We’ll be partnering together once again, as we celebrate our TENTH BIRTHDAY on Sunday, February 3! Click the image above for details.
God Started Something
How have you heard the word “love” used this past week? I bet you can think of at least two or three different ways!
What do those uses of the word reveal about the way people typically view love?
Does our culture define love differently than God does? How?
It seems that this world loves being in love, doesn’t it? But, God sees “love” as something different, doesn’t he? Love is the defining mark of the Christian.
Don’t make a mistake about this. Jesus was really clear:
John 13:34–35 (NLT)
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
After Jesus, Paul wrote to us about various gifts of the Spirit, and how they impact us:
1 Corinthians 12:27-31 (NLT)
All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church:
first are apostles,
second are prophets,
third are teachers,
then those who do miracles,
those who have the gift of healing,
those who can help others,
those who have the gift of leadership,
those who speak in unknown languages.
Are we all apostles? Are we all prophets? Are we all teachers? Do we all have the power to do miracles? Do we all have the gift of healing? Do we all have the ability to speak in unknown languages? Do we all have the ability to interpret unknown languages? Of course not! So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts.
How would you sum up this short passage?
Paul tells us to “earnestly desire the most helpful gifts,” then he makes a very interesting statement:
1 Corinthians 12:31 (NLT)
But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.
In other words, these are good… But let me show you something much better. Here is what Paul says is better:
1 Corinthians 13:1–3 (NLT)
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
What metaphors did Paul give for using spiritual gifts without love? Why do you think he chose these metaphors?
What happens if people are not motivated to use their gifts out of love?
What do you think the Corinthians felt when they read these words?
Why did all the gifts and power that Paul listed “gain nothing”? What does that tell you about the power of love?
No matter how impressive a spiritual gift may appear, no matter how dedicated a religious act may be, the absence of genuine love renders these actions meaningless. The Corinthians may have felt like Paul was going too far. Paul, however, wanted the church to know that everything they did should come out of love. Greatness without love is at best annoying like a clanging cymbal and at worst completely meaningless.
1 Corinthians 13:4–7 (NLT)
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
Which of these attributes of love stands out to you the most? Why?
So, based on the above short passage, how would you define love?
Ephesians 5:2 (NLT)
Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.
In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul implies that you have to know Jesus to know love… Is that true?
Paul is not talking about an emotional love. The kind of love he described here is above emotion; it’s self-sacrificing for the sake of another. These 15 characteristics describe loving others even when doing so is difficult. Of course, that is when love is most needed. If we love only those who measure up to our standards or who never pose any challenge, then is that really love? This is the kind of love that you can only truly see in Christ. It’s only through experiencing the self-sacrificial love of Jesus that we can truly love others. In the final set of verses in this chapter (vv. 8-13), Paul contrasted love’s permanence and eternal presence with the temporal things of this world.
But let’s return to Paul’s famous “love chapter” in 1 Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 13:8–13 (NLT)
Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.
When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
In what ways do you see the difference between the eternal and the temporary in this passage? How do you see the difference between the eternal and the temporary in your life?
Why is love greater than faith and hope? What will happen to our faith and hope when Christ returns? What will happen to love?
Love will never end as we love God and love others. This type of love can play out practically in our relationships. Loving God and loving others is far more than head knowledge. No real transformation in our church occurs without love being at the center of it. Paul’s words are clear that anything we do apart from love will pass away. When we embrace the truth that love is permanent, then we will show it consistently to others, and it will be a defining aspect of our character.
What is something you can do this week to show love and respect to your spouse? To someone in your family?
What are some ways you can show your love by giving/service this week?
In what ways have you seen people interrupt their normal routine to take action on behalf of another person? Which people or groups do you find it difficult to love?
How can you use the way God has spiritually gifted you to love others in the church?
Pray together. Thank God for showing us the nature of true love in Jesus. Ask Him to help your group remember the central place of love in your lives and our church, and to never allow a focus on spiritual giftedness to take the place of genuine love.