1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Today is Valentine’s Day, a day when most people think of love; but what kind of love are they asking for and what kind of love are they offering?
Is it a selfish kind of love?
Is it a limited kind of love?
Or, is it a complete and unconditional love?
I hope it’s the latter; but let’s see.
The title of today’s sermon, To Love Completely or Not to Love, may sound a little Shakespearean, but it is really Biblical in its understanding.
Unless we love completely in the fullness of God’s love, we may not truly love.
In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, Paul tells us about the fullness 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…
Paul gave us a very easy way to understand what love really involves, and while the vast majority of people use the word LOVE, they don’t really live it.
The world certainly isn’t patient, because most people seem to want everything now, so when we are this way, we lose a part of love.
The world certainly isn’t kind. All we have to do is look around at the wars, terrorist attacks, retaliation; the sanctioning of capital punishment, the horrible atrocities committed against animals on farms, in laboratories, and in entertainment, and we can see that there isn’t very much true love left.
By just looking at flesh and other animal products on most people’s plates, we can tell that their love is conditional; for while they may love their “pet” cat or dog, they show by their actions that they really don’t love other animals.
We cannot enjoy death, or the products of death, and think we are still kind or loving.
The world is filled with people who are jealous and prideful, which means that they have set a portion of God’s love aside.
Many people hold on to a wrong suffered and are unwilling to forgive when the other person becomes sorry for what they did and seeks forgiveness. This, too, shows a lack of love.
People fight over the abortion issue and argue over whether it is murder or a woman’s right, while true love would do everything possible to prevent the pregnancy in the first place.
In Deuteronomy 6:5, we are told:
5 "And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
This means that we are commanded to love God above everything else that we may think or have or want.
And we cannot love God this way if we don’t also love the whole of His creation, which includes every other human being, all the animals, and the earth upon which we all live.
We have people writing to us every day thanking us for the sanctuary of our internet ministry, because they have found a place where they feel comfortable in their compassionate feelings for all animals, and for our ministry in helping them through their pain and grief when a beloved companion animal died.
This is something that every member of the clergy and every church should provide, if they truly love; but unfortunately relatively few do.
Thankfully, the number of truly loving and compassionate clergy and churches is slowly growing.
On the other hand, we get letters from clergy who try to justify the cruelty inflicted upon animals, and their “right” to hunt and fish and eat any animal product they want.
These clergy fail to acknowledge or accept the difference between the concessions that God allowed as opposed to His will, and what it really means to pray for our Father’s heavenly will to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10) where there is no pain and death.
They twist the meaning of “rule” and “dominion” to mean their right to brutally dominate the animals of this world, instead of being their kind, loving, and compassionate caretakers.
We strongly believe that it’s the brutal exploitation of animals that leads to all of the other forms of violence in the world and explains why there is so much hardness of heart and indifference to the suffering of others, whether they are humans or animals.
Understanding love should really be very simple. Let’s ask ourselves a few questions and see if we understand.
Do we put God before ourselves by seeking to serve Him and follow His heavenly will, or are we constantly asking God to give us something?
If we put God before ourselves, we understand the basics of love.
Do we put our family before ourselves and do everything we can to serve them, provide for them, and protect them, or are we just seeking what they can do to please us?
If we put our family before ourselves, we are expanding our sphere of love and compassion.
How about the people in our church or community or workplace? Do we put them first, too, or do we want what they can do for us?
If we put them before ourselves, we are continuing to expand our sphere of love and compassion.
This may get a little harder when it comes to our boss if we work for someone, or when others work for us. Do we also put them before ourselves and seek to give more than we receive?
If we also put these people before ourselves, we are expanding further our sphere of love and compassion.
What about the rest of the people in the world? Do we seek their good or do we ignore them and their rights and needs?
If we seek their good, it is proof that our sphere of love and compassion is continuing to expand.
When it comes to animals, this self analysis seems to get even harder for most people. They may understand what it really means to love and have compassion for an animal when it comes to their own companion animals; but what about the other animals in the world?
Does our love and compassion also extend to them in the same way?
If it does, then our love and compassion is approaching the unlimited love and compassion that God wants us to have.
So, if we have come this far and we haven’t put any limitations on our love and compassion, then we need to let it overflow upon every other living being whom we encounter or whom others encounter for us.
And then we come to the final hurdle in what it means to be a truly loving person.
Do we do everything in our power to end the pain and suffering in this world and make this earth a more loving and compassionate place for all humans and animals to live in peace?
Love is not a passive emotional quality or feeling; it is an active force which can and should overcome every aspect of evil in the world.
The prophet Isaiah refers to this unconditional love as being the knowledge of the Lord which he recognized as being a potential quality of every human and animal, and which one day all will possess, as he wrote in 11:9:
9 They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
As the waters cover the sea.
This is what it means to love completely.
So this Valentine’s Day we need to offer this unconditional love; and if we do, we will see that every day becomes a Valentine’s Day, and we move closer to having a peaceable kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.