7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:7-21)
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
We continue this morning with a focus on biblical love. How are we doing with what we have covered so far in this series? There are all sorts of ways we could answer that questions. We could say, “Yes, God is directing my heart, moving me significantly in this matter of love. I have been reading, praying, focusing on what true love is toward God and others and this is becoming the direction of my heart. I’m understanding that without love my deeds are useless. Without love my works fall short, without love even the good things that I do may turn out to be harmful to the gospel, to the name of Christ. And so, love is what I want to do, how I want to serve, in love.” My hope is that we will be more and more this way together as a church body.
Down in verse 13 of 1 Corinthians 13 Paul re-emphasized the importance of love. He makes a statement about three of the most important qualities that Christians are to have, three things that should characterize our lives. He says, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” He is saying that in the end God wants us to live with three things as a part of our lives most of all, and they are faith, hope, and love. But he doesn’t just leave it at that, he goes on to rank them for us. And he ranks love as the most important. He’s not discounting faith and hope at all, they are highly important. There is even some intertwining of each of these with the others as they are often linked together in the New Testament.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. (Galatians 5:6)
We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3)
So Paul is not saying that any of these three are unimportant, only that one is greater. Love is the greatest. Which of these do you most often pray for? Which do you most often desire first? Is it more often, “God give me faith to endure, faith to trust you, faith to believe you are at work in this, faith to move forward.” Or is it more often, “God please help me to love while I endure this trial, help me to love as you work around me, help me to love others while I’m hurting”? Do we most often pray, “God please help me to have assurance, a settled assurance that I belong to you, to hope in my future rest, to hope in your work, to hope in what is eternal and not to hope in the temporal or in what will pass”? Or is it, “God help me to love while I am here, to love the lost who are perishing, to love my neighbor until you call me home”? When it comes to these three, both faith and hope can often become internal, even self-centered, while love is always looking for an object outside of self.
When it come to making an impact for Christ we may have faith and we may have hope, but if we don’t have love our works, our ministry will be ineffective! I think this is one reason why Paul digs down so deeply for a whole chapter on what love really is. Because we don’t want to misunderstand or get something that is so important wrong.
One thing that runs through all of the aspects of love that Paul discusses is that we must be other-focused. That we must be thinking of others as more important than ourselves, not matter what is going on with us at any given time. The thing about love is that we shouldn’t turn it on and off. There is no respite. No vacation, there is no time to just say, “My life is going to be about me for a while now.”
Something else that happens when we really want to love biblically this way and be other-focused is that we must know the people around us. That can be tough. If we are going to serve people around us in love, how will we do that if we don’t get to know them? Who are you called, who am I called to serve? Who has God placed close to me or within my sphere of influence? How well do we know them? What are their needs? This can be difficult at times. Because you know what? I know my needs and desires pretty well. So if you are just like me, then I know how to serve you in love without much effort. You already know the problem with that right? Right! There is no one just like me! And there is no one just like you. So that gives us some work to do. But we are called to serve others who are not like us and to do it in a way that is other-focused.
Do you see what I’m saying? If there is an obvious need around us and my whole focus is, “Well, I would do it this way or that way,” and all I am suggesting is based on my own experiences, then my contribution is pretty limited.
We must know the ones we are to serve and love. We must go deep with people that we are going to love. And then to love in ways that are truly loving to them. Love with patience those who are not like us, who don’t think like we do, who don’t have the backgrounds that we have, those whose lives may be radically different than ours. But how do we know how to do that if we don’t spend time learning them?
We must love with kindness in all the same ways. What does kindness look like to those around you? It may look differently than kindness toward me, right? Differing needs, different circumstances.
I’m talking about building involvement with others so that we can love them effectively for the glory of God, for the name of Christ, for the spreading of the gospel message!Getting our hands dirty, giving our time, emptying our wallets like the good Samaritan who went out of his way to love a stranger with all that God had given him. He knelt by the bloodied man, assessed his needs, examined him to see what he should do. Do we even know what the needs around us are? We can start there, and then we can begin to love.
We must enter into other peoples’ worlds. The best example that we see of this is the incarnation of Jesus Christ. God the Son entered into our world in a most radical, humble, kind way when He chose to be born as a baby in our world. He walked with man. Ministered, loved, was abused, beaten, and tortured. He chose this. Beyond, and because of His incarnation, He indwells us by His Spirit. He goes with us, He is in our world ministering to us and through us. This is love.
We may say, “This entering into other peoples’ worlds, this can be messy, hard, time consuming, and hurtful, and I don’t really understand people, it might change the structure and direction of my life, it may mess with my goals, my dreams, my, my, my…” And that is so true! What did it cost Christ? We will never pay that high of a price for entering into someone else’s world as did our Savior. We can selflessly serve them, serve others in love, and in a way that is most helpful for them and points them more steadfastly toward Christ!
The incarnation of Christ and His indwelling us today as Christians is precisely why, the only reason why we can, you and I, we can enter other people’s realm of living and truly love them as we have been called to do. Because it is all Christ. Without Him we cannot do these things. It is Him in us, His Spirit, His work, His thing, not ours or our strength.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:11)
Love is patient, love is kind and for today, “love does not envy.”
We may say, “Where does envy or not being jealous fit in with this? And one answer is that this aspect of love perhaps forces us to think of others first more than any other aspect of love. This aspect of love pries our eyes and our focus off of ourselves with incredible force. For many it strikes at the very heart of our most grievous sin. In some cases it gets right down to the ugliness of what inflicts us most.
What does it mean? What does it mean, what does God mean when He says that love is not envious or jealous, depending on your translation? What is the real nature of envy? To envy is to be dissatisfied with the fact or thought that someone is ahead of us in honor, position, respect, success, possessions or effectiveness.
It is saying: “I don’t like it, or I am not happy that you have more _____ than I do. That you have a better job, more money, respect, that you are more successful, that you are more effective in what you do. I want that, but you have it instead, and so I am dissatisfied, or mad.” That is being envious. Statements like:
- “She is beautiful and I’m not.”
“He has a more powerful air soft gun than I do.”
“His job doesn’t require as many hours as mine and he makes more money.”
“She has health insurance and I can’t afford a doctor.”
“His wife seems to really love him and I’m not so sure about my wife and how she feels about me.”
“Their kids are respectful, ours aren’t.”
“He is getting to retire early, I’ll never be able to retire.”
“He is so healthy and I’m not.”
“She is smart and I can’t keep up.”
“Everyone respects him, no one respects me.”
“They have a really nice house.”
“All of their children are Christians.”
“They have an intact family, they have parents who love them and I have none of that.”
“He gets to go to college.”
“She was accepted to the school that I wanted to go to.”
“He is a great athlete, what happened to me?”
You see all of these statements are self-focused, discontentment with what God is doing in and around us. Comparisons are being made and we feel that we have been cheated in some way. The Bible is full of examples of envy.
- Satan was envious of God in Genesis 3
Cain was jealous of Abel
Joseph’s brothers were envious of him
The Pharisees were jealous of Christ
The prodigal son’s older brother was intensely jealous
Jonathan Edwards wrote, “It is common that men cannot bear a rival.”
We want to be on top, to be eminent in whatever is important to us. Why do we do this, why do we want to have what others have and what God has withheld from us? It is really a worship disorder. We become envious because of things that we tend to worship. I’m talking about idolatry here. God has chosen to give us something we don’t appreciate or He has withheld something that we want and so we are dissatisfied or mad. Our anger or dissatisfaction is with God. We are effectively shaking our fist at God and saying, “I know better than you. I know what is best.” We fail to see our God as the one who is giving to us, abundantly giving to us what we need and what is good for us. We fail to see His wisdom displayed in what He gives and in what He withholds, we fail to see His kindness and love in our lives. We become ungrateful and discontent toward God. This really reveals, just opens wide what is in our heart. We begin to disregard passages like…
giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:20-21)
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Being envious toward others is ultimately an issue of how we view God, in how we view what He gives and what He withholds. And we have to see both as good. Often I will ask people who struggle with being grateful to God to make lists of things for which they are thankful. This list generally includes things that God has done for them or things God has given them. This is helpful to remind us of God’s goodness and to help us to focus on those good things. But what we can also do is include in our lists things that we really desire that God has withheld and acknowledge God’s goodness in that too.
Do you really want a new job and God hasn’t delivered it? Thank God that for now He hasn’t, because that is not what is best for you. What is it that you really want that God is not giving you right now? Thank God that in His wisdom He is holding that back, that for your good He has not delivered, that in the big picture of which God sees all things He is working for your good because He loves you.
So, ultimately our issue with envy is with God, but secondly it affects our relationships with other people and whether or not we love them.
There is a story of a famous composer named Gustav Mahler who married a well accomplished and skilled composer. After they married, Gustav told his new bride that her role should be exclusively to tend to the needs of their family. He said to her, “From now on the only music that will be played in our home will be my music.” This man was envious of his own wife to such a degree that he shut her down completely so as to elevate his own skills in the home.
Envy and jealousy is ugly. But I want you to see that it is not just an internal thing. If we are envious or jealous of someone else, it will definitely affect our disposition toward them. Being envious can destroy relationships.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. (Romans 12:15-16)
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)
Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy? (Proverbs 27:4)
Has someone gotten something that you really, really desired to have? Can you rejoice with them? Can you thank God that they got it and you didn’t? Can we be happy for them even more happy that they received and we didn’t?
If we are settled in our belief that God is good and does what is good for us, then we can rejoice with those who excel over us or who have more than we have. If we believe that God is good to us in all that He does then we are free to love others without restraint, without being envious, without jealousy. “I want to thank God that you have that, that you have been blessed by God in such a way.” We can do that, we can live that way and rejoice.
Do we, can we thank God for others who are not suffering the way we are? Can we make a decision that will cause us more suffering or hardship so that others won’t have to suffer hardship? What would it be like to love to such a degree that we can rejoice with other people’s abundance even if we have nothing? If we think rightly about the goodness of God, we can. Only with Christ in us, only as He controls us, only as we desire to yield in every way to Him can we love in this way. Our hope is not in our efforts, our hope rests in the fact that Christ is in us and working in us for His glory. Working in us to root out idols that tempt us to jealousy. Let’s pray that He will continue that work in us so that our love will shine brighter than we think possible and the Gospel will overshadow our sinful flesh.
Love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy (1 Corinthians 13:4)