Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
June 22, 2014
Love always wins
June is the popular month for weddings. I have presided over a thousand weddings. Sometimes the couple has asked me to read verses from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13.
It is one of the most beautiful chapters in the Bible. But I must confess that this scripture humbles me. Every time I read this chapter I wilt under its judgment of my life. But whenever I confess that inadequacy to the Inner Voice, he always whispers to me: “Relax, Walter; it’s not about you, it’s about me and the agape love I can pour into you when you trust and obey me.” In that moment I enjoy again the sweet relief that comes only on the wings of amazing grace.
To understand the kind of love Paul describes in this chapter we need the help of several Greek words used for love in the first century. The New Testament was written in the language of the common people, Koine Greek. This language used four words to describe different kinds of love.
Eros was the word used for sexual love. We get our word “erotic” from this word. Storge was used to explain family affection. Philia is the word for the affection Christian friends have for one another. We might call it brotherly love.
The fourth word is agape, the noblest form of love, the kind of love God has for his children. Agape love wants the best for others; it’s the kind of love Jesus demonstrated. He even loved his enemies and prayed for them as they were crucifying him. Agape love was what kept Jesus from giving up on his disciples even when they denied knowing him.
Anyone who has tried it knows how difficult it is to practice agape love in daily living. In chapter 13 Paul explains what agape love looks like. It is kind and patient. It does not envy or boast. It is not rude or self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. That kind of challenge leaves most of us gasping for breath! But this is how God wants us to live, and he will not let us off the hook with the excuse that “I’m only human.”
So how do we deal with this dilemma? The answer for me is this: we have to embrace the truth that agape love is a gift of God. We can only receive it; we cannot manufacture it. We cannot make it happen by trying harder. We must admit that, without God’s help, we cannot possibly love in the way God expects us to love.
None of the spiritual gifts is anything apart from love. All of life must be grounded in love or we will spend our days missing the mark. We should examine carefully what Paul says in chapter 13. If I can speak in the prayer language of an angel but not have love, then I am nothing but noise! Great knowledge and great faith do not impress God if love is missing. Paul leaves no room for doubt about what he means: If I “do not have love, I am nothing”!
When I read this chapter and insert my name, Walter, in the place of the word “love,” it drives me to my knees. This is how God expects me to live but I fail so often. My response is usually, “Lord, forgive me. Such love is impossible for me.”
But then I hear the Inner Voice saying, “Yes, it is impossible for you to love like this in your own strength. But when you are yielded to me, and willing to receive my love into your heart, then all things are possible!”
In such moments I remember the eternal nature of love. The things I have accumulated will perish. None of my earthly treasures will escape decay and destruction. But love will last forever! It “will never end” because God is love.
Love will abide when everything else is gone! Nothing is greater than love. The best news, in the midst of the perplexities of life, is that love always wins! And if I am willing God will help me receive and share his agape love with others. + + +