“Love is patient; love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Cor. 13:4-7
Jake and Beth, I’ve just read one of the clearest definitions of love in the Bible. In another place, the Apostle John writes: “This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” (1 Jn. 4:10-11)
I want to make just a few points very briefly.
First, it’s not good enough to say the word “love” and then everybody just smile and nod and assume everything will be OK. The Beatles famously said “All you need is love,” but apparently nobody got the memo. Or if you think about it for a minute a lot rides on what you think that word means.
Earlier in 1 Corinthians Paul had to tell the Christians in Corinth that they couldn’t go to temple prostitutes anymore. This might sound pretty strange to us, but in those days in the Greek and Roman world, it was actually somewhat common. In the city of Corinth in particular was a temple to the goddess Aphrodite, the goddess of love. At one time, one ancient source says that there were as many as a thousand prostitutes working in that temple. The way someone worshiped the goddess of love was by going to the temple and having a random rendezvous with a temple prostitute.
Aphrodite may have been the goddess of love, but the love that she presented and advertised was not the same kind of love brought into the world by Jesus.
And it’s not because Jesus is squeamish about sex. Jesus is God. Jesus is the same God who created the universe. And part of creating the universe included creating piles of animals and insects that mate, and after creating all that, God made man and woman and told them to be fruitful and multiply, have sex and make babies.
So God created the world for His glory and our enjoyment. He created it with sunsets and whales and beer and waterfalls and chocolate. It was all His idea. And He filled this world with treasures for us to dig up and find. In fact, if you dig up the right stuff and pack it all together in the right way, you can make an iPhone. That was God’s idea too. He invented all the coolest stuff.
But sin is a rejection of God’s ways, of God’s life, of God’s word. He speaks and creates life and strawberries and sunshine on white sandy beaches, but instead of listening to His words, we listened to the voice of the serpent. We listened to the Devil, and we decided to make up our own mind about what was good and evil, about life and death. And that plunged Adam and Eve and all their descendants into sin and death. And the insanity goes down so deep that we still do it.
You don’t have to teach a two year old to say “mine!” or “myself!” – because no matter how cute they are, they still have sin in their bones. And we might get bigger and more sophisticated with our selfishness and sin, our toys get more expensive and fancy, but unless Jesus changes us, we’re all selfish toddlers, demanding our own ways, demanding to be served, demanding sleep, demanding sex, demanding comfort and luxury and security.
The thing is that sin and death makes everybody supremely insecure. Sin makes everything go wobbly. Nothing stays still, nothing holds down. Jesus said that people who don’t listen to His word are like the man who tries to build his house on the sand. The storms come and the house collapses. Because of sin, we have all failed in some way or another. We are all weak, we have all let others down, we have all hurt and been hurt. If any of us had the God’s-eye movie of our lives played on a big screen with all our thoughts and actions for all the world to see, every one of us would be supremely embarrassed. We’d all be ashamed. And like Adam and Eve, we grab for fig leaves to cover our sin, our shame. We put on make up, we excel at business, we pick up hobbies, we get fancy cars or clothes, we try to make up for our insecurity. We try to cover our shame, our nakedness. We say, I may have failed, I may have sinned, but at least I’m in shape. I may have failed, I may have sinned, but at least I have money in the bank. But those are fig leaves. Economies fail, bodies fail, accomplishments fade.
Jake and Beth, you’ve been together for a while, but today you are formally beginning to build your house together. I hardly know you, but honestly, I want your house to stand strong through the fiercest storms. I want your house to be grand and glorious. I want your house to be full of life and light. And positive thinking won’t keep your house standing. Compromise can’t keep your house standing. Reading self-help books can’t keep your house standing. There is only one rock, and His name is Jesus.
There’s only one true kind of love, and that’s the love of God in Christ. That kind of love is patient and kind, it doesn’t envy, it doesn’t boast. When your lives are hidden in God in Christ, you are safe, you are secure. But this only happens because your sins are forgiven through the blood of Jesus. When you realize that God knows all your sin, all your shame, all your weakness, every evil thought, every malicious word, everything, and that He sent Jesus to suffer the penalty for you, then you are free. When you see Jesus beaten to a bloody pulp, naked on a Roman cross, mocked and spat on, suffering the scorn and shame for your sin, when you see Jesus in your place, taking the punishment you deserve, then you’ve seen love. Then you know love. You know the love of God for you. And when you know that kind of love, then you are free to give that kind of love.
When Jake leaves his socks on the floor for the hundredth time, you have grace for him. When she’s grumpy and doesn’t want to go along with your bright idea, you have grace for her.
You see love isn’t a feeling primarily. It’s not a sentiment. It’s a commitment to give your self away. It’s a promise to die for the other. It’s an oath of loyalty that promises to suffer for the other. That’s true love because that’s the love that God has for us in Jesus. And when you know this love, you aren’t afraid anymore. You aren’t ashamed anymore. You’re not insecure anymore because you know you are completely safe. Jesus died and rose again for you. That means nothing can touch you. Nothing can harm you. Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. And only then are you free to forgive others, only then can you can lay your own life down for the sake of one another.
So as you begin building your house today, I urge you to build it on love. But not the love of Aphrodite, the way of lust, the way of self-serving. Not like the Beatles who just wanted everyone to smoke a little more pot. Those are the ways of selfishness, self pleasure, grasping for fig leaves. You both profess to be Christians, and so I call you to be who you say you are. Look to Jesus, the only firm foundation, the only solid rock. Look to Him for forgiveness, and then obey His words and love one another. Then your house will stand firm no matter the storm that comes against it.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.