Real Love

I am planning to talk to you today about real love. The bible has a very clear message of what love is. First though I am going to make an important detour. How many of you have heard the term ‘Bride of Christ’? How many of you know the church is called the ‘Bride of Christ’. But what does that really mean? Now for many years I thought, “that’s a bit awkward…I mean Jesus is a guy…I am a guy. Maybe girls might get something out of that image, but to me it’s is just weird.” This did make some sense to me as a teenage guy because during that time there were many girls who claimed, “Jesus is my boyfriend.” But the truth is Jesus loves you …just not like that. They and I missed the point of what Jesus “marrying” the church was meant to portray. It was meant to give us an idea of how God’s plan fits all together and help us see what love really is. So I am going to give you a quick history lesson, because you need to know what marriage during Jesus’ time was like, which was very different from how things work today. Let’s look at how Jewish marriage worked and how it compares to God’s plan.

So let’s break this down…

  • The father arranged the marriage with the groom; this was an agreement between more than just two people, but also between two families. The bride was considered adopted into the groom’s family.
    • The father made plans with Jesus from before time to bring about a people, a bride for him. Note this is a corporate bride, as in all together, not a personal, individual marriage to Jesus.
      • Ephesians 1:4-5 says, ”For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will”
    • Jesus’ genealogy itself shows the idea of adoption through marriage just as the Father adopts us as part of salvation
      • There are 2 women mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy in verse five. Rahab, a Canaanite, who was adopted into the Jewish people through what happened at Jericho. Ruth, a Moabite, who married a Jewish man thus adopting her into the people of Israel and then she also symbolically adopted Naomi, her mother-in-law, as her own mother.
      • Jesus’ own birth has adoption in it
      • Jesus was adopted by Joseph, who though not the father, took him as his son and raised him.
      • Interesting side note, if Jesus had been Joseph’s biological son he would have been disqualified as the Messiah because Joseph was a descendant of Jechoniah (also known as Jehoiachin) about whom God said in Jeremiah 22:30, “Enroll this man in the register as though he were childless. Enroll him as a man who will not enjoy success during his lifetime. For none of his sons will succeed in occupying the throne of David or ever succeed in ruling over Judah.”
  • As part of the arrangements a “mohar” was set, this was the price paid to the father for the bride
    • Now this may seem archaic by today’s standards, but the father knew the price to be set, the value of our salvation.
    • The Son was willing to pay that price; and so he came to earth of His own choice as we see in Phil 2:6-8.
      • (Jesus) Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
  • The time of engagement took as long as it needed to for the groom to raise the agreed price
    • Jesus didn’t just show up, get killed and then headed back to heaven. He spent time preparing to pay the necessary price, which was his death on the cross.
    • He also took the time to prepare a way for us to know him, by setting up apostles to speak to others for him, to start a chain of communication carried on to the present day
  • The newly married man usually didn’t create a new home but occupied or built a place in his father’s house, a place for his bride
    • Jesus before he left said he was going to prepare a place for us in his father’s house.
      • My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
  • The bride was asked if she approved of the match
    • Just as we have a choice to accept Jesus or not
    • Just as in our case this wasn’t considered a very important part of the process and sometime the father wouldn’t even ask, just like God did with the apostles and Paul (Galatians 1:11-16)
  • The Ketubah, or Marriage Contract
    • This was the final step the signing of the contract.
    • This is the new covenant paid in full and signed in Jesus’ blood, which Jesus pointed out at the last supper
      • He said, “In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.’”
  • There were two ceremonies or major events, the first was the betrothal the acceptance by both parties, and the second was the marriage, with a undetermined time in between to complete all that was necessary and to give the Bride and Groom time to get to know each other.
    • We come to faith becoming part of the new covenant (betrothal agreement) and we are not at that moment whisked away to heaven, there is an unknown amount of time in between our conversion and our getting to heaven, to the Marriage Feast.
    • This time is for preparation, Jesus’ preparation of a place for us and our preparation to go to him.
    • During this time love and care for each other is expected to be displayed and as in every relationship there would be a growing love between the two parties.

So here comes the real question…if we say we believe, we accept being the bride of Christ, how should we respond? What does real love look like? What does love demand of us?

Here is one definition I found that I think give a good sense of what the culture is selling us: Love is a deep, tender, overwhelming feeling of affection and care toward another person. An intense emotional attachment or feeling for a person, place, or thing. A feeling of intense desire and attraction toward a person. Romance, sexual passion, sexual intercourse.

Is that it? A feeling that overwhelms you and when it’s gone, then what? What you get is divorce, cheating, lying, hatred and more. Is that what we want? I know I don’t, so let’s see how God defines love….

1 Corinthians 13, verses 1-3 says,

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

 What does this tell us? That without love we have nothing. This is not surprising if you already understand that without God, who loves us, coming and dying on the cross we would all be headed for destruction. Without God, who is love, we have nothing except death and pain.

Next in verses 4-8 we are given a list of things that love is.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

I want to quickly take you through these things and what they mean for us.

Patient – In the bible this word implies suffering, enduring or waiting, as a determination of the will (or choice) and not simply as necessary. How many of you can think of a time in recent memory when you truly had to wait for someone you loved and had to suffer to do it? If you can’t, then pray that God gives you that opportunity. You might have caught that this is also one of the Fruits of the Spirit. Jesus shows this all the time by waiting patiently at the door to our hearts hoping we will let Him in and then waiting for us to let Him change things in our lives, to stop fighting him.

 Kindness – The Bible is very clear that it’s not just being nice to those that are nice to you. It is being caring and loving to those who are your enemies, those who would rather see you harmed or killed. This always reminds me of the Samaritan man who saw a Jewish man on the side of the road, a man from a group of people who hated, despised and persecuted him and his people, but instead of walking by, he helped him up, bandaged him, took him to a hotel and paid for him to stay until he was well enough to continue on his journey. This one always convicts me the most. It also reminds me of the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would like them to do to you.” We often like to alter this to “If they do unto me the way I would like to be treated, then I will treat them the same way.” But that is not what Jesus says; he says that we must first treat people with kindness no matter what they have done, are doing, or what they are likely to do in the future. Jesus showed this quality when He died on the cross for us, while we were still his enemies and hated him.

Next we have Love does not envy or boast. This means that we don’t rub our success in other people’s faces and we are genuinely happy (not jealous) for others when they have success.

Not Arrogant – This biblically ties into pride and is not only arrogance, but also a cynical insensitivity to the needs of others, and presumption. Pride is both an attitude and a type of conduct or action. When Jesus was here, He never lorded it over anyone; He didn’t say, “Shut up, I am God, you don’t know what you are talking about”. He always approached situations and conflicts humbly.

Not Rude – This one is fairly straight forward; it is talking about our behaviour. It is telling us that love is never impolite, ill-mannered, or ill-behaved.

Love does not insist on its own way – What does this look like? It means not only that we don’t always have to have our own way; but that we also put other’s needs before our own, that we give up precious time for other people, not just the time we have left over.

NOT Irritable or Resentful – How many think they pull this one off? I definitely don’t and I don’t think we will ever completely pull this off, BUT we must try. The way this looks in my life; there are times when something irritates or frustrates me about something my wife has done or said, I take some time to really think about whether this is something that needs to be dealt with (and there are times when we need to talk about an issue) or is this something that is really not important, but just bothers me because she does something differently, or that I realize she didn’t mean it the way I first thought she did and I should just move past it, forgive her, and love her. Most importantly we MUST ask God for help, we cannot do this on our own, we must go to the expert.

Does not rejoice with wrongdoing – This means when someone does something wrong we should not celebrate it, condone it or even laugh at it. I think the one area many of us struggle is when someone gossips or makes fun of someone. It is so easy to slip into the trap when someone points out something stupid someone does, or a physical feature that they find funny looking. Again ask for help from the expert, which isn’t me, by the way. This also means that God is not ok with us doing wrong just because our sin is paid for.

Rejoices with the Truth – This means rejoice, be excited, to spend time with our true friends. More importantly, enjoy spending time with the God you love; so much so that people around you wonder what is so amazing and exciting about God. It also means we should pursue the truth as something to be valued above all else. This is totally counter-cultural in a world that tries to convince itself that truth is relative. Some other ways we can do this is to celebrate honesty, differences, gifting, etc. Also this would be enjoying good teaching and sharing that with others. This also means that God rejoices when we act as we should.

Bears all things – This is often interpreted a few ways such as to endure, bear, sustain, cover, conceal, contain. So it means that love is inclined and prepared to hide or conceal the faults and imperfections of others; not to broadcast or display them for all to see, or to give any unjustified publicity to them. Which means there are situations where the safety of others would require certain things to be made known, but the first thought is to privacy and then only if justified would any information be made known. This is a beautiful promise, knowing that God is love and loves us, that we can cast all our cares on Him.

Believes all things – We should be ever ready to believe the best of every person, and will credit no evil of anyone without truthful evidence. Love produces this, because it rejoices in the happiness and virtue of others, and will not believe the contrary except on clear evidence. This for us means that we must believe what the God of Truth has told us, to trust that He knows what He is talking about and doing.

 

Hopes all things – This is a hope that all will turn out well. It also refers to the conduct of others; and it means, that however dark things seem; how much there may be to produce the fear that others have improper motives or are bad people, there is a “hope” that matters may be explained and made clear; that the difficulties may be made to vanish; and that the conduct of others may come out to be fair and pure. Love will “hold on to this hope” until all possibility of such a result has vanished and it is compelled to believe that the conduct is not with good intention. This also means that we should trust God no matter how rough the sea of our life gets.

Endures all things – Bears up under, sustains, and does not complain. Bears up under all persecutions at the hand of man; all efforts to injure you, your property or reputation; and bears all that may be laid upon us in the wisdom of or by the direct hand of God; For this I think of Job. A man who had everything and then had it all taken away. He could have turned on God, cursed His lack of protection. Instead in his suffering Job trusted that God had control and that was the best way.

Lastly, and probably most importantly, Love never ends, which is sometimes translated “never fails.” This is both a challenge to us and a promise. Our challenge is to try and love like that; and the promise is that we have a God on our side who loves us like this.

God has shown us this Love, not the false love that the world peddles us in culture. The question we have to ask ourselves is, are we showing Him the same love and how can we show Him that love? The only way we can truly love God the way we should is to spend time with Him, talk to Him, and spend time getting to know Him; just like you do in any real relationship that you want to last.

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