move away from God. Our love is always seeking a way to encourage them to return God’s open arms. If we are to err on the pessimism/optimism scale, we must err in the direction of hope.

The New Testament draws a thrilling picture of the glory promised to Christians. II Corinthians 3:18-we are changed from glory to glory. Romans 8:29-we shall have a body like the glorious body of Christ. I Corinthians 15:42-44-describes the exalted nature of this spiritual body. I certainly can be optimistic/excited about the potential future state for my life. I can be like the Lord, shinning with a glory beyond imagination. And this same condition can happen to anyone who will be God’s person. Don’t we want to see people that way? What kind of hope can we have when thinking about ourselves and those we can influence to be God’s people? Agape love hopes all things!

ENDURES ALL THINGS

The Greek word is hupomeno-meaning ‘to remain’. In the New Testament the word is commonly used with tribulation. Our tribulations produce endurance. Like an athlete who pushes themselves to their limits with practice and training, their endurance becomes stronger and stronger. (Lance Armstrong as an example). Our tribulations as Christians produces endurance which fuels our faith. II Thessalonians 1:4…Paul commends the Thessalonians for their steadfastness in the face of afflictions.

Jesus endured mental and physical pain as He became the ultimate sacrifice for us…His love for us prevailed. Where would we be if He had not endured? Endurance suggest we never loose sight of the goal even if the circumstances or our friends turn against us. Things can become grim and disheartening but we know the victory lies ahead. Our love for others helps us lead them through the messes in life to reach the goal.

Agape love is tough. Even when adversity challenges again and again, agape love continues to perform. Agape love is not easily discouraged. It does not give up…on God or others. Endurance sums up the size of agape love…how long and wide, how high and deep our love for others must be if we are to reflect Jesus’ love for the world. This agape love ‘just keeps on ticking’ no matter the circumstances. The next time we are tempted to quite loving others because of what they have done, we need to remember Jesus and what He did for me.

Bears, believes, hopes and endures…four pillars of strength that will carry us closer to God and His will for our lives.

 

…but the greatest of these is love! (Review)

We have just completed a 12 week study on the subject of agape love. I trust this has been meaningful in some small way with all of us…I know it has for me as I have prepared each week.

I have come to the conclusion that agape love is a critically important component of the Christian life…it is the core of our existence in the Kingdom of God . When studied in detail, agape love is very difficult to consistently govern our actions. Yet the fact it is difficult does not diminish its importance. In fact, when we make the statement ‘doing God’s will’, I am convinced that agape love in action in our lives is the way we fulfill that objective…that by living by the agape love guide, all of God’s desires for us will be met. By allowing the characteristics of agape love control the way we relate to others, we will be pleasing to our Father…we will be allowing the indwelling Holy Spirit guide us through the tangles of our lives on earth.

The Bible is a book on relationships…both vertical and horizontal. We all have a responsibility to build and maintain both types of relationships. In Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus summarizes our responsibilities with respect to these…1) love God with all our heart and soul and mind, 2) love our neighbor as our self. He called these the greatest commands. We have to be frank with ourselves and determine how we are living to meet them. Only we, individually, can assess our compliance with God’s directive for us. If Jesus called them the greatest, they must be important and we cannot ignore them or only adhere to them when it is convenient…this is a life style changing guide for us.

The most exhaustive study of agape love was given to the Corinthian brethren as covered in Chapter 13 of the first letter to them by Paul. The church at Corinth was plagued with many problems and the majority involved poor relationships. From misuse of the Lord’s Supper, to hauling each other into court to be judged by pagans, to immorality with pride, these people were not looking out for each other…they certainly were not looking for ways to serve or do what was best for each other. With the guidance of the HS Paul gives a comprehensive review of the love life style. Our review of these elements that make up agape love have been an awakening for me and left me with a sense of how far short I am measuring up to the divine ideal provided by our creator.

In introducing the discussion on agape love, Paul states some examples of marvelous activity to miraculous events and he qualifies these effects by saying ‘without love as the motive for doing them, they profit nothing to the operative’. They may help the other person, but they gain the one doing the good deed nothing if agape love is not the motive. Why would I do something for another if I was not seeking what is best for them? To make myself look good in the eyes of friends, co-workers, my brothers and sisters in Christ. Or maybe we feel obligated to do good works…to try to earn our salvation.

We define agape love as ‘a mental decision to seek what is best for another’. Seeking is active; it requires effort on my part. Best means ‘most satisfying. Useful, desirable’. We are attempting to do things for others that improves their life…physically, emotionally and spiritually.

 

THE CHARACTER OF LOVE

Patient, Long Suffering. The Greek word makrothumei literally means taking a long time to get hot. In the New Testament, it has to do with how we should respond to abuse. Love patiently waits and attempts to win over one’s adversary.  We are not addressing in animate objects here…although it is hard to understand how getting short with your car’s dead battery would not have a high likelihood of carrying over to become our reaction to people who cross us or get short with us. Paul is directly speaking about our relationship with people and especially our brothers and sisters in Christ. Think about our God who expresses great patience with sinful man…loving us as individuals but hating our sin. God’s patience is so well exhibited in His love for us, His willingness to provide all the things we need in life plus giving us the open door to spend eternity with Him.

So, how do we develop the patience that is expected for people who are living the agape love life? We must:

  1. Have the right frame of mind…the more we center our thoughts on the patience that God exhibits toward us, the more that knowledge will help us change our lives. We become what we believe and think on daily.
  2. Think about others ahead of ourselves. When we get stuck on our egos we will become angry or defensive or retaliatory…anything but patient. The more fully we learn from Jesus the concept of self-giving, the more patient we will become.
  3. Pray for God’s help…to recognize our faults, our selfishness, our lack of concern for other’s well being. God can do marvelous things in our lives if we will just let him.

The ability to endure abuse without reacting in a negative manner is a critical base to build meaningful relationships upon. Patience…the cornerstone for getting along with all types of mankind.

Kind

Proverbs 19:22 states “That which makes a man to be desired is his kindness”. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Solomon knew what was important in developing a relationship with another person. Kindness means ‘goodness in action, expecting nothing in return’. It includes terms like friendliness, compassion, generosity and tenderness. To be kind is to be God-like. (Luke 6:35). It is God’s rich kindness that allows Him to continue to invite men to repent (Rom. 11:22).

Christian kindness does not come naturally according to Paul in Rom. 3:12. We practice it occasionally but we are too selfish to make it a way of life. To be kind like God is kind, we must be transformed. When we are changed in our becoming citizens of His kingdom, we are blessed with the indwelling Holy Spirit and the characteristics of the fruit the spirit. Kindness is a super natural virtue not a natural one. God can change us, mold us into His child if we will just let Him. I must want to, try to, but the outcome is the result of God’s work.

There are some watch outs to kindness. We must not let being kind blind us to things that are simply wrong. True kindness must sometimes require us to do things that are unpleasant. We must not adopt an attitude of ‘anything goes so long as we are nice.’ Neither must we become sharp, abrasive and unconcerned. We must be kind in all relations, but not sacrifice a greater principle by misunderstanding what kindness is.

So how do we develop the right frame of mind for kindness?

  1. By taking action to do good to others…look for good in others instead of bad, show concern for others who refuse to be civil to you, visit the sick and shut ins, offer genuine assistance to those in need.
  2. Places of opportunity…a couple having marital problems, dealing with someone who has cheated or lied to you, working with someone who has humiliated you, dealing with someone who you could easily and truthfully criticize.

In a world that is saturated with harshness, a kind disposition is a refreshing breeze.

 

Love is not Jealous.

Song of Solomon 8:6 states “the consuming flames of jealousy are as cruel as death”. Jealousy is a feeling of displeasure caused by the prosperity of another, coupled with a desire to wrest the advantage from the person who is the object of one’s envy. It is a devotion to self, a fervent self-centeredness.

Our God is a jealous God. Paul refers to this trait in I Cor. 11:2 when he states “I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God”. Since jealousy is an intense self-devotion, God, by His very nature, is intensely devoted to Himself. This sounds strange because we are referring to God in humanly traits. However, Gods jealousy is not the peevish, anxious, irritable, capricious thing that human jealousy is. God’s jealousy means God calls man to turn his life toward Him…that is what man needs. God’s jealousy produces blessings for man. God wants us for Himself through our wanting to be with Him. His jealousy is love in action reaching out for us while our jealousy is turning away from Him to ourselves.

When a jealous attitude is present, it can be manifested in many ways…centered on possessions, abilities or talents, praise for another, reputation or position. But wherever it appears, the external circumstances are not the problem; the spirit of the heart is the real culprit.

So, what can we do about this trait that easily comes up in our lives?

  1. Realize that everything others have is a gift from God. We must accept what God has made of others and realize He is sovereign. He has blessed them for a reason that we may never understand.
  2. We must realize that we have all we need in Christ. Why should I covet physical things when I have a marvelous relationship with our creator…a far more valuable possession than anything this world has to offer.
  3. As Christians we must consider all that has been given for us and to us. We are called to give ourselves for others. The more I give and love, as the Lord did, the more I am free of the mentality that leads to a jealous heart. Generous service is the antidote to jealousy.
  4. We should pray daily to be what God wants us to be. Turn it over to Him and our heart will be tuned to rejoice in spite of other’s success…

a true manifestation of agape love.

  

Boasting

“Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth” (Proverbs 27:2) Is there anything more of a bore than a braggart? Some are ever tooting their own horns. “So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set a fire by a small flame” (James 3:5), What is boasting? Attempting to draw attention to oneself through word or actions that over emphasize ones worth.

The bible is full of illustrations of braggarts:

For example: The Pharisee in Luke 8:9-14 who exhorts his value by downing the poor publican.

Sometimes you hear “boasting is not bad if it’s the truth”. Well, we have to understand the attitude of the individual and what is motivating the actions. Two people can talk about the same accomplishment and one will be accepted due to the humbleness of the statement while another rejected because of the arrogance exhibited.

Boasting is a focus on self. The Christian realizes that God comes first, others second and, finally, myself is third. Self-centeredness draws in and is grasping, Christian love reaches out and is giving; it offers words of encouragement for the lonely and down trodden while assisting those who need uplifting. God’s love for us is un-describable and is greater than our love for ourselves. No matter how much we brag, no human recognition will ever compare with the infinite recognition God has given us through His Son. The man or woman whose self-esteem is grounded in the goodness of God has no reason to boast. They understand their personal worth is not based on high-octane performance or stunning appearance but on the value God attached to their life through Christ. Agape love is not boastful because it comprehends God’s grace as it works to transform us into people of value.

Arrogance

Arrogance is an inflated opinion of one’s importance. It results in an unreasonable self-esteem, generally accompanied by insolence and rude treatment of others. It deceives the heart (Jer. 49:16), hardens the mind (Dan. 5:20) and results in destruction (Prov. 16:18). It is the exact opposite of humility. I get that way when my whole mind centers on my dignity, and I act as if it were my achievement, rather than a gift from God. Christianity calls for humility and service, not arrogance and unconcern. No one in Christ should be puffed up over another. Lowliness is the key to discipleship. In fact, the higher one gets the lower one must descend. The Highest of all became the lowest of all. If we are to serve others, we cannot put them down or treat them as inferiors.

What can we do about arrogance?

  1. We must always realize how un-important we are in the big scheme of things.
  2. That the first Beatitude is the basis for our Christian life…poor in spirit (recognizing we are nothing without God).
  3. Ask God to create within us a heart and spirit where we will truly regard others just like His Son did. 

God can help us but He will not force us…we must want this humble spirit.

 

Rude

Defined as ‘behavior that brings shame to another’, or in other words, as the Greek states, “without form”. Love involves me and someone else, therefore this verse applies to relationships. Love must not cause offense or shame to another person. It will not humiliate, belittle, or be inconsiderate since all these things shame our fellow man. Love doesn’t deliberately seek to be offensive.

The Christian’s vocabulary should be characterized by such expressions as “no, you first”, “please”, “thank you”, “how may I help you?” etc. The terms “gentleman” and “lady” should reach their zenith in the context of Christianity. We will not overcome rudeness by keeping rules, but by be coming caring and considerate.

 

Selfish

Defined as ‘intent on personal gain often at the expense of another’. The meaning is love does not pursue its own interest. Love is not self centered. Selfishness is the root sin of all humanity. Every quality of love we have reviewed either focuses on whether we first seek our own way or first seek to serve God and others. There is a vast difference in selfishness (wrong) and self interest (healthy). Selfishness is marked by the action of making self the center of the universe. It is reinforced by the masses today…look at advertising focusing on me, myself and I…what makes me look better, feel better, have more, etc. Self interest is the legitimate consequences of the way God made us. Jesus demonstrated self interest when he prayed that the cup might be taken away…not out of fear for pain and death but the separation from the Father He would experience for the first and only time in eternity. We exhibit self interest when we duck when something unexpected happens around us…we do things to preserve our lives.

We can live the selfless life by:

  1. Putting on the mind of Christ. Jesus had everything but was willing to give it up for us…the essence of love.
  2. Practice the golden rule.
  3. Set our priorities correctly…God first, others second and ourselves third
  4. Depend on God through prayer, and recognize that He is doing to bless us now.

He is sovereign. His power can help us overcome this trait of thinking about myself first.

  

ANGER

Anger is defined as a ‘sudden violent action or emotion’ that results in others getting hurt. Paul is literally telling us not to explode. Agape love does not have a short fuse; it does not go about with a chip on the shoulder just ready to explode if someone or something crosses our path. Looking for a fight. Agape love involves relationships so we are talking about actions that can destroy people instead of building them up.

Anger can be a virtue…when it is used to uphold truth, protect human rights, oppose rampant evil, or defend an important principle. However, we are to take care of the anger and its implications each day…don’t let the sun go down on your anger and allow it to become sin.

With so much of the emphasis of the world on self and personal rights, getting angry with others is a natural by product because they are always going to be doing something that infringes on me and my space.

Genuine love does everything to avoid exploding;

  1. Identify trigger mechanisms and methods to defuse them…look for things that upset me and lay out a strategy to counteract them.
  2. Remember the call to service God challenges all his people. My ego is removed from the equation when I place other’s needs ahead of my own.
  3. Look at life from a long range view…observe the wake I leave for others to navigate.
  4. Prayer. Allow God to handle the pressures of life and eliminate the internal forces that lead to explosions. He will provide a way of escape.

No Record of Wrongs

We have all experienced evil at the hands of others…cheated, lied too, talked down too, abused physically or emotionally.

Agape love does not seek revenge. Agape love does not keep score. Agape love does not harbor bitterness. The person who says “I must forgive you but I can never forget” is failing the agape love directive…the heart is motivated wrongly. Our minds do not ‘forget’ like a computer where things can be deleted. But the memory can be handled in a way that resentment and vengefulness is not a part of our reaction.

However, Agape love does not ignore evil either. There are times when evil must be exposed, rebuked and even disciplined. Rom. 13:1-7 instructs us on how civil government must identify wrongdoers and punish them accordingly. Christians must oppose wrong and stand for right. When wrong must be opposed or punished, it should be done with a loving concern for the wrong doer.

There are several suggestions on how to improve our managing the ‘revenge’ or ‘harboring bitterness’ reaction to mistreatment:

  1. We should attempt to understand what might have perpetuated the actions of the offender. This may not explain the actions but help us realize the motivation. If I know what they are experiencing, it might change how I feel about the situation.
  2. Take a long-range view. Is what happened really important? Will it matter after a little time has passed? We don’t need to loose our values or convictions due to the actions of others.
  3. We need to learn a lesson from the cross. Have we offended our creator? Does He make a way to take care of offenses? Does He keep score for the day of judgment? What about Jesus. Did he deserve to die for my mistakes or offenses? It should be clear that the way of life God expects of His people is one of giving…even our pride, to help someone else overcome their problem in relating to others.
  4. Remember all we have done wrong and how it may have negatively impacted others. Others may have reason to resent us. By our example of non-resentment, they too may be able to see a pattern to model in their lives.
  5. Prayer. If we are having a problem with resentment or remembering in a negative way, turn it over to God. He has the power and will to help the citizens of His Kingdom in ways we cannot even comprehend.

Love is not resentful. What spirit could be more contrary to our Lord’s life and mission?

Love rejoices with the Truth.

Since agape love always seeks the good of others, it can never rejoice when evil prevails. Satisfaction in seeing others in turmoil is not love. Rejoicing at moral wickedness is at variance with God’s plan and demonstrated love…it does not have humanity’s welfare at heart.

Christianity should be a joyful state of life based on where we were and where we are now. Joy gets to the center of the Christian life, not based on emotional ‘rah-rah’ but drinking deeply from the nature of Christ, the heart of God. If I love people, I rejoice in their successes and not in their failures.

Bears all things, Believes all things, Hopes all things, Endures all things

Bears all things-the verb stego conveys the picture of one object on top of another, thus hinting of either support or concealment. The ideas are not mutually exclusive. Love supports and uplifts those who are in need of such. Jesus was constantly in trouble with His Jewish critics because of His encouragement of the downtrodden. In addition, one who operates out of love will cover (be slow to expose) the mistakes of another. Love would rather set about quietly mending things than publicly displaying and rebuking them. There is a time for open exposure of wrong (I Tim. 5:20) but this is not the initial process of agape love.

Believes all things-this does not mean agape love is gullible. Believing error is both wrong and dangerous. The sense of the word pisteuo (believes) is one of trusting. Love will give the benefit of the doubt.

When we hear a distasteful report concerning others, do we hesitate to believe it until the evidence is overwhelming? In these times when error is so rampant, we must resist the temptation to be quickly and recklessly suspicious. We should not jump to conclusion but out of seeking the good of others be determined to know the truth.

Hopes all things-agape love is optimistic; it entertains the highest expectations. Love never gives up on anyone no matter how far they move away from the truth or from God…love is always seeking a way to encourage them so God’s open arms can reach out to them. If we must err on the pessimism/optimism scale, let’s err in the direction of hope.

Endures all things-Agape love is tough. Even when adversity challenges again and again, love continues to operate. No easy discouragement here. True love does not give up…on God or on others. Endurance sums up the size of agape love…how wide and long, how high and deep this attitude we must have for each other just as God has for us. It just keeps on ticking no matter the circumstances.

As we conclude this quick overview, I trust we have gained a clearer insight into God’s ideal of love. Faith and hope will not a live within us as love does. Faith and hope are our response to God. They will be less necessary as we approach meeting God’s will for us. They will eventually be transcended when the object of our faith will be known in full and our hope realized. But not so with love. It is the very nature of heaven and of the God who makes heaven by his presence. This will be our glory. There all will be giving and receiving and giving again…all selfishness will disappear. Gone will be impatience, unkindness, jealousy, boastfulness, arrogance, rudeness, irritability, resentment, and rejoicing in wrong. From our earthly perspective it is impossible for us to understand the fullness of that love. It lies beyond us, but we are growing toward it daily as we practice the guide left for us. We progress, and over the years the vision becomes a bit more clear. One day it will burst upon us in all its glory. Then we will know it was for this we were made, and will see that many things which seemed important on earth had really worked against our glory.

It all comes back to what I put first in my life…self or God. From this most elementary of equations flows all that we have attempted to say in our study this quarter.

And with that we close this time of discussion but continue our journey to the promised land.