This morning, we continue our message series helping us to better understand and live out unconditional love.
This series is entitled, “Love Is” and it is based on that familiar passage found in 1 Corinthians chapter 13.
We were created by God with the need for love that can only be expressed through relationships.
As there are different types of relationships, there are different types of love. There is, however, a type of love that we are to express toward anyone and everyone. In fact, the Bible teaches that if we learn how to express this type of love toward God and others, that we will entirely fulfill all that God’s law requires of us.
This distinct type of love is the love that God has for us. In the Greek language, it is the word agape. It is this type of unconditional love that we’ll be covering through this message series.
To be able to possess and express this unconditional love, we’re going to break it down into parts as Paul chose to do in his letter to the Corinthians. He taught all about spiritual gifts and said that it is not using these gifts that truly matters, but how we choose to use them, our motive, that matters to God. We can do all sorts of good things for God, but if we do not do them as an expression of God’s love, then they are pointless, useless, and meaningless.
1 Corinthians 13:1-5
1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 14 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking…
Now depending on the translation of the Bible that you read, you may read that love does not dishonor others, that it is not rude, does not behave unseemly or unbecomingly, does not behave rudely, does not act improperly, is not ill-mannered, is not injurous, and that it doesn’t force itself on others.
The next thing that love is not is self-seeking. Other translations say that it does not seek it’s own, takes no thought for itself, doesn’t seek it’s own advantage, isn’t selfish, doesn’t look out for its own interests, does not insist on its own way, and isn’t always, “me first.”
Sometimes it’s easier to point out all of the things that love is not rather than what love is. It is easy when we see selfish attitudes and behaviors that are rude and hurtful and easily recognize that those things are not expressions of God’s love. If all of these things are not love, then what is?
* Click *
Love is honorable.
When we act with honor, we will not be rude or unbecomingly or act improperly or force ourselves onto others. When we act with honor, we won’t look only to our own interests or insist on getting our own way or act selfishly.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines honor as “to salute with a bow in square dancing.” 🙂
Well, maybe that’s not exactly the definition that we were going for. However, it is a perfect picture of what honor looks like. To honor someone, I bow my life down in order to lift theirs up. To honor the king, people bow down before his throne symbolically representing how they intend to live. To honor a judge, we rise as they enter the courtroom. To honor a bride, we also rise to our feet as she enters the room and begins down the aisle.
The more appropriate definition for honor, however, is “to regard or treat someone with admiration and respect.”
To honor is to assign worth and value. It is both how we treat and how we act toward something or someone.
Honor can be both taught and earned.
Some were brought up to never call teachers by their first names. Some were taught to take their shoes off when they enter someone’s home. Some were raised to always address someone as sir or ‘mam. Some were raised to never eat or drink in a sanctuary. Some were taught to say, “Good morning” to their bus driver every day. Some were raised to not wear a hat while eating. Some were taught to say, “Thanks be to God” after the scriptures are read publicly.
We rise and take off our hats to the playing of the national anthem. We thank those wearing indications of service to our nation. We tip waiters and waitresses. We hold open the door for those behind us. Men walk on the road-side of a sidewalk. We applaud those who defeat us in a competition. We take a knee when someone on our opposing sports team is seriously injured. We pray and thank God before we eat.
All of these things are examples of honor in action. None of them are truly black-and white right and wrong, though we may feel strongly enough about some to disagree with that. All of these acts are culturally acceptable and customary. Each one, however, does well as they serve the core purpose of honoring a person or place.
Love is honorable.
In fact, love would honor the culture and traditions of others even if we don’t feel the same way about them as they do. My kids may run through my house like hoodlums with their shoes on, but if we enter the home of someone who does not, their shoes will be off at the door.
I may begin devouring my food as soon as it hits my plate at home, but if I’m with others who wait until everyone is served before eating, then I will wait. If I eat only what I want at home and give to the dogs what I don’t like, but am with others who eat everything on their plates, then I will eat it even if I don’t care for it.
In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul addresses a similar situation about love in action dealing with eating food that has been sacrificed to idols. His conclusion? Practice the customs of others as to not sin against them and Christ by our “knowledge” otherwise. Knowledge puffs up, love builds up. He even goes as far as to write, “If what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.”
Love is honorable.
The Bible teaches us to honor many different positions including our parents, spouses, employers, governmental authorities, and leaders of the church. Just a quick reminder here. Do our parents cease to be our parents when we turn 18? How about 30? 50? 80? Nope! Honoring our parents is something to be taught not only to preschoolers, but it also serves as a good reminder and challenge for us all throughout our lifetime.
God requires us to honor these positions with no strings attached. We have a tendency to add to the word of God in practice and choose to honor the people in these positions only if they are honorable. However, God tells us to honor them even if they don’t live lives that give us reason to do so.
Love is honorable.
The best example that I can think of this playing out is David choosing to continue to honor King Saul because of his position alone even when Saul chose to live in a way that was anything but honorable. In fact, Saul chased David around like Wile E. Coyote and the roadrunner for many years in an attempt to kill David.
Yet still, David honored Saul because of the position that he held. David did this ultimately out of honor for God and His requirements. In due time, and I believe because of this choice, God honored David and exalted him into Saul’s position as King. David was promoted God’s way and in God’s timing despite the many voices telling David to just end Saul’s life and to take what was rightfully his. As a result, David was an incredibly successful King and honored not only because of his position, but because he earned it from his people.
David also chose to honor men whom society had rejected. 400 men who were described as those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him and he became their commander. Honor transformed those down and out men into mighty warriors who performed feats so great that they are recorded in the Bible for all time.
We would be wise to follow his example when it comes to honoring those that God requires of us. It’s so easy when murmuring begins to jump right in and agree with it. It’s so easy to slander and gossip. After all, the people in all of these positions are flawed humans and they will certainly give us reason not to honor them at some point in time.
However, we must choose to either agree with God or to think that we know better than Him in this matter. When we choose to unconditionally honor people in these positions, we are ultimately honoring God. When we honor God, God honors us. If those people are acting in unhonorable ways, well, we’ll just let God deal with that.
1 Peter 5:6-7 (MSG)
So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.
Now, when it comes to the love of God, honor is an incredible expression of it! Love does not dishonor others and is not self-seeking. Love does not dishonor others nor does it demand honor from others.
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Jesus, observing our normal human behavior, gave us a parable to understand how He intends for honor to work.
7 When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
This is fairly straightforward, however, we can easily misunderstand this parable and its explanation. If we choose to humble ourselves just so that we can be exalted and honored in front of everyone else, we completely and totally just missed what Jesus was trying to teach us.
This is actually pride or false humility and not at all an honorable motive. Jesus then went on to further teach us how His love is expressed through honor in a way that will not allow our hearts to be full of this false humility:
12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Who we truly are is most clearly revealed by how we treat those who cannot repay us. Our character is molded and shaped as we choose to lay down our own lives to serve the needs of those who can give us nothing in return. This is honor in its most practical form. Love looks to the needs of others and considers how it may help them.
Love is honorable.
This is what Jesus did for you and I. Though He owed us nothing, He chose to dishonor Himself by wrapping Himself in flesh and dying shamefully on the cross. He paid a debt that He did not owe because we owed a debt that we could not pay.
Jesus chose to honor you and I while we were still living lives that were anything but honorable toward Him. Jesus assigned our worth and value as He gave up everything in order to freely offer us the gift of eternal life. Though we could never even begin to repay Him, Jesus chose to make the sacrifice anyways. To Him, you and I were worth it!
Love is honorable.
When we choose to dishonor others, we may actually miss out on something awesome! Most of us have had experiences when we get to know someone that most people disregard and come to find that they are amazing people if you make the time and effort to know them. We’ve also all had times when people misjudged us by first impressions and missed out on getting to know who we truly are as well.
It is easy to see people as they are and not prophetically as God sees them. It is easy to miss out on people’s unique gifts and talents due to a lack of honor. Especially with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to learn to see beyond the person and see Christ in them. Take note of what happens otherwise:
1 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” (Yeah, I heard some guys here amen that one! 🙂 ) 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.
We can’t reduce people down to our little opinion of them. If the people in the community that Jesus grew up in were able to do it to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, how much easier is it for us to whittle people down ourselves and miss out?
Love is honorable.
Life is challenging and people will often act foolish. People will give us reason after reason to write them off, dishonor them, and put ourselves first. The next time that this happens to you and you’re ready to act rudely toward them, remember how many times you have given Jesus reason to do the same to you and yet He chose over and over again to forgive you and to honor you.
Be like Jesus. Let His love flow through your life bestowing honor on those undeserving of it. That love has the power to transform that life and lead them to Jesus, who creates honorable things where we would least expect it.
Love is honorable.