“Loved Beyond Measure”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

24TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

NOVEMBER 4, 2018

Title: “Loved Beyond Measure”

 

Text: 1 Corinthians 13:13

“But now abideth faith, hope, and love, these three: and the greatest is love.

 

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.

 

A story is told in “Chicken Soup for the Soul about a very unusual military funeral in California in December of 2013. Sgt. First Class Joseph Gantt, who fought in both World War II and the Korean War, was laid to rest. He had been captured in Korea in 1950 and died the following year. But his body was not returned for many years, and his death was never confirmed by the North Koreans.

His wife, Clara, waited for decades for her husband to come back. She regularly went to meetings with government officials seeking any information about what had happened. Clara even bought a house and had it professionally landscaped so all Joseph would have to do when he came home was go fishing. She was ninety-four years old when his remains were finally brought home for a military funeral with full honors. It wasn’t the homecoming she dreamed of, but she finally knew his fate. Clara told a reporter who interviewed her, “He told me if anything happened to him, he wanted me to remarry. And I told him ‘No, no.’ Here I am, still his wife, and I’m going to remain his wife until the day the Lord calls me to glory”

True love, godly love is not temporary or transient. Love is a commitment that is meant to last. Love is not based on everything going right or always being happy. Love is not an emotional feeling but rather a choice of the will. Casual commitments do not produce a foundation for deep and meaningful relationships. Instead we should love others as God loves us—with an unfailing love that never ends.

This is what our text is about today.  Paul is addressing the church at Corinth. In this great “Hymn of love,” Paul is treating love as a grace and not a spiritual gift.  Paul is treating love here not as love toward God, which is the highest form of love; not toward those who give us gratification, which may be merely selfish and sensual emotion, but the attitude of the heart and mind toward all mankind which we should cherish and cultivate.  If we will consider love as a virtue in Paul’s writing in chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians, then we will agree that love is a necessity and love is permanent. Love is a necessity and love is permanent because God loved us beyond measure.

In verses 1 through 3, we will see that love is a necessity.  To the church at Corinth, speaking in tongue was the most prized and most spectacular gift. There were much danger of such meaningless utterances because of the prevalent spirit of faction and pride.  In our day and age, preachers, defender of the faith and many others who are blessed with eloquence, do so without sympathy and kindness nor love. Paul reminds them that one can have the ability to make eloquent speeches, or prophesy, but without love one might be utterly deficient in Christian character. We can say this in this day and age: We may possess knowledge of divine truth and have great ability in the exposition of scripture, if we do not have love, we are nothing.  We may show the most confident faith in God, yet, if we lack love, we are nothing.

Paul is clear on love as a necessity if life in any sphere is to be of value or profit or meaning.  Prophecy and faith, charity and sacrifice are all useless unless the person’s actual motive is love.  Without love Christian profession is a pretense. Christian service is fruitless. Without love all relations of life are imperfect, all activities heartless and futile and vain. In the deepest sense, not to love is not to live. In Luke 10:25-37, we find the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Jesus Christ when He was tested by an expert of the law as to how a person can obtain eternal life, Jesus referred him to the Scripture for an answer. The answer found instructed the expert to love God and love his fellow human. Jesus Christ then told him in Luke 10:28, “Do this and you will live.”  How do you know how to love God and humankind? What shows in our character that we have love?

Many have tried to define love.  Love may be difficult to define; it is not difficult to discern.  In our Scripture under consideration, Paul is not attempting to define, analyze or describe love.  Paul is showing concern. The state of the Corinthian church was one disturbed and divided by the way in which its spiritual gifts were being exercised and regarded and employed. The church today is no different from the church at Corinth. There are issues that divide us. From doctrine to polity, we all have our disagreements. Polarizing politics have crept into the church and sowed seeds of division and hate. Our own personal feelings towards others have been a hindrance to the flow of love.  What are our responsibilities in face of dwindling love. We should do what Paul does here. What Paul does here is picture love in action. Paul tells us what love does and feels. Love is being patient. Love is being kind. The KJV renders verse 4 as, “Charity suffereth long, and is kind.” These two phrases describes the essential operation of love. Love makes one patient in enduring evil, active in doing good. It does not give place to bitterness and wrath. Love harbors no resentment. Love does not return evil for evil.  It forgives, not only seventy times but seventy times seven. Love is not storing up memories of wrong, of indifference, of contempt, of grievances, of wounds, or making a record of the injuries we received from others. This is not the way of the love which is in Christ. These two phrases helps us understand that God loved us beyond measure so He is always patient and kind toward us.

In his book, Moments for Mothers, Robert Strand wrote about the conflicts of a family in Glasgow, Scotland. After years of rebellion, a daughter finally rejected her parents, their values, and their faith. She set out on her own to enjoy a life without restraints, but soon became enslaved to her liberated choices.

Years of misery followed as she lived on the streets, sold herself for pennies, and depended on rescue missions for survival. Because of her self-imposed detachment from family, she didn’t know her father died, or that her mother never quit looking for her. One day she saw a picture that her mom had posted in each of the city’s homeless shelters. Scrawled across the photo of her mother were the words, “I love you still… come home!”  In wonder and disbelief she set out for her home in hopes that she was indeed still loved. By the time she arrived it was the middle of the night. Her heart raced as she stood on the porch and prepared to knock, but her countenance suddenly changed when she tapped on the door and it crept open. She ran to her mother’s bedroom in fear that someone had broken in and harmed her. She desperately reached for her mom and the woman awoke quickly to embrace her wayward daughter. When the young woman explained her fears about the open door, her mother replied, “No dear. From the day you left, that door has never been locked.”  God loved us beyond measure, so He never closes the door on us.

From this story, we see that love creates charity toward all the faults and failures of one’s fellowmen.  Love is a virtue in us that caution us not to rejoice in the unrighteousness of others. In other words, we are never happy when others go wrong.  A person who does not have love is one who will find secret satisfaction in discovering the moral weakness or hidden wickedness of another. If we have love, we will not be eager to spread an evil report about another person. Love is powerful and will not allow us to be happy in the wrong of others.  This is because love believes all things that are good. Love cherishes faith even in persons who are under suspicion. Love enables us to bestow trust on our fellow humans and to take them at their highest and their best.

But what will be the case when dark days come when we are compelled to cease trusting? What will love do then?  Even in such crisis love does not despair. Even under the burden of of delay, it holds fast, hopes on, bravely perseveres, and courageously endures.  Love hopes in all things. In a illustration of love someone wrote, “If I work at a soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity; but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”

The story is told of the unwavering love of Gladys Kidd. On May 2, 1962, she placed a dramatic advertisement in the San Francisco Examiner, “I don’t want my husband to die in the gas chamber for a crime he did not commit. I will therefore offer my services for 10 years as a cook, maid, or housekeeper to any leading attorney who will defend him and bring about his vindication.”

Vincent Hallinan, one of San Francisco’s best lawyers saw the advertisement, felt pity, and contacted the woman. He took on the case and ended up getting the innocent man released from all charges. Afterward, the attorney refused the lady’s offer of ten years of service, noting that he was satisfied to have saved an innocent man from death.

Love does not seek a reward.  Love is a grace. It is a grace difficult to imitate, counterfeit, or conceal.  Church let us understand that more than the exercise of any gift, the operation of love would unite and edify the church of Christ.  Under the complete control of love, the humblest life becomes a radiant source of strength, of help, of harmony. With the victorious power of love, Jesus Christ will bring to us our destined age of glory. As Christians, we will know a stronger kind of love, a love that gives the ultimate sacrifice. God bless you.