First Corinthians 13.4a
1. Well, this begins the series of messages that some of you have been waiting for. Last week I indicated that some of you had never experienced love, in the Biblical sense of the word. I also mentioned that some of you had never given love.
2. Well, this evening we will slowly begin to learn what real love is, according to the apostle Paul. Now remember, when I use the English word love or charity, I am referring to something that in the Greek language is called "agaph," which represents the highest and most noble concept of love.
3. You will remember, from last weekís study, that we learned of the necessity of this thing called charity....that you cannot effectively function as a Christian, no matter how spiritually gifted or naturally talented you are, without charity.
4. Is it not sad, then, that our own ignorance of the subject and our own lack of familiarity with the concept of Biblical love results in so many talented and so many gifted people thinking they are actually effective in their service to God, when from a heavenly perspective they are not?
5. By the way, I also hope that my reminiscing about my little brother on that Ford tractor last week didnít distract you from the attempt at penetrating thought on the necessity of love.
6. Since I related that incident to you Iíve been thinking about my own childhood a great deal. You can learn a great deal by evaluating your own experiences in the light of God's Word. Amen? This is because when you look at your past experiences through the light of Godís Word there is a whole new perspective that you hadnít appreciated before.
7. For example: Beginning grade school in an all Indian boarding school, and being the only white kid in a school that was attended by Sioux and Chippewa Indians was quite interesting. You see, my father was a government employee who worked in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. So, for most of my childhood our family lived on Indian reservations.
8. Let me show you how very distorted and wrong a child can be about certain things. I used to think I was a genius. And the basis for my confidence? I could simply out perform anyone in school in any subject who was in my grade level. For that reason I had to be a genius, I thought.
9. But from an adultís perspective I have to admit that I was performing against youngsters who spoke no English until they began first grade. And why was that? Well, most of the Indian children lived so far out on the reservation that they had no contact with the English language until they reached mandatory school age. When that happened they had to live in the dormitories, since transporting them back and forth to their homes was impossible in the winter.
10. So, you see, as hard as it might be for most of you to imagine, it turned out that I was not a bona fide genius. And the more you think of it and the more you know of the situation, the more you will realize that even without the language problems they were saddled with they still were at a disadvantage.
11. Imagine being from rural North Dakota, having no access to radio, television or newspaper, and then reading about a lion in the first or second grade reader. A lion! Great! Whatís a lion?
12. Of course, I knew what a lion was Ďcause I watched the lion acts on the Ed Sullivan Show, and my folks took me to the circus when it came into the nearest town, and my parents took me to the movies.
13. But how do you explain a lion to someone who has never seen a picture of one? Think heíll believe you when you say it's a 400 to 500 hundred pound cat that can take a stallion down? No way heís going to believe you.
14. Or how do you explain an elephant? Well, itís an animal that weighs thousands of pounds, has huge ears, and its nose is ten times the size of its tail. Itís skin is really thick and tough, but also very susceptible to gnat bites. Will that kid, who doesnít much trust white people anyway, believe you? Of course not.
15. My classmates were at a tremendous disadvantage in school until school officials wised up and began to show educational films and pictures of the things you and I already took for granted when we started first grade.
16. Think about that for a moment. Their alien experiences made it very difficult for them to adapt to and appreciate mainstream American culture. Do you realize that in certain respects we Christians face a problem that closely parallels the problem faced by my former classmates? Sure we do.
17. We know there is something called charity, love, thatís said in the Word of God to be a vital part of our Christian lives. And Paul has convinced us that we need this stuff called charity, this thing called love, to be really effective Christians. But what is it?
18. Mention a big cat like a lion and my classmates on the Indian reservation would picture a large alley cat in their minds. Mention love to a Christian and we invariably think of brotherly love or sexual attraction, or some hybrid of the two. Wrong in either case.
19. Why would Indian kids have such a hard time with a lion? Because a 400 pound cat seemed so unnatural, based on their limited experience. And why do Christians misunderstand or misrepresent charity so very much of the time? Because true charity, genuine love, is so unnatural.
20. As a matter of fact, folks, charity, so important to every Christian, is supernatural.
21. To show this and to show Christians what charity really is, Paul shows how charity responds to people. Letís stand and read how love responds to people. First Corinthians 13.4a: "Charity suffereth long, and is kind."
22. Let me ask you a question: How do you naturally react to people? If you analyze it, you and everyone else in this room has two basic response patterns to people....active and passive.
23. When someone acts a certain way, or when they just are a certain way, sometimes you do something and sometimes you do nothing. You donít much think about it, either. It just comes naturally.
24. But as we examine this short phrase, in preparation to biting off a larger chunk of Scripture about love next week, I want you to notice how charityís response is opposite the natural response.
1A. FIRST, LETíS EXAMINE LOVEíS PASSIVE RESPONSE
Whereas the natural man reacts quickly, angers and spouts off to friends and "loved ones" in an active way, charity responds in a passive way to the same stimulus.
"Charity suffereth long."
1B. Let Me Define The Term
1C. In the areas of behavior that we refer to as long-suffering and patience, there is a great deal of confusion. But the confusion can be quickly cleared up when it is understood that in the New Testament these are two quite different words.
2C. Turn to James 1.2-4: "2My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."
3C. Here we have the word patience. The word patience, always and in every case that I am aware of, refers to circumstances and situations. Patience is what you need to deal with barking dogs in the middle of the night, traffic jams when you are late for work, and jalopy cars that never seem to start when you really need for them to start.
4C. It is patience that you are in short supply of when the lack of toothpaste disturbs you, or the sticking closet door bugs you, or the long stop light drives you crazy. But love doesnít have anything to do with patience. Itís faith that has to do with patience. Why, because patience has to do only with circumstances, not people.
5C. Long-suffering, on the other hand, is a fruit of the Holy Spirit of God. Know what this fruit of the Holy Spirit means? It means "to take a long time to boil." Long-suffering is that quality of self-restraint in the face of provocation from other people which does not hastily retaliate or promptly punish, according to Vine.
6C. What does this mean? This means, if you have charity it will be difficult for your children to anger you, you wonít snap back at your wife, you wonít call your boss out.
2B. Letís Look At Some Biblical Examples Of Long-Suffering
1C. God is long-suffering:
Exodus 34.6-7: "And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the childrenís children, unto the third and to the fourth generation."
Numbers 14.18-19: "The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now."
2C. See? God is long-suffering. But notice how closely related forgiveness is to long-suffering. Is it not your experience that hot-tempered people tend to be unwilling to forgive? I mean, really forgive. No, hot-tempered people do not really forgive easily. You see, itís the fact that they never really forgive people, which is partly the reason they blow their stacks for such little provocations. They never really forgave the last provocation.
3C. The wise are also long-suffering:
Proverbs 14.29: "He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly."
Proverbs 15.18: "A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife."
Proverbs 16.32: "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city."
Proverbs 19.11: "The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression. "
4C. Let me share a checklist with you. This is a checklist that one writer compiled to summarize that aspect of love Paul refers to as long-suffering. Ask yourself these questions:
#1 Am I slow to anger? Yes or No.
#2 Am I merciful (that is, do I hold back wrath)?
#3 Am I forgiving? By the way, forgiveness means you donít throw the issue up to that person later on when you get mad again.
#4 Am I willing to listen?
#5 Can I endure otherís sins? Or does it infuriate me when otherís sins affect me.
#6 Do I rest in Godís plan and knowledge?
#7 Do I give up on people?
5C. If you answered the first six questions with a "Yes" and the last one with a "No" then you are long-suffering.
6C. Let me ask you this: How many of you were not raised in a home where long-suffering was in evidence? If so, the home you were raised in was not a home in which there was real love. And what passed for love in the home you grew up in is generally what you think is the kind of love Paul is talking about, at least subconsciously. But it isnít. Itís a whole different thing.
7C. This brings to a conclusion our examination of loveís passive response. "Love suffereth long."
2A. NOW, LETíS EXAMINE LOVEíS ACTIVE RESPONSE
Just as charity doesnít "boil quickly" when human nature is short with people, thereís another unnatural response of charity. When men naturally do nothing, "charity...is kind"...always.
1B. Again, Let Me Define The Term
1C. Those of you who are familiar with Galatians 5.22 probably recognize that this, too, is a fruit of the Spirit of God.
2C. The word "kind" comes from a root word meaning "to take into service." So the word means "useful, serviceable, adapted to its purpose, and thus excellent or valuable." When used to describe food the word means healthy and tasty.
2B. Now, For Some Examples Of Kindness In The Bible
1C. God is kind, Romans 2.4: "Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?"
2C. Twice in this verse our word "kind" is translated into the word "goodness." Notice how God is useful, serviceable, excellent or valuable. The things He does in peopleís lives, the active role He plays, influences them to repent toward God.
3C. This does not mean that being nice to people will cause them to repent of their sin. Remember, the Bible word "kind" is not exactly the same as our English word "nice." If you doubt that, turn to Romans 11.22: "Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off."
4C. If you are the type of person who thinks that being nice to people while they merrily march toward an eternity in Hell is kind, you need to read this again. Parents, you do your children no favors by confusing this issue. "Kind" as they respond and do right. Correction when they sin and do wrong.
5C. Next, we see that the Lord Jesus Christ is "kind," Matthew 11.28-30: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
6C. See that word "easy" in verse 30? Thatís our word "kind." What exactly is it thatís "kind?" Itís the Lordís yoke. And what does the yoke do? It keeps you in harness, under control, headed in the right direction . . . the same direction as the Lord is headed.
7C. If we were to draw some conclusions based on what little we have learned about "kindness," it would seem to involve direction and heading. Godís "kindness" heads a person toward repentance. For the Christian, Christís yoke is "kind" in heading us in the right direction to properly pull our load for the cause of Christ.
8C. Let me give you another checklist. Ask yourself:
#1 Am I kind and forgiving?
#2 Am I useful and beneficial to others?
#3 Am I kind to those undeserving and unresponsive?
#4 Do I relieve burdens and not burden others down?
#5 Do I forget otherís sin and not hold them up?
#6 Do I nudge others in the right direction?
8C. Folks, six "Yes" answers is a kind person, in the Biblical sense of the word.
9C. How many of you were raised in a home in which there was kindness?
1. So you have seen that charity (love), responds in an unnatural way, in a supernatural way, to people.
2. When man would rise up, charity suffers long. When man would do nothing, charity is kind. In each case, charity is opposite from the actions or the reactions of what is natural for man to do and to be.
3. You know, I know only One Who was long-suffering and did not give me the Hellfire I deserve. I know only One Who treated me with kindness after I rejected His love for me and who scorned His Son for so long.
4. Do you know the long-suffering and kind One? Is His precious Son your personal Savior?
5. Christian, is the response of love your response to people? Are you long-suffering, or do you find yourself blowing your stack to your children, becoming frustrated with your coworkers, getting short with your mate?
6. And are you kind? Iím not asking you if you are nice, for itís possible to always be nice and still not be kind, in the Biblical sense of the word. When I ask if you are kind, I refer to actively dealing with other people in such a way as to lead them to repentance, if they are lost, or to lead them to serving Christ, if they are saved. Thatís kindness.
7. You see, the kindest thing you can ever do for a lost person is bring them to Christ. And the kindest thing you can ever do for a believer is to keep him directed toward serving Christ.
8. If you will allow the Word of God to define those two terms for you then many of you have already realized the absence of love in your life. You have neither loved nor have you been loved. For none ever suffered you long and you do not suffer others long. For none was ever kind toward you, and you have not been kind to others, pointing them in the direction they ought to go.
9. A final word to parents before we move on. My grandmother Waldrip was a dear and sweet Christian woman who never comprehended real Christian love. She concentrated on the unconditional aspect of real love, but really projected her concept of love into the Bible . . . erroneously.
10. An example: Her youngest child was named Kenneth. Being the youngest of ten children, he was spoiled rotten. He was a wicked child who never honored either his mother or his father. And my grandmother was always apologizing for him and covering for him and making excuses for him.
11. Grandmother thought she was being kind. She thought she was loving her youngest son and protecting him. What she was doing was nurturing and cultivating sin in his life.
12. Parents, there is no better example of love than God. And yet, does He tolerate sin in the lives of His children? No. If you have a child who is in sin, you do them no favor by excusing or explaining it away. Further, you do the cause of Christ and your testimony no good either.
13. If you really love your kids, remember to love them the way God loves His kids. Deal with sin. Amen? Itís better for them in the long run.