Sunday Message (September 29): CROSS
Text: Philippians 2:1-11
Message Audio: Listen HERE
As I wrapped up the Friends: Be a Real One message series on Sunday, I unpacked the following statement: lasting and thriving relationships follow the way of the cross. I have directed this week's AfterWORDS at two tangents which time prohibited me from addressing in the Friends series. Tuesday's post centered on Paul's relational argument that the Spirit runs thicker than blood. You can read it HERE. This post focuses on the problem with "love."
Taylor Swift says, "We are never ever, ever getting back together." That's right, this relationship is over!
Bruno Mars flatters, "Her lips, her lips...I could kiss them all day if she'd let me." Giddy-up!
Enrique Iglesias gets straight to the point, "I know you want me. I made it obvious that I want you too...nobody has ever made me feel the way that you do...tonight I'm loving you!" Lucky girl!
And then Katy Perry's new song tattooing itself on mental replay, "I've got the eye of the tiger, fighter, dancing through fire. I am a champion and you're gonna hear me roar!" Obviously she is directing her Rocky Balboaness at her punk ex.
Love is pop musics number one subject: I'm in love; we just broke up; she broke my heart; I'm breaking his heart; I can't live without you; you are hot, sexy...yada, yada, yada. I won't lie. I like pop music. I've car-rocked everyone of the songs I mentioned, off key of course and with nauseating dance moves. All of theses artists have catchy tunes, great voices and address a subject matter that matters to every person. Everyone wants love. The problem is not pop music. I don't believe you should only listen to Third Day and Chris Tomlin. I've been a Michael Jackson fan since I lip synced Thriller at church camp! The problem? The love culture speaks of is not love.
In I Corinthians 13, Paul attempts to unite a fracturing congregation, fighting over their spiritual superiority, by showing them the most excellent way. The most excellent way...LOVE! The word Paul uses for Christian love is agape. Agape was best demonstrated on the cross. It is a love lavished on others whether they are worthy or not. It proceeds from the nature of the lover, and not the attractiveness of the loved (Leon Morris). Agape offers oneself for the best interest of the object of love. It has little to do with feelings, sex, or attraction but it has everything to do with humanity's greatest emotional need. Paul's definition of love sounds a lot different than "I know you want me. I made it obvious that I want you too." Paul says...
Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not want what belongs to others. It does not brag. It is not proud. It is not rude. It does not look out for its own interests. It does not easily become angry. It does not keep track of other people’s wrongs. Love is not happy with evil. But it is full of joy when the truth is spoken. It always protects. It always trusts. It always hopes. It never gives up. Love never fails.
If Paul is right, then the most satisfying love is not the subject of Bruno Mar's latest hit. It is not confined to the marriage relationship. It should be most evident in the Church. It is agape. When we begin to emphasize the highest form of love, when we let it shape our search for love, the game changes.
1. It dispels the notion that single people will be less than complete until they are married. Agape means that men and women can be fully satisfied outside of marriage. A husband or wife is not necessary in order to have your deepest need fulfilled.
2. It creates better marriages. I'm not going to lie, I did not initiate a relationship with Mary Beth (my wife) out of agape. I sought her out because I thought and still think she is gorgeous. It was her smile, her jet black hair, her tiny nose...you get the idea. Although I'm still deeply attracted to my wife, our love has matured in our 15 years of being together. Our agape deepens and as it does our relationship improves!
3. It affirms the power of same-sex friendships. Many men have a difficult time with intimacy, especially when that word is used in the context of relationships with other males (our homophobia betrays us). Intimacy is not a sexual term but our misperception of love has made it such. When we let agape shape our understanding of love it creates space for same-sex friendships that are life-giving and soul-fulfilling. David and Jonathan are an excellent biblical example of such a friendship.
4. It reinforces the importance of the Church. As a Christian, I believe agape springs from the very nature of God and manifests itself most clearly in Jesus and his death. It is a Christian love and it should permeate every nook and cranny of our churches. People should find a love in the Christian community that reaches to the depth of their being.
Keep listening to Bruno and Katy. I know I will, but let Paul shape your view of love!