1 Cor 13
We all know what love is, don’t we? Love is what makes us do strange things when a certain person walks in the room. Love is what makes us lose our appetite when we’re waiting for them to return a phone call. Love is what makes us special in another person’s eyes. Love is the reason two people like Maggie and Tom decide to commit the rest of their lives to one another.
But let’s face it, love is far more than the emotional, sentimental feelings that we get on a day like this. If that were all it was they’d be in trouble, because those emotions will fade. The excitement will wear off. The excitement of a wedding is like the noisy gong and clanging cymbals mentioned in our Bible reading today. It lasts for a while but then it fades away.
No, what’s needed if Maggie and Tom are to keep their wedding vows for the next 60 or 70 years is true love: love that is active, love that’s real the way this passage describes it. Do you see how realistic this passage is when it talks about love. Do you notice it doesn’t once mention chocolates or flowers or perfume or fancy restaurants? What does it mention?
It says love is patient. Love is kind. Patience is what’s needed when two people live together and open themselves up to each other with all their imperfections. Kindness is needed when we see the other person struggling or weary or hurt.
Love is not envious or boastful. One of the greatest dangers for a marriage is when someone looks at their partner’s success and envies them. Even if we don’t say it out loud, if we begin to think in our hearts that we deserve the success that they’re getting, then we’ll be in danger. But love isn’t like that. It rejoices in the success of our loved ones. It encourages them to do the best they can, to develop to their full potential.
Nor is it arrogant or rude. Love doesn’t push in, doesn’t force it’s will on the other. It doesn’t insist on its own way. And when things don’t go its way it doesn’t respond by being irritable or resentful.
No love is just the opposite. It doesn’t rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
True love is built on truth: on the truthfulness of your words and your actions; on the truth in the way you respond to one another. Truth isn’t always valued in our world is it? Sometimes we think that it’s better to avoid the truth because it might embarrass us, or the other person. But there are times when avoiding the truth will cause more damage than speaking it. There are times when the truth, spoken in love, will help our relationships grow.
Finally let me say that this love I’m talking about won’t happen by accident. It will only happen if you build on what you have already. But even that won’t be enough. You actually need some help to grow this kind of love.
The book of Ecclesiastes talks about partnerships like this: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. 11Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone? 12And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one.” And then it adds: “A threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Eccl 4:9-12 NRSV) What is this threefold cord that can build up your love for one another so that nothing can break it? Let me suggest that the third cord is God himself, who enters into your marriage and binds you together with a love that cannot be broken.
This is one of the great things about Tom & Maggie’s relationship. They’re both deeply committed to following Jesus Christ as the Lord of their marriage. So I have great hope for them.
John in his first letter says this about love: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. ... 19We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:7-19 NRSV) The love that I’ve been talking about today is a love that comes first and foremost from God himself. You will love one another best if you do it because you’ve first experienced the love of God who loved you even before you knew who he was; who loved you despite what you were like; who loved you enough to make you the people you are today.
And I pray that your love for God will grow as your love for one another grows and that you will pass that love on to your children when they come so they in turn might learn to love the way God loves.