Faith Matters: Showing love through day-to-day activities

  • Pastor Robert Emberley of the Community Bible Church stands on the lot at 24 Main St. in Northfield where the congregation intends to build a church. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Pastor Robert Emberley of the Community Bible Church stands on the lot on Main Street in Northfield where the Church intends on building a church. April 10, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Community Bible Church
Tuesday, April 24, 2018

(Each Saturday, a faith leader in Franklin County offers a personal perspective in this space. To become part of this series, email religion@recorder.com or call 413-772-0261, ext. 265.)

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal ... and if I have all knowledge and all faith and have not love, I am nothing ... Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

The beauty and brevity of this description of love in the 13th chapter of First Corinthians makes it the go-to Scripture reading for weddings. But the Apostle Paul did not write this as marriage advice. It was written as a correction (a rebuke, even) to a proud Christian congregation. The church at Corinth was filled with division and contention because it had neglected the foundational command from Jesus.

“Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Paul begins this chapter on love by introducing us to a fictional mega-minister. In terms of giftedness and outward accomplishments, this guy had it all — the ability to communicate skillfully and persuasively, the possession of full understanding of both the word of God and the will of God, the faith to overcome mountain-sized obstacles, and the willingness to give up everything to get the job done.

Imagine what a person like this could accomplish! But Paul confronts us with this shocking conclusion: Without love, all those accomplishments would amount to nothing in the eyes of God. It would be like removing the “1” from a billion. You are left with nine zeros, a whole lot of nothing.

“Your ministry for all its outward show, is a whole lot of nothing.” That is Paul’s evaluation of a church that is lacking in love. What then, is his corrective advice? He says, “pure love.” Christian congregations are called to move beyond merely admiring the beautiful idea of love and embrace the labor of love. “Serve one another in love. Love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.” (Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 5:2)

Jesus lifts us up into His family so that we can stoop down and serve. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:13-15)

Love is lived out in the ordinary day-to-day activities of life. It is steady, sacrificial, silent, and self-less. Jesus builds his church with people who are all different from each other, each of us with our share of rough edges and baggage. It is love that holds us together. I have heard it said, “Love at first sight is easy to understand. It’s when people have been looking at each other for years that it becomes a miracle.”

In his commentary on Galatians, Jerome (347-420 A.D.) gives this anecdotal account of the Apostle John. While living in Ephesus and so old that he had to be carried to church, the aged apostle was often asked to address the congregation at the conclusion of the service. And each time he would say the same words, “Little children, love one another.” Annoyed by the repetition of this phrase and possibly hoping to hear more from the one who had walked so closely with Jesus, the congregation asked John, “Teacher, why do you always say this?” And John’s reply is in keeping with the supreme value Paul gives to love in his letter to the Corinthians, “Because it is the Lord’s commandment and if it alone is kept, it is sufficient.”

For more on First Corinthians 13, please listen to the sermon series “Lessons on Love” that I delivered to our congregation recently; available at cbcnorthfield.com, follow the sermon audio link.