This morning, we continue our message series helping us to better understand and live out unconditional love.
This series is entitled, “Love Is” and it is based on that familiar passage found in 1 Corinthians chapter 13.
We were created by God with the need for love that can only be expressed through relationships.
As there are different types of relationships, there are different types of love. There is, however, a type of love that we are to express toward anyone and everyone. In fact, the Bible teaches that if we learn how to express this type of love toward God and others, that we will entirely fulfill all that God’s law requires of us.
This distinct type of love is the love that God has for us. In the Greek language, it is the word agape. It is this type of unconditional love that we’ll be covering through this message series.
To be able to possess and express this unconditional love, we’re going to break it down into parts as Paul chose to do in his letter to the Corinthians. He taught all about spiritual gifts and said that it is not using these gifts that truly matters, but how we choose to use them, our motive, that matters to God. We can do all sorts of good things for God, but if we do not do them as an expression of God’s love, then they are pointless, useless, and meaningless.
1 Corinthians 13:1-7
1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 14 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects…
Other translations say that love bears all things, has the power of undergoing all things and puts up with all things.
The Greek word used here is the word stegō. This is a powerful word and covers quite a bit of how the love of God acts. Defined, it means to protect or preserve by covering, to keep off something which threatens, to conceal with silence or to keep secret the errors and faults of others.
This act of covering and protecting is what an umbrella or roof or helmet or police officer or military serviceperson does for us. It is an act where the protector suffers so that we don’t have to.
It’s what God did for Adam and Eve. It’s what the ark did for Noah and His family. It’s what the large fish and leafy plant did for Jonah. It is what Jesus did for you and I on the cross and it is what He actively offers us every day.
Love is protective.
God’s love for us causes Him to want to protect us and cover us. He wants to be our shelter and defender. He wants to cover even our errors and faults. When the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, did exactly what God told them not to do, how did He respond?
They hid from God, but God pursued Adam and Eve in the garden. After asking them what had happened, leading them to confess their sin, how did God respond? God first reminded them of the consequences of their sin. Life was about to get very difficult and challenging for them both. Then, God did an amazing act of love.
The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.
God sacrificed another one of His creations, the first physical death to take place, and then used its skin to cover up their shame. No longer did they need to run and hide from God because of their nakedness. They could now stand before Him unashamed.
In the same way, we have no need to be ashamed because we also have had our sin covered.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes
Unashamed, we can honestly admit our sin and weaknesses because they have been covered by the blood of Jesus. They may be our weaknesses, but because we trust in Jesus as our covering, they are His strengths.
I’m reminded in sports when we have an area of physical weakness. We cover it with a brace or compression sleeve or cup so that it becomes strengthened and that weakness no longer affects our ability to play. It is covered and protected so that we don’t need to be thinking about it, but can focus our mind on the game.
In the same way, Jesus covers our areas of weakness so that we can live our lives to their full not having to be reminded of them over and over again.
Love is protective.
Now in order for that brace or compression sleeve or cup to be effective, what has to happen? We need to put them on! They aren’t doing you any good sitting in your gym back, right?
Someone once asked Billy Graham, “If Christianity is valid, why is there so much evil in the world?” To this the famous preacher replied, “With so much soap, why are there so many dirty people in the world? Christianity, like soap, must be personally applied if it is to make a difference in our lives.”
This leads us to the way in which we practically apply our faith. We do so by the unpopular, “S” word that we don’t care to hear much about: submission.
Submission is simply to get under the covering of. It isn’t the negative thing that we often think of in our culture. When we say submit, most people think of a wicked person forcing another person to do things that they would normally be unwilling to do. We think of it as surrendering and giving up our free will instead of exercising it.
In the Greek, to submit is the word hypotassō and it simply means to arrange under or to place under.
When a thunderstorm comes unexpectedly and I tell you to go get under the pavilion, is that a negative thing? Would you stand there opposing me and telling me to mind my own business and to leave you alone? Of course not, it’s for your own safety and protection!
In football, when the running back stays behind the full back as he runs the ball, is the coach upset with him? Of course not! The full back takes all of the hits and defends and protects the running back so that he can gain as many yards as possible.
Love is protective.
When we submit to Jesus, it isn’t a negative thing. We are exercising our own free will by choosing to arrange ourselves under His covering trusting that He will protect us and do what is best for us.
Jesus gives a strong warning against hypocrisy and calls out seven areas where the leaders of His people were being hypocritical, then He finishes by sharing His heart in this matter:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.
Love isn’t love unless it is a choice. Jesus does not force Himself on us. As much as He longs to protect and cover us, He will not and cannot force it. We have to be willing to submit ourselves under it.
Sharon Cress wrote an article for Ministry Magazine describing a time when this quote of Jesus became a painful reality for her. She writes about her memory of when her sister’s hen hatched a brood of fourteen chicks:
“Mother hen seemed to have a terrible time trying to get those fast-moving, hardheaded chicks to obey. She would cluck them to her, settle down on them to keep them warm, and then, one by one, we would see heads start peeping out from all directions. She would settle down again and fluff out some more, and in a moment, heads would all pop out again. Hard as she would try, those chicks were deter mined something was more interesting than staying warm and safe under her wings.
The chicks were only a few days old when the weather forecaster predicted a hard freeze. We threw extra hay in the barn, shut all the windows and doors, and watched as the horses snuggled together in their cozy stalls. The chickens all nested for the evening in their chicken house side. The hen and her brood settled in their soft nest. As we could have predicted, those curious little chicks would not stay under her. She went all through the routine fluff and rearranged several times, but heads continued popping out. We left for the night, wondering if the hen would ever get a wink of sleep because of these 14 rebellious chicks.
When we opened the farm doors the next morning, the mother hen’s usual patience gave way to panic. With agitation and frenzy, she cackled incessantly. Strewn around her were eight frozen dead chicks. The other six were huddled together deep under her feathers, never moving.
Paralyzed, I surveyed the scene. All I could see were dead chicks. Poor mother hen! She had tried so hard to keep those chicks safe, warm, and protected, but whatever it was that attracted their attention; flies on the wall, the flicker of the barn lights, or just plain curiosity as to what’s out there in the big world it was more of a temptation to them to pursue these things than staying safe and secure under her warm wings.”
Jesus said, “…how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.
What a painful picture of how we must often look to Jesus. We come under the shelter of His loving protection only to become quickly distracted by something else out there in the world and what it is offering us. He longs to protect us, but our curiosity and longing to satisfy our flesh keeps us running back and forth between his protection and the dangers that surround us. He offers an abundance of life, but death is just so appealing to us.
Love is protective.
Not only is it critical for a follower of Jesus to remain under His protective covering, but we should also be a protective covering for others.
Love always protects, bears all things, has the power of undergoing all things and puts up with all things. Love protects or preserves by covering, keeps off something which threatens, conceals with silence or keeps secret the errors and faults of others.
As Jesus has loved us, so we ought to love others. As we learned last week, we are truthful with others even when it hurts. This means that we talk to them about their sin, but we don’t gossip about it to others. We team up with our loved ones to protect them and to be their support to keep them under the covering of Jesus and away from that sin. Love confronts individuals directly about their sin, but conceals it to others.
Love is protective.