LOVE IS SERVING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Many of us have heard the name Vince Lombardi, the famous football coach. He was known for his diehard determination to win, especially in tough situations. He also had a big ego. There are lots of stories about him, some true and some not. They say that once he was in championship playoffs and for some reason his wife Marie couldn’t go. It really disappointed him. Green Bay won in spite of the incredible odds. Lombardi was on cloud nine. He got home and his wife was asleep. He tried to slip into bed quietly but his cold feet touched her legs. She exclaimed – “God, your feet are cold!” To which he instantly replied – “When we’re in bed, just call me Vince.” In this message, we’re going to learn why love and pride cannot coexist. Turn to I Corinthians 13 for our message titled, “LOVE IS SERVING.”
I Corinthians 13 4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Context: Once again, keep in mind that Paul was writing this letter to the Christians in Corinth. Unlike Athens, that was just an old college town, and Sparta, that was just an old military town, Corinth was a happening place at the time of Paul. It was the capital of the Roman province of Achaia, sitting on two ports, one to the east and the other to the west. The Agora (marketplace) was the largest in Greece. You could buy anything you wanted. I can go on and on. What kind of people lived here? If you remember, Corinth was a Roman colony populated by freed slaves, army veterans, many original Greeks, and business people and laborers. Have you been around people like that? People who have pulled themselves up by their boot straps; people who think they are tough and hardcore; people who think their family tree goes back to some big shot; people who have struck rich and have a lot of money. What is one thing they all have in common? PRIDE. Unfortunately, this Corinthian sense of pride and arrogance had crept into the church and was destroying the unity of the church. Paul had to address it. Listen to 1 Corinthians 1 26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. Paul is being sarcastic here. He is telling them, “Don’t forget where you came from.” 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence. What is pride? Pride is forgetting where we came from and self-glorying in God’s presence.
Question: Do you have a pride problem? Don’t be too quick to deny it. Pride is an equal opportunity employer. It infects Christians as well as non-Christians. It infects the rich as well as the poor. It has killed more marriages, destroyed more friendships, and sabotaged more hopes than anything else. Are you saved? Refusing to be saved is saying that you are good enough and don’t need Jesus to save you. Leave your pride behind and come to him today.
Let’s begin by examining the words that Paul used to describe love – “love does not parade itself, is not puffed up.” The first one “does not parade itself” is the Greek word “perpereuetai.” This is the only time it is found in the Bible and only one time in secular literature. It has the idea of bragging by talking a lot about one’s self in big lofty words. Its noun form is “perperos,” which means a “bragger.” I don’t have any solid proof for this but if you just listen to that word “perperos,” the stem of that word is being repeated – “perper.” Think about the word “murmur.” It is the sound of someone repeatedly grumbling. Or the word “barbarian” originally referred to people who were not sophisticated in speaking and sounded like the were repeating “barbar.” So also, in my opinion, “perperos” is someone who is repeating things about themselves. After a while, it just sounds like a repetitive obnoxious noise.
Illustration: Sometime back I was at a meeting and this one gentleman began talking. Every statement was prefaced with “Let me tell you how I am,” “Ya’ll gonna learn something about me,” “The kind of person I am,” and “When you get to know me.” He was not a bad person at all but he didn’t realize that after a while we were simply hearing the same noise being repeated. Unintentionally, he had become a “perperos.”
In the Corinthian culture this was kind of normal. You had to assert yourself and prove that you were better and more powerful and wealthier and had deeper roots than the other person. But in the church culture, this was abnormal. Now you had to acknowledge your spiritual poverty, lower yourself, serve others, and put the needs of others before yourself. No wonder the love in the Corinthian church was dying out. It is very hard to love others when you are busy telling them why they should love you.
Paul adds – “love is not puffed up.” The Greek word is “phusioutai.” It literally means “to blow up, to puff up, or to inflate.” It’s found 6 times in this letter. Each time the idea is of someone being full of pride and self-importance but not necessarily with their words. It is more about the demeanor than about the speech. It is pride without sound.
Illustration: Sometime back I met this young lady who was with a young man I knew. As I was talking to him, I realized that she had a “don’t care to be here” look on her face. I thought it must be because she didn’t know anyone and that we were leaving her out of the conversation. So I turned to her and asked her where she was from. She gave me a one-word answer. So I tried to extend the conversation by telling her about someone I knew from the same city. She abruptly responded – “Yes, someone said that already.” It had a sense of finality to it like, “I’m not interested in prolonging this conversation.” I observed her the rest of the time. She sat by herself, avoided any eye contact with anyone in the room, and had a look of disdain. I also noticed that people left her alone. She was sending a message without words and people were hearing it loud and clear.
In the Corinthian culture this was also kind of normal. You had to assert yourself and prove that you are stronger, wealthier, and better than others by your attitude and your demeanor. But in the church culture, this was abnormal. You had to put aside your pride and reach out to the other person in genuine love, care, and understanding. No wonder the love in the Corinthian church was dying out. It is very hard to love others when you are busy telling them that you are too good to associate with them.
Here’s a statement worth remembering: Sometimes pride struts around and everyone can see it. Other times it struts sitting down and everyone can sense it. The solution is – Pride with words has to step back and serve and pride without words has to step up and serve.
How does God love us? He doesn’t strut around in pride. Neither does he sit puffed up in pride. Instead, He serves us in true humility. Paul makes a powerful statement about God in the introduction of his letter to the Corinthians that almost seems blasphemous. I Corinthians 1 25 “…the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” There are some verses in the Bible that are too deep for my finite mind to grasp. This is one of them. Think about it – How can God be foolish? How can God be weak? God is not foolish and neither is he weak. What is Paul saying here? To understand that read the previous 3 verses – 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. The cross made Jesus appear foolish to this world and the incarnation made Jesus appear weak to this world (per Tertullian). They both go against pride. But God was willing to appear foolish and weak to this world so that he could save us. That is true love! In other words, while the Corinthians were strutting and puffing in pride, Jesus was willing to become a servant in order to save us.
How we should love others? Don’t strut and puff in pride but be willing to step back and step out and serve others in humility. Paul didn’t just talk about this. He demonstrated it in his work among the Corinthians. Listen to some of his statements to them:
- 1 Corinthians 2 3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
- 1 Corinthians 9 9 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
Can you hear the servant humility of Paul towards the Corinthians?
How do you see those around you? Do you see them the way Christ sees you? Are you willing to serve them the way Paul served the Corinthians? Sometimes people say, “I’m just an extrovert. I can’t help it.” It’s one thing to be outgoing and it’s another thing to talk only of self. Sometimes people say, “I’m just an introvert. I can’t help it.” It’s one thing to be a quiet personality and it’s quite another to have an air of superiority that says, “If you want to talk to me, you make the effort to come to me.” In a marriage, if one person is always getting his/her way, that’s pride. In a marriage, if one person is always pulling back and making the other reach out to them, that’s also pride.
Here’s a totally different question: How do you see those who are proud? Are you willing to serve even those who strut around or strut around sitting down? I mentioned 2 different incidents, one about the man who only talked about himself and the other about the girl who sat in her pride and refused to talk with others. Guess who had a greater pride? Me. Because I sat back and judged both of them. Listen to Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book “Life
Together” – “He who is bearing others knows that he himself is being borne, and only in this strength can he go on bearing.”
Are you willing to serve others? Are you saved?