Love (4)

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.


            Parents who have a teenage child live a daily and constant battle with their child.  “Please clean your room.”  “Please tuck in your shirt.”  Please this or please that.  The parents ask  and tell the child day and night to correct the child’s behavior, but nothing seems to stay in the child’s head. 

            But one day, it all changes without telling him a single word.  He cleans his room.  He keeps groomed.  He dresses neatly.  His eyes sparkle and his behavior also changes for the better.  What could have happened?  Why does this change happen to the child?  It is because he begins to fall in love. Love changes his life.

            As you can see, if a man’s simple love, like Eros, could bring such a big change in a person, could you imagine how much change it would bring to a Christian who experiences the deep love of God, Agape, and is steadily supplied it through the Holy Spirit? 


            Love is patient.  Love is kind.  Love is not jealous.

Two weeks ago, we studied three additional characteristics of love.  In review, they are: Love is not boastful.  Love is not proud.  Love is not rude.

Today, we are going to concentrate on the seventh characteristic only.


            Love does not demand its own way.

사랑은 자기의 유익을 구하지 않습니다


            The Greek verse “οκ σχημονε ο ζητε τ αυτς ο” means that love does not seek after its own interest.  The Bible does not condemn the act of having one's own way, in and of itself.  Or in another words, the Bible does not condemn self-interest in itself.  However, the Bible says that love is something which goes beyond this self-interest in order to give effort on behalf of another's joy.

           When we think on behalf of another person, when our self interest is replaced by an interest in another’s well-being, that is when we can overcome the attitude of ownership which says "mine or yours".  Of course, the concept of ownership in and of itself is not a sin.  It is a fact of life.  However, the attitude of ownership must be refined and transferred into an attitude of stewardship.  Why is this so?  Because all that we have and own is, in reality, God's.


            Saint Francis of Assisi was traveling on horseback one day with his students when they came upon a naked beggar on the road.  Upon seeing the naked beggar, St. Francis got off of his horse, gave all of his clothes, including his underwear, to the beggar and returned home naked.

            The students said to St. Francis, "Teacher, we can understand that you gave him your clothes, but it seems too much to have given even your underwear."  To this, St. Francis is said to have replied, "The clothes and underwear I was wearing was something God had left with me temporarily so that I may pass them on without hesitation to one who is poorer.  Those clothes were never mine to begin with."

            St. Francis was saying that all that he has, all that he owned, was in fact not his.  Who indeed has ownership over all that he has?    Having faith means acknowledging God's ownership.              Thus a true Christian does not think that sharing what he has with others is sharing his possessions. Rather, he thinks of it as sharing the Lord God’s belongings.  He thinks that he is giving the Lord God’s belongings to HIS people.  The Bible tells us that givers are blessed.  More specifically, Jesus tells us, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)


             The famed 20th century Japanese author Ayako Miura, who wrote the novel "Freezing Point", was a devoted Christian.  Because it was financially difficult to live on just her husband's income, Miura decided to open a small store.
            But she did not just open a store to earn a living. She did it so she could quietly pass the love of Christ to her customers.  And as a result, she earned credibility and approval from her customers and the store prospered, eventually expanding to even accommodate goods by truck.  However one day, upon returning from his work, her husband asked Miura, "Honey, it is great that our store is doing so well, but if all the customers come to our store, then what if the neighboring stores go out of business?"  Miura was greatly struck by her husband's words and she considered that God was giving her a message through her husband.

             Thereafter, Miura, began to reduce the stock of goods in her store.  She removed certain items completely from her inventory.  When the customer asked for such items, she sent him to the neighboring store to purchase it.  Is this a normal thing to do?

            Because of this decision, Miura began to gain a joy unbeknownst to others as well as more time away from work.  So she began to write on the side in her spare time, and as a result, "Freezing Point" was her first and most famous novel.  Let's see here.  If she had only thought of her and her store's own interest initially, would she have been able to achieve such a thing?


            Let's see in the Bible.  The people of the Corinthian church, to whom Paul wrote this letter, sought God's spiritual gifts while unfortunately using them for their own benefits.  Why does God give us spiritual gifts?  It is so that they may be used to serve others and build up the church.  However, rather than using their gifts for such a purpose, the Corinthian church seeks their own interests as they are slaves to self-idolatry.

            This is the reason that Paul says not to misuse or abuse the spiritual gift of speaking in tongue.  He wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:4, "One who speaks in tongue edifies himself."  Why did Paul say this?  It is because it is difficult to edify the entire church or to edify others, when speaking in tongue.  To this Corinthian church, which is filled with self-interest, Paul stresses the remedy of love.

            God has loved us.  God has loved us so much to give us His one and only Son.  True love is for giving.  It is not because others are lacking and it is not dependent on whether we have something to give.  The issue is love.  It is not an issue of whether or not we have enough.  The real issue is whether or not we have love.  The reality is that when we love, we will give.  When we love, even if we are lacking, we will seek and find it in order to give.


            Sociologists who study immigrants, especially Asian immigrants, say that women adapt to immigrant life much better than men do.  One of the reasons is that women have already experienced a taste of immigrant life prior to immigrating.  What does that mean?  Women have already experienced a bit of immigration when they became married and went to live with their husband's family.

            After being raised by her family for over 20 years, women will find a man they love and decide to marry and go live with him.  They go to live with their husband's family, with people they have met for the very first time.  Even though they have just met them, according to Korean custom, women call her parents-in-law, 'father' and 'mother'.  It's not even like they've practiced saying it before... Women adapt to married life well.       


            In the old days in Korea, women married very young.  They married at ages 12, and at most, 15; these are ages when they were too young to really even know what marriage was.  A young bride who was to ride a carriage to her husband's home for the very first time was crying aloud and refusing to go.  When her family tried to put her in the carriage, she refused to go in and hung onto a post.          Because she was crying so much, the bride's mother said to her daughter out of sympathy, "If you don't want to go that much, don't get married."  Only when she heard that, did the little bride stop her tears and decide to get onto the carriage.  That bride was said to have been my grandmother.


            But you know what happens when ladies get married and then return to visit their own parents' house?  They go around looking for things to take back home with them.  Why is that?  Even though they are physically back with their own family, their heart is now with the family of her husband, the man she loves.  When she sees a tasty treat, she thinks, "My husband likes this dish...."  The reality is that this is actually the sign of a healthy marriage.

            Oppositely, what if a wife's mother told her daughter, "Why don't you go take this and give it your husband?" her daughter might reply, "He doesn't really need it."  This is obviously not a good situation.  Even if she takes everything from her own family, a wife needs to go and live well with her husband.  When we love, we want to give so much that we will find a way to give.  Love does not seek its own interests and it does not demand its own way.

            Brethren, then how can we go about living a life which does not demand our own way?  What is the secret to overcoming self-interest?  How can we create a new life which seeks the interest and joy of others, rather than our own?

            We must have a new set of new priorities.  The meaning of believing in Christ and being 'born-again' is to have one's values changed, transformed.  It means that the order of things we consider most important and dear are changed.

            Brethren, what do you most treasure in your lives?  What do you consider most precious?  No matter the person, everyone lives and makes decisions based on what he or she considers most important, based on his or her set of values.  If we simplify, there are typically three types of priorities for most people.


            First, there is the priority of ownership.  This is the first level of priority, the most basic or fundamental priority we all have as humans.  When sociologists conducted a study by asking people in the streets, "What do you desire most in life?"  The most common answers were money, power, and fame, generally in that order.       The commonality of such ‘basic values’ is that they are all about 'having' or 'owning' something.  It is said that the three most commonly used verbs in the English language is "to have", "to get", and "to take".  All three words are associated with ownership.  When we say that we are going to study, for instance, we often say "I have to study."  We say "I got to go to school".  Even when we remove our clothes, we say "I take off my coat."  "Have", "Get", "Take"- all these words place value on continually trying to possess something.  Look at children.  Don't kids always want something?  To hold our values in ownership, this is a very childish priority.


            Second, what happens then when we have matured a bit?  The second level of priority is the priority "to become".  In another words, it is the value of 'becoming' something or somebody.  "What good is it to be rich if we do not become healthy...." or "What good is it to have a lot of power if we do not become respected..."               The reality is that when we become somebody, become this or that type of person, then in fact, material wealth, fame, and power naturally follow according to such status.  That is the reality of life.  So the priority of 'becoming' can be seen as a somewhat more evolved form of human priorities.


            Third, when we have matured even more as people, we then realize the value of sharing.  This is in a way the third level of priorities.  "To share" joy, blessings, and freedom- we realize that the sharing of these things in fact multiplies their value and strength.

            We no longer possess everything for our own well-being and pleasure.  We realize that healing and love is found in sharing with others.  When we love, we have the desire to share with them.  This is a much more mature trait.


            However, there is one more value for Christians which trumps these three priorities.  What is that?  It is the value of serving, to serve others.  Above all, we need to learn the value of serving from the Lord.

            The life of Jesus in itself was a life of service.  He taught us to serve and then lived out a life of serving others.  Christ tells us in Matthew 20:28, "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many. 인자가 것은 섬김을 받으려 함이 아니라 도리어 섬기려 하고 자기 목숨을 많은 사람의 대속물로 주려 함이니라 

            So then, we, who follow Christ, must consider this value of service as the most important in our lives.  It means that we serve God, the people of God, and this world.


            Now I will ask you a question.  The priorities of ownership, of "becoming", of sharing, of service- brethren, which level have you reached in your set of values? Look at this modern world.  The mindset of “I love you” has disappeared.  The only thing remaining in this world is the mindset of “I need you.”    The relationship has changed from a relationship of love to a relationship of needs.  Brethren, where have you placed your values?

            Look at the posture of Christ knelt to wash the feet of his disciples.  When we have hearts which desire to serve our neighbors, we will be able to overcome the inherent self-interest which is in all of us.  The meaning of life, which has been saved, is to restore a life of service.  Wives, live your life serving husbands.  Husbands,  serve your wives.  Let us live with neighbors serving neighbors.  Love does not demand its own way, it does not seek its own interest.

            There is a mysterious power in love.  This power of love can even overcome the self-interest which is in all of us.  It allows us to go beyond our self-centeredness to think upon those around us.  Our hearts are changed to think on behalf of others and their joy.  In this, we find love's amazing and mysterious power.

            What enables us to achieve such an amazing act?  It is the love of the Cross.  Christ died for us.  He gave His own life as payment for ours.  What greater love can there be than this?

            Can you place your faith on this love from the Cross?  Can you feel and be awaken to this love from the Cross?  Then, let us live lives of love.  Love your Lord God.  Love your neighbors. And as we do so, then we will be able to live potent lives that overcome our own self-interests and serve others.  "Love does not demand its own way. 사랑은 자기의 유익을 구하지 않습니다"




The Charge

            Even at this very moment, the world is seeking true love.  What is the sign the Lord God has given us as a token of HIS love?  It is the Cross.  The Lord has died for all of us.  Then we, who became Christians, must show true love to the world.  We must show the love of the Cross.

            Love does not demand its own ways.  Overcome your selfish hearts.  Consider others before yourselves and live a life of serving others.  Then to those who live a life of serving others, the promised great grace of the Lord God will be with you and your family abundantly.