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SHOULD THERE BE ANY LIMIT TO LOVE?

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT

THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

AND

THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

14 FEBRUARY 1993

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Deuteronomy 21:15-17
1 Kings 11:1-4
Proverbs 24:17-18
Song of Solomon 7:10-13
                    8:6-7
Luke 6:35-36
Romans 5:10
1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Should there be any limit to love?

That's an important question for us to ask ourselves every day, but today it might have some special significance, for today is Valentine's Day.

If we look around at our society, and the way that we live, one could easily come to the conclusion that we should limit our love.

But what do you think?

Should there be any limit to love?

Let's begin by looking at two parts of an old love message that could easily have appeared on a Valentine’s Day card. (Song of Solomon 7:10-13 and 8:6-7)

10. "I am my beloved's,

And his desire is for me.

11. "Come, my beloved, let us go out into the country;

Let us spend the night in the villages.

12. "Let us rise early and go to the vineyards;

Let us see whether the vine has budded

And its blossoms have opened,

And whether the pomegranates have bloomed.

There I will give you my love.

13. "The mandrakes have given forth fragrance;

And over our doors are all choice fruits,

Both new and old,

Which I have saved up for you, my beloved.

Can you picture a newly wed couple on their honeymoon saying something like this to one another?

And what else might they say to one another?

6. "Put me as a seal over your heart,

Like a seal on your arm.

For love is as strong as death,

Jealousy [or a vehement flame] is as severe as Sheol;

Its flashes are flashes of fire,

The very flame of the Lord.

7. "Many waters cannot quench love,

Nor will rivers overflow it;

If a man were to give all the riches of his house for love,

It would be utterly despised."

If the value of our love is above that of our own life, then death, or even the threat of it, could not limit our love.

If the value of our love is above that of all of our possessions, then we would freely give everything we have for it; for, by comparison, our possessions are of no value.

If we have any real love within us, I suppose we can all see a newly wed couple saying such things to each other.

But what about a husband and wife saying such things to each other after many years of marriage? Can you picture that, too?

I pray we can, for this is an essential ingredient in keeping love alive in a marriage and in keeping the marriage together. And it must be mutual.

These love passages are from the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament): Song of Solomon 7:10-13 and 8:6-7.

Now this kind of love for your wife or husband should be enough for anyone; but for Solomon it wasn't, even though this is written of him and his bride.

Let's turn to 1 Kings 11:1-4, and see what happened.

1. Now King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women,

2. from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the sons of Israel, "You shall not associate with them, neither shall they associate with you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods." Solomon held fast to these in love.

3. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away.

4. For it came about when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been.

Now men, I suppose you could fantasize about having this many women at your disposal.

In fact, you could have a different woman every day for almost three years before you would have to be with the same one twice; and all these women would be yours alone.

Now suppose your wife wanted to do the same thing, and you would just have to sit back and accept it, without seeing any other women yourself. Would you feel the same way?

I don't suppose you would, for this isn't love; it's lust.

How do you think all these women felt, having to compete for Solomon's attention?

Thus, these women wanted something other than love, if they couldn't have love; and thus, they turned Solomon away from his greatest love: his love of the Lord his God.

For love truly to be love, it must have no limit.

The Lord our God is our only God, and there is to be no other god before Him.

Our love toward Him must be whole and complete, without any conditions.

And God made the relationship between a man and a woman to be the same way: one man with one woman, separated even from their parents, joined in marriage, that they become so close to each other that they become as one flesh, as one person, totally undivided in love.

But we humans don't always listen to the words of God, nor utilize the wisdom He imparts to us, that we would be happy all the days of our lives.

And because of the hardness of our hearts, God sometimes has to put legal limits upon us, so that we do not go too far. Note what we are told in Deuteronomy 21:15-17:

15. "If a man has two wives, the one loved and the other unloved [hated], and both the loved and, the unloved [hated] have borne him sons, if the first-born son belongs to the unloved [hated],

16. then it shall be in the day he wills what he has to his sons, he cannot make the son of the loved the first-born before the son of the unloved, who is the firstborn.

17. "But he shall acknowledge the first-born, the son of the unloved [hated], by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; to him belongs the right of the first-born.

Such a family would be very dysfunctional.

Where there is no love, there is no real union.

If there is unlove, or hatred, expressed against one member of the family, the other members of the family develop a sense of fear that the same unlove might be expressed against them, too. Rivalry and competition become worse, and love is further diminished.

These same kinds of struggles exist today when the husband or wife has an extramarital affair, or among children of divorced parents who have children from both marriages.

When we put limits on our love, or try to compromise it, we destroy it.

And more than 50% of our households are affected with some form of broken marriage.

The parents of both the first and the second marriage must learn to love the children of the other marriage equally with their own children, or it affects negatively all of the children's understanding of love.

A person cannot say that they love animals, and truly mean it, if they pet and fondle their own dog, but kick the neighbor’s dog.

Similarly, a person cannot say that they love animals, and mean it, it they kill and eat some of them, and drape their fur and skins over their bodies.

True love can never be divided, whether it concerns human/animal relationships, or human/human relationships, animal/animal relationships.

True love can have no limits.

True love is universal.

True love is seen in all aspects of a person's life: in their relationship with God, in the way they treat themselves and their families, in the way they relate to other people, and in their sensitivity toward animals and the environment.

And yes, true love must even be expressed toward our enemies.

It's as we are told in Proverbs 24:17-18.

17. Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,

And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles;

18. Lest the Lord see it, and be displeased,

And He turn away His anger from him.

Now remember, this passage of Scripture assumes that we are Godly, and that the enemy is not.

The way we deal with this enemy is to turn him towards God, thus eliminating the enemy status altogether.

It's as the Lord told us in Luke 6:35-36.

35. "But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.

36. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

In Romans 5:10, Paul further reminds us of the truth and purpose of this unlimited love:

10. For if while we were enemies [of God], we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

God gave us the gift of love to hold us together, and to Him; that no harm would befall us.

All of the evil of this world and all the problems we have with each other stem from the fact that we put limits on our love.

The mistakes we made in the past are just that: past. Let us resolve to go forward from here with unconditional love. This, too, is God’s love.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a tells us of the conditions of unlimited and unconditional love. If we don't possess all of these qualities in our own love, we have limited it, and thus have something lacking in our lives.

Think carefully about yourself as we hear these words of love:

4. 'Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,

5. does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,

6. does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

7. bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8. Love never fails . . .

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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