One of the attributes of 'agape' is the quality of longsuffering. We all must learn to practice this quality with each other as God has with us.
[Gary Petty] ...to my wife. We can use the word love in all those contexts and they all mean something different, right? I mean, you don't love your dog the same as you love your truck, I hope, you know, or your wife the same as... You know what I mean? They all mean something different. And we talked a little bit about how there are a lot of different meanings, or a lot of different words in Greek, especially ancient Greek, that we translate love into the English Bible, or brotherly love. You will see their modifiers in the way they're translated, but that's because it comes from different Greek words.
And the word we talk about, or we're going to talk about in this series is what Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 13, agape. Abahayo, Abagehayo. I'm trying to think the noun and the verb, they're different. Agape is the word I'll use most of the time. What does it mean? Well, it's interesting because if you go to ancient Greek, agape had various meanings. I mean, I have one Greek dictionary at home that has 50 pages explaining agape. And it could be used as a philosophical word, meaning the greatest love. You know, the philosophers would use it to mean the greatest love.
Agape, actually in the New Testament, is used different ways. Okay? So you can see that different use of this word even in the New Testament. But what's interesting is that Paul and John specifically, even Peter, but most of the New Testament writers at one time or another, really John and Paul, give agape a very specific meaning. And that's why you will...people who know Greek will discuss the difference between agape in its secular use and agape in its Christian use because there's a specific meaning given to that word in the New Testament that went beyond the natural Greek meaning of the word.
So what we have is a word that became Christianized to mean something in the New Testament. And 1 Corinthians 13, unfortunately, has become, for many of us, the power is lost. I mean, we sing it at weddings, right? 1 Corinthians 13 is sung all the time at weddings. We read it, we quote through it. It's written like poetry, so it's got this flow to it. And yet we're missing the power of what's actually being said. When we look at, and what we covered last time was a large section of the writings in 1st John where John talks about agape as the very character of God. In fact, he says God is agape.
I mean, if you're going to define God's basic core mental, moral, emotional makeup, His nature, John says it's agape. This is the core nature of God. This is how He thinks. This is why He reacts. This is His motives. This is everything He is, is contained in this word. So now you have a new Christian definition of a word. If we want to understand the core essence of God, we have to understand what this word means. And so we went through and showed how this is so important in the writings of John because he is saying, and we went through a section of the Scripture where he uses the word love so many times, it's agapao or agape in both of them, it's used so many times it almost gets overwhelming, like, "What in the world is he saying?"
What he's saying is I'm describing here the core essence of the nature of God, who He is in terms of His character. And yet, 1 Corinthians 13 is about how we have to exhibit agape. So agape is a form of love that can be expressed by human beings. There are people, there are human beings that will have moments where they actually...because we're designed that we can express it, that will actually have moments of agape. But that's not what he's talking about. He's talking about becoming people who that is our basic nature. That the very nature of God is being developed in us so that we are becoming what He is and His basic nature.
So this becomes a very expansive, very difficult concept. Because how do we take the very nature of God and break that down into human interactions? And there's two basic places that tells us that. One is in Galatians where it talks about the fruit of the spirit, and there's a lot of similarities, although they sort of deal with different things in some ways, they're interesting to study together. The fruits of the spirit and 1 Corinthians 13 bind together to say, "This is how human beings express and live the basic concept of the nature of God in them."
So we cannot, as we covered last time, actually have agape as our nature. We can do it as events, we can do it as certain actions, but to actually have it as our nature takes God's spirit. We cannot obtain this on our own. We cannot become this on our own. And this is the real essence of the whole doctrine of conversion. The doctrine of conversion is very important because becoming a Christian isn't just accepting God, and it isn't just accepting Jesus Christ. It is becoming something. It is being converted from one thing into another, and this is what we are being converted to. We are being converted to the very nature of God.
So let's go to 1 Corinthians 13 and just review very quickly how Paul introduces this. 1 Corinthians 12, he's talking about the gifts of the Spirit. How different people have different gifts. Different people do different things. And I'm always amazed in a congregation how there's so many different gifts that are there. I was talking with someone the other day about a couple in the Church that I know that give a lot of time and effort in...they live in a downtown area of a city. And they spend a lot of time and effort there helping the poor and the homeless that live there.
And they were saying, "I don't think I could do that." And I said, "Well, maybe you should go help them once in a while." But to do it at the level they do it is a gift. You have a different gift. You still should do it once in a while, but what they're doing is a gift. It's different. We all have gifts that God gives to us. And then he shows how. In the Corinthian Church, all they did was have fights over gifts. It was a warfare all the time. My gift is better than your gift. I can do this, you can do that. You'd hate to be the pastor in that Church because you'd just be dealing with constant conflict over competition.
And so at the end of chapter 12, after talking about all these gifts, he says, "Now I'm going to tell you a better way. I'm going to tell you something better than gifts." He says, "Now you should desire gifts from God, but I'm going to tell you something better than gifts because to tell you the truth, gifts of the Holy Spirit, without the fruits of the Holy Spirit or without agape, simply creates problems." We can't handle what God gives us. We can't handle the gifts He gives us unless there's something else being developed in us.
1 Corinthians 13:1 Paul says, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not agape, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal."
So once again, if we use the word love in English, oh, well, we just have to love each other. We just have to accept each other. No, that's not what he's talking about. Because you know what? God doesn't accept us just the way we are. We have to become converted, right? So this isn't just saying, "Everybody just have nice feelings towards each other, and that's what this is all about." No, we have to explore what this really means because it's not what we think of in English.
He says, "Even if I could speak the tongues of angels..." Now remember, speaking in tongues was a huge gift that God had given to Corinth, unlike almost any place you can see. I mean, Acts 2 has a great outpouring of the gifts of tongues. The only other place you see that kind of level of outpouring is in Corinth. And so he uses hyperbole as he does through all this to say, "You know, I could talk with angels in languages that only me and the angels could understand." And you know what? If I don't have the basic core nature of God being developed in me, it doesn't mean anything.
1 corinthians 13:2 He says, "Though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith so I that can remove mountains but have not agape, I am nothing."
Now you think, "How in the world can he say that? It seems to contradict other things he teaches about knowledge, about faith, even about mysteries." You know, I'd like to do a whole series of Bible studies on just the mysteries that Paul talks about. He uses that term, which is because in the pagan world, there were all kinds of mystery religions, and he uses that term to tell you, "Let me tell you what the real mysteries are." In fact, he even says that in one place. "Let me tell you what the real mysteries are." It's an interesting study we'll do some time. But he says, "Even if I have all knowledge, all biblical knowledge, even if I can understand every prophecy, even if I have so much faith that it's obvious, that amazing things are happening because of my faith," he says, "If I don't have this, it doesn't mean anything." We got to figure out, why does he say that? And it's not until we get through the entire chapters that we'll actually have him explain what that means.
1 Corinthians 13:3 He says, "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to burn, but have not agape, it profits me nothing."
Now, that seems contradictory to me. Wait a minute, if I love everybody, I'm going to go give all I have to the poor, right? And he says, "No, if that's what you're doing but it's not out of this motivation," and that came out in the sermonette this morning. "If that's not your motivation, then it doesn't mean anything to God." You could die for God, and if it's the wrong motivation, it doesn't mean anything to God. That's a little shocking, isn't it? I mean, what more can I do? I give everything I have to the Lord, I go die for you. And the guy says, "No, no, no, no, you did it for the wrong reasons."
So Paul here is delving into, you know, the deep end of the pool, just like John was in what we covered last week. We're diving into the very deep end of the pool in the concept of conversion. So what he does now is he begins the list, "Here's the qualities of agape that we must be expressing and we must be learning." And the first thing he says is, "Agape suffers long." Wait a minute, I want to stop right there because I don't want to go any further because I hate to suffer. I hate to suffer. Suffers long.
Now, this is translated in the Old King James as longsuffering, and it's actually a word in English. Longsuffering. Now, here's the problem. How do you learn to long suffer? You suffer long. Okay, wait a minute, wait a minute. Can I learn it for suffering 10 minutes and that's all I need to know? No. Longsuffering means you have to suffer a long time. And the point he's making here, by the way, isn't longsuffering because you have a long illness. That's longsuffering. But that's dealt with in other scriptures in a different way. And that's not what we're going to be talking about. He's not talking about longsuffering because you have a financial crisis and you go years in poverty. That's not what he's talking about. He's not talking about losing a job because of the Sabbath.
He's talking here about how we interact in our relationships with other people. He's talking about suffering long with each other and with other people. No, wait a minute. Okay. I'm willing to suffer long for God, but am I willing to suffer long for that person? That's the first thing he says. If we're going to understand this, we have to understand it is about longsuffering, suffering long for other people. Let's go to Ephesians 4. Ephesians chapter 4. Here we have... I started to really, this week, think about expanding this out, and I ended up with a three-hour sermon. So we won't go three hours.
Ephesians 4:1 Paul says, "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called."
So he says, "We have to be worthy of this." We can't say, "Oh, I was called by God," and then ignore what God is doing. We're back to the concept of conversion, having the mind of Christ developed in us. And then he lists four things that we have to be working on in terms of making our calling real.
Ephesians 4:2 He says, "With all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love."
Lowliness. Now, as we go through this, there's something that becomes very, very obvious as we go through 1 Corinthians 13. There is no way to have agape if we have any pride and we are not humble before God, it is not possible, because agape doesn't just mean being humble before God. And that's why it's going to take weeks to do this. When we get into this, it means being humble before other people, not because of weakness, but because you're strong enough to be humble. Humility is a core element to this.
And Paul says to make our calling, to make it be worth something, we have to be low before God. Now, that doesn't mean being depressed, it doesn't mean running yourself into the ground, it doesn't mean thinking you have no value. God gives us a value. That's the whole point in this. God wants to do something with your life beyond anything we can imagine. It's His will to do that. Remember something I said last week, that we have to really remember as we go through this. God created you for one reason, so that He could have somebody to love.
He didn't create us to build up His ego. He doesn't need our love. No, He wants us to love Him, but God doesn't have the human ego that needs this love to survive. God can survive without us quite well because He's complete. Remember, we went through the concept of completeness where John says, "We are completed by His love." He doesn't say He's completed by our love. We are completed by His love. God created you to be loved by Him and by Jesus Christ. So that's a pretty important purpose, isn't it?
We wrap our minds around that and we begin to understand what God's doing, and it also makes us very humble and low before Him that now affects how we treat other people. He says "with gentleness." Once again, gentleness is a hallmark of agape. That doesn't mean being weak in the face of sin or evil. There's always, "Oh, well, that means what? I should never stand up against the wrong." No, that's not what it's talking about at all. It's talking about an approach to other people that always wants to do what's best for them. What is God's best for that person, not what they think is best.
Now, that sometimes is why you end up in confrontation in a proper way. What you're doing is what's God's best for them and they won't accept it. When you have a child, a child won't accept what is good sometimes, and you have to make a stand, right? So that's not what he's talking about, but he is talking about a gentleness that we have to develop. And as we go through this over the weeks, we will see. He says, "With longsuffering..." We're back to... Oh, boy. And then it's very interesting, he says, "Bearing with one another in agape." Bearing with one another. Bearing with one another. In other words, it's not easy. It's not saying, "And just getting along no matter what."
He says there are times when you bear with other people. And, you know, he's specifically talking here about inside the Church. As we went with John last week, he started with, "This has to start in the Church, in our families." And then we have to extend it out even to the point it's our enemies. But we start one place. We start within the Church. And I would have to say in our marriages and our families, this has to be core. We're in the deep end of the pool here. Bearing another with love.
You know, let's look at one of the great examples of God's longsuffering, okay? Because we tend to think sometimes, "Well, God's just angry all the time." No, He's not. When He's angry, there's a reason. And let's look at the reason. 2 Chronicles 36. We'll come back here to Ephesians in just a minute, but 2 Chronicles 36:15. There's a statement made here that is so interesting in Hebrew. And let's start in verse 15.
2 Chronicles 36:15 "And the Lord God of their fathers,"
Now he's talking to Judah here. He's reaching to the place where Judah is going to be destroyed by Babylon. Now, He prophesied they'd come back 70 years later, which they did, but He's going to punish them. He's going to allow this to happen, and it's a terrible devastation on their nation. Jerusalem is destroyed. Solomon's temple is destroyed. Many, many people die and many people are taken off into captivity.
2 Chronicles 36:15 "And the Lord God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place."
This went on for hundreds of years. For hundreds of years, God kept saying, "You're going wrong. You're headed in the wrong direction. This isn't right." And He sent them all the great prophets that we read about. He sent them priests. He sent all kinds of people to them to get them to understand where they were going wrong for hundreds of years. And every once in a while, they turn a little bit. Never more than a generation. And you'll find that there were times that never did they obey everything that he told them to do. There would be times where they'd be generations where they didn't even know about the Holy Days. And they would discover them and they would be just shocked. "Oh, we're supposed to do these things." And so for hundreds of years, because of His compassion, because He loved these people, He worked with them and worked with them and worked with them. And then verse 16. But here's what happened.
2 Chronicles 36:16 "But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at the prophets until the wrath of the Lord rose against His people till there was no remedy."
That's what I find interesting here. There was no remedy. Even in Hebrew, that can be medicine. Remedy, we think of medicines or herbs or something that heal you. It has to do with healing. Hundreds of years went by and God said, "They can't be healed. These people won't be healed. They won't accept healing. And there is no remedy left. I've done every remedy possible, and they can't be healed." There's God's longsuffering. He only reacts at this level of punishment... There's minor punishments He does that keep us in line, but this level of punishment only happens when He's exhausted every remedy. So whose fault is it? Is it because He's an angry God? No, it's because nobody listens time after time, and in our lives too, when God punishes us with a heavy punishment, it's not that's His first reaction. It's because there's no remedies left.
Now, that is God's longsuffering. Remember, these things grieve Him. It talks about God's grief. In Genesis, it talks about God's grief because He saw how wicked humanity had become and He brought the flood on the whole world. He grieved. Sounds like suffering to me, doesn't it? He suffered. We think of God as what? Just being cold-hearted and angry. How many centuries did He suffer before He finally said, "There are no remedies left. There's no medicines left. There's nothing that can heal these people except punishment," and He punished them.
What's interesting, if you go back and read those prophecies, both to Israel and to Judah, he constantly said, "But I will save you if you will repent. In the future someday, you will repent." There was always this reaching out. There's always this suffering for these people that God goes through. We never think of God's suffering for you. God suffers because of every one of us here. God has suffered because of every one of us here. And He just suffers because He's God, and because we were made to be loved.
Anyone who doesn't receive eternal life, who ends up in the lake of fire, is because someone who has refused the love of God. They've just refused it. They will not accept it. And God will say, "There is no remedy. I have no medicine for you. I have no way to heal you. You are too sick to live because you can't be fixed, you can't be healed. There is no remedy." There's God's longsuffering. And that's how He sees you. That's how He sees all of us. And then He says, "Bearing with one another in agape."
Once again, bearing means it's not easy. You know, there have been times in marriage counseling that I've sat down with two people that just couldn't seem to fix their problems, and sometimes that actually were going to separate. And on occasion, I've asked a question, this is the question, sometimes the word's a little different, but it means the same thing. Can you stand before God and say that you have loved each other with the longsuffering and patience God has given to each of you? And every once in a while, it changes everything.
"Well, no, I haven't done the way God..." Well, go ask God to give you... "Well, fix her first." No. Go ask God to give you the product of agape, you know, the quality of agape that says, "I will suffer long with you because I care for you, because you mean that much. So I will do what's good for you, even though this is hard on me." It changes the way we look at everything because we're seeing it the way God looks at us. This is His nature.
Now, this means that agape is patient, and it's not something we're very good at, especially in our society. I mean, sometimes we're impatient because of deadlines and restraints. I mean, that's just normal. You're reacting. You have a deadline or some time restraint. I mean, that's not some sin or something. That's just being impatient because of what you're facing. Sometimes something is keeping us from something else that's really important. I mean, when you're stuck in traffic and you have to be someplace because somebody's sick, you're impatient. Well, I am. Every time I try to get to the hospital half the time, it seems... Not every time and half the time. Those are contradictory things.
Half the time when I'm going to the hospital, I'm stuck in traffic and I'm impatient because I need to get to the hospital, right? I need to get to the hospital. Now, there's no sin in that. There's time restraints. We're trapped in time. Sometimes people are just being rude. You're just being rude. Or there's other reasons. I was behind a car driving down our little two-lane road the other day that had to be going 20 miles an hour. And I'm thinking, "I know it's a little windy road with drop-offs, but this is a little extreme." And it reached the point where I turned off and I looked over and it was this little old guy like this... And I thought, "Oh, that's me in five years." I had a little more patience with the man.
Sometimes we're impatient because, we need to admit it, because we think we're more important than the other people. We think we're more important than everybody else around us. What we have to do is more important, and we're impatient with them because we want immediate gratification. There's never been a society where so many things can be immediate. It's just amazing and we expect it. Sometimes we really think that people are interfering with what we deserve, and they don't even know us. But they're interfering with what we deserve. So we hope something bad happens. We're just impatient with them and bring judgment upon them. 1 Thessalonians 5. 1 Thessalonians 5. To be long-suffering, we have to be patient with other people. And let's look at verse 14.
1 Thessalonians 5:14 Paul says, "Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, and be patient with all."
Well, I have to admit, sometimes my natural way of dealing things in life is to fight with the unruly, put down the fainthearted, and tell the weak about all their weaknesses. Paul says, "Oh, you're in the kiddie pool. Let's go into the deep end." Warn those who are unruly, it doesn't say fight them, warn them. Now, there is sometimes in life where there are confrontations that have to happen. But this isn't the rule of thumb. I mean, Jesus wasn't afraid of a confrontation, but notice how few He actually had and who He had them with. Okay? "Warn those who are unruly. Comfort those who are fainthearted." Comfort those who have fear and anxiety. "And uphold the weak." Hold them up, "take care of them, and be patient with all. Be patient with all."
Now, the Greek word translated patient here means to suffer instead of being quick to be angry or quick to punish people. There's another way it's used, and that is it means to be patient, endure patience, and not be despondent and get to the place where we're so impatient with other people, we're despondent. You know, it's easy for parents to do that with children. We become despondent because we're impatient with them and we can't figure out why the 8-year-old can't act like he's 23. Right? We can be very impatient.
Now, there's times that children need to learn that they're wrong. And that, yes, we have a lack of patience with conscious decisions to do bad, okay? Yeah, we're impatient with that and we should be. Conscious decisions to be bad. But I don't know how many times I told my wife with our son Chris growing up, "Why did he do that?" My answer always was, "Because it seemed like a good idea at the time." He didn't have the ability to work through the consequences. It just seemed like a good idea at the time, which is what boys do most of the time. And then they end up in trouble because they have no idea that all these bad consequences are happening. Now, they have to be taught that. He goes on in verse 15.
1 Thessalonians 5:15 He says, "See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good, both for yourselves and for all."
I'm going to read this from the NIV. The way it's translated here, it flows a little better. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. So he says yourselves in the King James, and then all people. He says, you know, "Let's do this among ourselves and then do it to everybody else." This is the training ground of agape. It's in your family and it's in your congregation. It's the training ground and where we suffer long with each other.
Let's go to 2 Peter 3. Here's another example of God's longsuffering. 2 Peter 3:9. Sometimes it's easier to suffer from some personal trial in life. Like I said, you lose your job or some financial issue and you lose your house or some things happen. And it's a trial and you have to carry that and you have to endure it and you have to work through it. But sometimes it's actually harder to deal with a person who seems to be obnoxious than that, right? Especially if it's in a personal relationship. It's so much harder. It is interesting how most trials in life will...and trials in life will destroy relationships. Husbands and wives, you know, one of the major cause of divorce sometimes is the death of a child. And it's so devastating to both of them, they can't work through it, and they end up divorced. I mean, it wasn't their relationship. It was something outside.
We know so much of the time, what destroys any relationship is something outside. The best of friends, brethren in a Church. It's something else that destroys the relationship. And the problem is the only way to keep that from happening is to suffer long for each other. I have to suffer long because of you. No, to suffer long for them. The relationship is important enough to suffer for. And that's why divorce is so easy today. I got to suffer to stay with this woman or to stay with this guy? Yeah.
I mean, there are biblical reasons for divorce, but it's not broad reasons. It's fairly narrow reasons. And I'm unhappy isn't a reason for divorce. That's always shocking, but it's true. It isn't, especially when you understand agape. That was sung at your wedding, you know, suffers long, but welcome to sometimes what happens to make a relationship work.
2 Peter 3:9 Says, "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."
Now, here's what's important about this. This isn't talking about universal repentance, that everybody repents, because we know there's a lake of fire. Once again, what is God's approach? I want every child. I love every child. But because I gave them free will, I don't get every child. I just don't get every child. But I will suffer long until there is no remedy. See? It's His desire that all come to repentance. So he says some people think, "Well, why is God holding off on His promises? Why hasn't He sent back Jesus Christ?" There's a timetable to everything, and that timetable is set up on God's suffering, not just in the life and death of Jesus Christ, but God's suffering for us because He wants us to be loved by Him. And it's being rejected all the time by human beings. And He suffers long.
And he says, "So, understand, God's timetable sometimes isn't our timetable," because why? Well, He wants to love every child, even though that every child won't be loved. See, we don't think of God in those terms. We don't think of God in those terms until there's no remedy, until there's no way for them to be healed. He takes the suffering for us. We go back here to Ephesians chapter 4. One more verse I want to read. Well, I want to read one verse and then skip down and just catch a few other verses. Oh, I may skip those so we end on time today. I'll cover them in another one of these sermons. But in verse 3, it says, "Endeavoring..." You know, actually this is the fifth thing. I said there were four things in this, this is number five here.
Ephesians 4:3 He says, "Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
Now, once again, he's aiming this at the Church because this is where we learn it, in our families and in the Church. This level of relationship is learned here. And it's easier in your family sometimes because you have storge. Remember we talked about storge? The Greek word for love of family? And that those are just bonds that are even naturally there?
So yeah, storge can help us in our family, but here, we're dealing with the idea of people coming together because of God's Spirit, and there is a unity and a hope of your calling. There is a unity because of God's Spirit. Well, how does that happen? Well, good, because of God's Spirit, I should have nobody in this Church ever get on my nerves. Right? Since we all have God's Spirit. This may surprise you, but every once in a while, my wife will say, "I need some time away. I don't know why." And then I'll ask her. I'll say, "Okay." I mean, she'll just say, "I'm taking some time off. I need some time off." Okay. I don't know. She leaves. She comes back four hours later, three hours later and I say, "What did you do?" "Oh, I walked around the store and I did this and I did that." And I'm thinking...
And then I realize, "No, I understand that. That's what I do when I go out to some park and walk for two hours." I understand, right? She needs time to clear her head from all things. But me? Surely she doesn't need time away from me. I have to admit there's very few times that I need time away from Kim, but I understand that... Actually, she's told me that very few times, but, you know, it happens in any relationship. Jesus Christ went away from His disciples at times just to get away from them. I need some time to decompress from you guys. I mean, I love you man, but hanging around with 12 dudes all the time is more than I can take. And that's with agape but being in a physical body, okay?
Fortunately, God doesn't have a physical body, so it's different. But being like us was like, "I need time away from you, guys." And that wasn't a sin or anything. That was why, to decompress so He can go back and love them. He comes back and He loved them. So it takes God's Spirit.
Now, how can we grow in longsuffering in these relationships? One is you have to learn or think about and appreciate that God has suffered a long time with you. Now, sometimes people come and they'll say, "I think God's given up on me." My answer always is, "I really doubt that." Or, "The fact that you come here worried about it proves that He hasn't." God hasn't given up on you. Now, God might be a little upset with you. But there's a whole lot of difference between that and giving up on you. You were created to be loved by God. So God hasn't given up on you. "Yeah, but I haven't been praying, I haven't been fasting, I haven't been studying," or, "Yes, I have this sin." Okay, good. God's saying, "I want to give you a remedy. I want to work you through this." That's God's answer. "And if I have to, I'll bring some bad things in your life to get your attention so we can work through this."
"Oh, He's just punishing me because He's mad at me." No, He's punishing you... Remember what we read about in Judah. Hundreds of years of, "I did everything that could be done but there was no remedy." When you reach the point there's no remedy, you won't care. That's what scary. You won't care. As long as we care, God's still working with us. Remember, God loved you while you were unlovable. Christ died for you while you were offensive to God. It says He died for us while we were sinners. And all sin is offensive to God. So we were incredibly offensive to God when Christ died for every one of us.
So that tells us something about He doesn't throw us away easily. He never throws anybody away. People walk away, he doesn't throw people away. There's a difference. When there's no remedy, okay, you're gone. You walked away. As long as we come, He works with us. Secondly is to bear with others, you must be honest about your own shortcomings. Philippians 2. Philippians 2:3. This is a passage that you hear read quite a bit.
Philippians 2:3 "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind."
We're back to a humility towards other people. What can I do in my life to help this person in their life? And sometimes it's a spiritual thing, sometimes it's a physical thing. And see, this goes beyond just the Church, but the context here, because these letters are written to the Church, is always within the Church.
Philippians 2:3 He says, "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than himself."
Now that doesn't mean that we look at everybody else and say, "Oh, I'm dirt." This is the exact opposite. This is, "God loves me, so I'm here to share that with you. Since I received it, I want to share it with you. And since I want to share it with you, how am I supposed to treat you?" Well, we warn the unruly. Right? We help the weak. And those who are fearful and filled with anxiety, we support them. I mean, this is what we do. This is our approach. If we're not humble before God, and we haven't done the first thing, you know, which remember, point number one is appreciate how God has suffered long with you, then we won't suffer long with anybody else.
Philippians 2:4 "So let each of you look out not only for his own interest, but also for the interests of others."
Now, that doesn't mean you give up all your own interests for other people. I mean, all of us have our own needs, physical needs, and we have to take care of our bodies, we have to take care of our minds. But what it's saying here is when you're approaching another person, think what they need first before what I need or what I want, what I think they should be. Because that's how God's dealt with you. If God dealt with us the way we deal with others, many times even in the Church, our own families, we'd be miserable, wouldn't we?
Number three, keep your perspective that you're just as human as the next guy, right? The slow bank teller, the man who cuts in front of you, making rude gestures, guy that's driving 20 miles an hour but I need to get home as I have an appointment. And then I realized, "Oh, that's just me. I'm just a few years behind that, that's all." It's the person who's telling... That won't stop talking and talks and talks and talks and talks until they drive you crazy. It's your husband or your wife that's having a bad day. Remember, this too will pass. But also remember that the next day, you may be the one having the bad day. Or you may be the one who's driving distracted and almost causes an accident and everybody's shaking their fist at you. Right? Remember, the next day it's you being human.
So we cut each other slack because we're all human beings. We accept that. We accept that sometimes we fail, sometimes we do stupid things, and sometimes we sin. Now, that doesn't mean we back down from sin. We're to help each other what? Face and overcome sin. Isn't that agape? God makes us face and overcome sin. Now, we can't make each other do that, but we're to help each other do that. So longsuffering doesn't mean there's never any correction from God, but it's in this context of why. Many times, we as human beings correct other people in the Church because we feel superior, not because we actually love them.
And then a last point, don't allow your relationships to be governed by your own inner angst or anger or insecurities or need to control. In other words, agape reaches out so that it's not controlled by our own dysfunctions. Firstly, God doesn't have any dysfunctions. Aren't you glad God has no emotional or mental dysfunctions? You and I all have angst, anger, fear, insecurities, a need to control. Some people more than others depending on personality and experiences. But the bottom line is when we let those things control us, we can't have agape. In fact, anger is a major issue, and these things I'm talking about here, that we'll have to cover in an entire sermon that's part of 1 Corinthians 13.
Your existence, the value and meaning of your life, and your future eternal life depends on one thing, the love of God. You say, "Well, what about my part to play?" "Oh, you and I have a part to play in responding to that love." Obedience to God, faith in God, those are all issues, but they all come from what? I obey and have faith in God because He's a mean monster and if I don't, He'll squash me? If that's our motivation, all that faith and all that obedience produces really nothing.
Now, we already have a fear of God, but it always comes down to you were created to be loved by God. And our response to Him is to be out of the recognition of that, and our own weakness and smallness before that, and our own desire to obey Him because we love Him because we wish to participate in this relationship and because we wish to have that mind developed in us. And as His children then, we begin to look at other children and say, "Oh, I'll suffer long for you. I will suffer long for you because God has suffered long for me. And I see that same value in you."
As you can see, agape is an enormous subject. We dove into the deep end. And that's why it's going to take us probably until the spring holy days to go through and understand what Paul is teaching in 1 Corinthians 13.