The Greatest of All Virtues (Love), Sermon 12/30/2018

I Samuel 2:18-20;  Colo. 3:12-17

Was Christmas a holiday or a holy day for you?  If it were a holy day, Christ was again born in you. What difference will he make in our lives? It is obvious that many go through Christmas without any renewal in Christ. When this happens, it is only a holiday, a family festivity. Christmas is intended for Christ to become a reality in our lives. Because we kept Christmas, Christ is born in us and in the years to come, he should be formed in us.

As God’s children, Christians are to possess the qualities of Christ. If Christ is born or re-born in our hearts at Christmas, on this first Sunday after Christmas it is appropriate to see what it means to have Christ in us. With Christ in us, we are new creatures.  We take off the old clothes of our former vices and put on new clothes that match Christ: “compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience.”  Christ is the example to be followed in forbearance, lowliness, forgiveness, and, above all, love. These virtues result not from human effort but from having Christ in us.

The Scripture says, “Therefore, as God’s choice, holy and loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Be tolerant with each other and if someone has a complaint against anyone, forgive each other.  As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other.  And over all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.  The peace of Christ must control your hearts – a peace into which you were called in one body.  And be thankful people” (Colo. 3:12-17).

Christians should live in perfect harmony. This does not mean there cannot be differences in opinion, but loving Christians will work together despite their differences. Such love is not a feeling, but a decision to meet other’s needs.  It leads to peace between individuals and among the members of the body of believers.

I Corinthians 13, the “Love Chapter” the words here are beautiful enough to stand alone: if I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have…powers—to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing…Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude; it is not irritable or resentful; …the greatest of all is love”

These are powerful, moving words; timeless universal words.  However, these incredible words eloquent as they are become even more powerful when we understand the context in which the apostle Paul wrote them.  Paul wrote them to the Corinthian church when the church was in a big mess.

Paul had founded the church and stayed there with them for a time.  As long as Paul was with them, all went well.  But then Paul left, and problems erupted.  Word came to Paul that the church was literally being torn apart by all kinds of problems, selfishness, jealousy, faction, cliques, immorality, political infighting and lawsuits among the members. Hatred, hostility and bitterness were running rampant and tearing the church apart. So, apostle Paul sat down and wrote them a series of letters, trying to straighten them out.  Of course, the crown jewel of that writing is found in 1 Corinthians 13. Paul spent twelve chapters exposing their sins, showing how ridiculous and unchristian they had been acting and pointing out that what they were doing was not working. And then he says, “now let me show you a better way” and bursts forth with the “Love Chapter”.

Apostle Paul tells them that irritability won’t work; that jealousy and bitterness won’t work; that arrogance, resentment, and choosing up sides won’t work. He says to them: It doesn’t matter how beautifully you can speak, it doesn’t matter how smart you are, it doesn’t even matter if you can do impressive, mind-boggling things; if you are not loving, none of it is worth anything.

He says to them; if you want to stay healthy as a Christian, if you want to be God’s church, if you want to live in the spirit of Christ, then live the life of love.  Make a new start with your life. Try this better way; make love your aim. Put love first.

Paul’s message in this text is so appropriate and relevant to our world today because the situation in our world today is so much like the situation in the Corinthian church back there in the first century.

Dear friends!  As the followers of Jesus Christ, we are representing Christ at all times-wherever we go, whatever we say.

WHAT IMPRESSION DO PEOPLE HAVE OF CHRIST WHEN THEY SEE OR TALK WITH US?

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