THE SAFARI the Journey Continues…
the Safari Roadmap: We have so far covered 2 stages – Enter & Encounter (1, 2, 3)
We now turn to the third stage- Embrace, which has been divided into 2 parts (Embrace 1 & 2)
THE CALL TO BOND
Living in Love
Romans 13: 8 – 10
8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
JOHN 13: 34- 35
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Embrace primarily focuses on one of the fundamental requirements of discipleship: to ‘live in love with one another’.This is the Love agenda of discipleship.
To help us understand Christian love as a basis for all human relationships.
(Based on 1 Corinthians 13)
Understand the nature, character, and expression of the virtue of love.
2.Desire to express love more deliberately to all people around us.
Commit to identify practical ways to express love to those around us.
It has been correctly noted that the 1st century church at Corinth would be one of the most difficult churches to belong to. Whereas it was a church equipped with spiritual gifts , there was clear evidence of divisions, immorality , and lack of love
Though the Corinthian church was very gifted in Spiritual abilities, Paul makes it very clear that no matter what one is able to accomplish, without love it amounts to nothing. Sadly, today we also sometimes find ourselves divided along economic, educational and ethnic lines. Even within a family, one finds divisions. Paul intends us to appreciate that love for one another is the greatest attribute that every Christian should strive to cultivate.
Paul uses the technique of personification to describe christian love.
1. What is Love?
There are several types of love used in the New Testament Greek.
i. The first type of love is Storge
This is familial or affectionate love – the natural affection that one has for relatives.
‘Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves’.
ii. The second type of love is Eros
This refers to sexual, erotic love or desire.
It refers to erotic/ romantic love or fondness that one has for a person of the opposite sex.
This word is not used in the New Testament.
iii. The third type of love is Phileo
This is the natural, human type of love and affection that we have for a friend. This is the kind of love that Peter confessed to have for Jesus (though Jesus expected a deeper love)
15 “When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.“
V17 – Jesus uses Phileo
iv. The fourth type of love is Agape
This is the spiritual, highest, and noblest form of love. This is the love that seeks the highest good for its object and loves even the ‘undeserving’.
It loves without expecting anything in return. This kind of love is best expressed in Jesus Christ’s statement in
‘Greater love [agape] has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’.
Agape is the only word used for ‘love’ in the great chapter on love (1 Corinthians 13).
This special type of Christian love, “whether exercised toward the brethren, or toward men generally, is not an impulse from the feelings,
… it does not always run with the natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered”
The agape love is what is characteristically expected from Christians. This is the kind of love God wants each of us to exemplify in our relationships as believers,
…not just to our families, but also to fellow believers in the church and other people in the larger society.
1. Which of these “loves” is
The most abundant in our world today
The most lacking
2. Share with your group a time you experienced Agape love.
2. What is the Nature and Character of Love?
The apostle Paul gives a great exposition on the nature and character of love in
1 Corinthians 13
Love is a supreme spiritual attainment
Love is more important than many other great spiritual feats that we may attain.
a) Love is greater than tongues.
1 Corinthians 13:1
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”
Although tongues are the sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and one of the Spiritual gifts, it is mere noise if the speaker is not motivated by love.
b) Love is greater than prophecy and knowledge.
1 Corinthians 13:2-3
“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge…. but have not love, I am nothing“
One may understand spiritual knowledge and mysteries but as far as God is concerned, unless these great feats are done in an atmosphere of love, the person is nothing. One may understand spiritual knowledge and mysteries but as far as God is concerned, unless these great feats are done in an atmosphere of love, the person is nothing
Love is greater than mountain moving Faith
1 Corinthians. 13:3
“…and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”
In God’s view, without an attitude of love, the possessor of mountain moving faith is nothing
d) Love is greater than sacrifice
1 Corinthians. 13:3
“If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.“
Without love, sacrifice profits nothing.
“Giving one’s body to be burned” … alludes to the standard Jewish tradition of martyrs…some of whom threw themselves into the fire to avoid being forcibly defiled” (Craig S. Keener, 1993).
The measure of our walk is not gifted-ness but love for other human beings.
Whatever you do to others, however good it may be, it is valueless if it is not founded on love for the recipient of your benevolence.
ii. Love has a unique and enduring character (vs. 4- 7)
Paul introduces the person of love to his readers, expressed in short phrases both from a negative and positive perspective.
a) Love has time for everyone
‘Love is patient’ (v.4)
Godly love has the beautiful quality of not writing off a person too quickly. It makes provision for people knowing that God is at work in the people’s lives. This is very key in relationships that are meant to last for ages, such as marriage.
b) Love acts with benevolence to others.
‘Love is Kind’ (v.4)
Little acts of kindness go a long way in expressing love for others.For example
assisting a blind person cross the road or allowing an expectant mother to be served ahead of us in a bank, even though we arrived earlier than them.
c) Love avoids jealousy and covetousness
‘Love is not envious’ (v4)
Christians are called not to covet or be jealous of what God has blessed others with. The tenth commandment tells us not to covet. Contentment is highly prized in the life of a Christian (1Timothy 6:6)
d) Love does not show off and is it not puffed up. ‘Love does not boast’ (v4) ‘Love is not proud’ (v4)
Love is not boastful. It humbles those who possess it. We should not even boast that we are very loving. People transformed by love do not inflate their egos. They have a proper assessment of who they are.
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”
e) Love brings about decency and honor in behavior.
‘Love is not rude’… (v5)
Love does not behave unseemly. Christian love should cause us to show respect to people, whether they are Christians or not.
In a special way we should honor those who are older than us and those in authority over us.
f) Love does not focus on self but on helping others.
‘Love is not self-seeking’ (v5)
The world teaches us to focus on ourselves, but if we follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are bound to be selfless and think of others better than ourselves.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”
g) Love keeps its cool and does not keep an occurrence book.
‘Love is not easily angered’ ‘Love keeps no record of wrongs’ (v5)
A loving person is willing to overlook an offense and give people the benefit of doubt. He takes delight in forgiving others.
Love should not delight in recording every wrong done, only to produce it at the most opportune time.
This is very important for married couples, family members, and business partners, who must deliberately decide to forget wrongs done by the other partners or associates.
h) Love does not rejoice when injustices, and any other sins are committed.
‘Love does not delight in evil’ (v6)
Since love comes from God, it desires that evil is not done to self.
But it also does not rejoice when evil triumphs in society.
A Christian is called to stand with righteousness and justice.
i) Love delights in transparency and accountability
‘Love rejoices with the truth’ (v6)
Love does not like a double life. It causes a person to live an open and transparent life. It also works to maintain truth in the family, the society and the nation.
j) Love does not betray nor mistrust others.
‘Love always protects’, ‘Love always trusts’ (v7)
In spite of their differences, if people have agape love, they will always protect each other, be it economically, socially, racially etc. Similarly, love is always willing to trust other people.
Love would rather be let down – which does not necessarily mean that it is blind or naïve; it simply chooses the higher way.
k) Love generates lasting anticipation and endurance.
‘Love always hopes’, ‘Love always perseveres’ (v7)
A loving person is always hoping that things will get better, differences in character notwithstanding. Does not give up on people!
Love never fails – 1 Cor 13:8
What does this mean in the context of:
3. What is the Identity of Love?
i. Love is permanent and does not fail
Unlike Spiritual gifts, love does not end. It is an eternal attribute.
1 Corinthians 13:8-9
“Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away, 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.”
a) Prophecies will cease – One can lose the gift of prophecy, even in this life.
b) Tongues will be stilled – As great as they are, they are not permanent.
c) Knowledge will pass away – no matter how great one’s knowledge is, it is
temporary. We know in part, and the knowledge will one day end.
ii. Love is a sign of maturity
Two metaphors clearly illuminate this:
a) No longer behaving as a child.
1 Corinthians. 13:11
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”
Children tend to be very selfish. Their world revolves around themselves, and perhaps their families.
Mature people have the capacity to embrace people of different cultures, different educational levels, economic and social status.
Love lays a great demand on us. We must grow up. We must grow up in how we relate with others and express ourselves in the area of love.
Do not boast in whatever gift or blessing that you have nor be proud about it, but instead use it to serve others in love.
b) Imperfect image from a mirror.
‘Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known’ (1 Cor 13:12).
A mature person does not parade their superiority in spiritual gifts. After all, even in the use of gifts, one does not have perfect knowledge of God and spiritual things.
What we see is simply a mirror image; we shall be perfect in the knowledge of God only in heaven. One should therefore be humble in exercising gifts – with a loving service to others.
iii. Love is the greatest virtue.
Paul mentions three cardinal Christian virtues. These are hope, faith, and love. But love towers over the other two.
1 Corinthians. 13:13
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
All three of the Christian graces will endure, even though “faith will become sight and hope will be fulfilled.” But the greatest of these graces is love;
because when you love someone, you will trust him and will always be anticipating new joys. Faith, hope, and love go together, but it is love that energizes faith and hope.
iv. Love for others is an indicator of our genuine love for God.
As the common saying goes, ‘like begets like,’ Scripture is clear that when we become Christians, God dwells in us and we are therefore expected to act like Him.
1 John 4:10-12
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
We need to keep in mind that humans are made in God’s image. Owing to the fact that God is love, it is necessary to note that we are more like Him when we express love to His people. Love must be expressed in tangible ways be it within our families, in the fellowship, or in the wider community.
1 John 4:7-11
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
Q and A