In our postmodern society, there are many words and concepts that have gotten a completely different definition than before. Truth, right, wrong, tolerance, these are just a few. Love also falls into that category. Where once upon a time love meant commitment, monogamy, friendship, and for the most part something that lasted, it has now often become cheap, physical, quick, a matter of feelings that can pass as quick as they have come. It’s time to explain what love is al about…
Bible passage: 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8
Key message: Love is a choice
Synopsis: This passage gives us a perfect picture of what love should be like. It describes a perfect love in clear and uncertain terms. But reading this almost hurts, because we all know love like this doesn’t exist in real life…or does it? This passage first and foremost describes God’s perfect love. This passage and others (like Isaiah 54:10, though this was spoken to Israel and not to us) make clear that God’s love is perfect and eternal and that we can trust it to always be there. God’s love is a choice based on God’s character, not on out worthiness of being loved. God proved that when He loves us when we were still sinners and gave up His Son to save us from our sins. Secondly, it shows that love is a choice. Love is not a feeling, it’s a choice we make every day, every hour, to do the loving thing. Love exists where people choose to love. Are you trusting in God’s love for you? And what are you doing to choose love?
Tips: This is a well known passage from the Bible, but that doesn’t mean you should skip it. It’s important for yourself to read the context of this passage as well, even if you don’t use that context in your sermon. This chapter is in the middle of Paul’s explanation of spiritual gifts: chapter 12 gives a list and describes how unity works in the body of Christ and chapter 14 goes into more detail on the gifts of prophecy and tongues. Between those two topics Paul describes the greatest gift of all: love. I’ve selected just four verses, because they highlight the key message best (or I should say: the key message is based on these four verses, not on the whole chapter). You could preach the whole chapter, but you may need to change your key message.
The word for love that is used here in Greek is a special word, one that wasn’t used often. The more common words for love were ‘eros’ (physical love) and ‘phylos’ (friendship, platonic love). Here Paul uses the word ‘Agape’, meaning a love that is based on the deliberate choice of the one who loves, rather than the worthiness of the one who is loved. This is something crucial to explain to your students, because it makes the key message clear and it gives you an opening to talk about how different God’s love is from our human love.
This sermon works best if you sharply paint the contrast between how love should be, as described in this passage, and how love is in reality. To stress that last part and to really speak to the pain and hurt this reality has caused for the students in your audience, pick your examples carefully. You could think of divorced parents, single parent families, adoption, teenage relationships gone wrong, family feuds, etc. Be sure to describe the examples you choose with great care and compassion and so really speak to the hearts of your students.
Being open and vulnerable about your own negative experiences with love could be really helpful here to open students’ hearts to the truth. I’ve shared the experience of my first boyfriend for instance, including a fairly cheesy picture, which made the students laugh. But then I talked about how he broke my heart and this was something they all recognized. If you have a deep experience of love that failed, try to share it. Students will respond to your pain by opening up to hear about how you dealt with this. You could also use someone else’s testimony.
And don’t miss out on this great opportunity to share the Gospel, with God’s love for us as a starting point.