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How great is God's love

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Pastor David Ernst

Epiphany Lutheran Mission of La Caramuca  
Barinas, Venezuela

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Sun, Feb 19, 2012 

Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Our text for today is one of the best-known passages of the Bible. Everyone likes this chapter of the first letter of Paul to the church in Corinth. Why? It speaks of love, and who is not in favor of love?

However, this is a case where it is important to understand what the passage says in the original language. There are several types of love. There are at least four, because the the Greek of the New Testamen had four different words that can be translated into Spanish (English, too) as love.

First, the Greeks had a word, στοργή, for love of favorite or familiar things. For example, I love chocolate. Or, I love my own bed in my own home.

Second, the word, φιλία meant trust and loyalty among best friends.

Third, ἔρως meant romantic love, that is, love between a man and a woman.

But look, the fourth word that can be translated as love, ἀγάπη, is the one used in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13, and throughout the New Testament. When our Lord said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind" (Matthew 22:37) and "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39), He used this word, ἀγάπη. In 1 John 4:8, when St. John wrote "God is love," literally he said "God is ἀγάπη."

What does this mean? The fourth word, ἀγάπη means the love that seeks no reward, only the welfare of others.

The other types of love are based on our feelings, needs and desires. The first στοργή, is characterized by feelings of comfort or safety.

The base of the second, φιλία is mutual respect and common interests. He's my best friend that I understand or I can always trust him.

There is the third type of love, ἔρως, when a man wants a woman and a woman wants a man. But get it right, you young people, when there is no mutual desire, if a man wants a woman, but she does not want to commit to him, or a woman wants a man and he does not want to commit to her, there is no kind of love.

Perhaps we have a sense of God's love in the love of parents for their children. Children depend entirely on their parents, but parents can live without their children. But parents sacrifice everything for their children. However, many times the love of parents for their children has something egoistic in that parents want someone to care for them in their old age, when they are weak and sick.

God needs nothing from us and will never be weak or sick. In a sense, love of God is like the love between friends, but includes enemies and rebels too. God's love is not based on fleeting feelings, but on the unbroken will of God.

In this sense St. John says, "God is love", which means the love that seeks no reward, only the welfare of others, is part of the divine nature. This the the kind of love from someone whose cup overflows and wants to share his fortune with everyone.

So, too, this kind of love is the sum of the law, or God's will for us. When we love God, we trust Him for all our needs and since God provides us with everything, it's easy to share God's blessings with others, without expectation of reward.

We can experience God's love in His very best gift, our Lord Jesus Christ. When we were still enemies and rebels against God, Jesus suffered, died and overcame death and the devil's power for us. We continue to receive the gifts of God, the Holy Spirit in baptism and the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament.

Therefore, we can show God's love to our neighbors, without bias, because our cups overflow. This is the kind of love that is patient, is kind, not envious, not boastful, not arrogant, does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, not easily provoked, thinks no evil, does not rejoice in injustice, but rejoices in the truth, bears all things, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

How great is the love of God! It does not negate other kinds of love, but transforms them. Let this love be with you forever. Amen.

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