Jack Graham - Essentials for Healthy Relationships
Today in our LIFE TOGETHER series, I'm going to be talking to you from First Corinthians chapter 13 so you can begin finding First Corinthians 13 in your Bible about the "Essentials of Healthy Relationships". The essentials. And while there are essentials, multiple things that we can do to express our love, there is really one essential, and of course, that one essential in all relationships is love. The Beatles sang "All You Need is Love"; it became sort of a theme song of a generation. Well, all you need is love, God's love, the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. And love really is the answer to every circumstance, situation, relationship in our lives.
Now First Corinthians 13 is an epic chapter in the Bible. You often hear it read at weddings, and it is a beautiful passage of Scripture. In fact it is a hymn of love. Someone even describe First Corinthians 13 as a lyrical version of the Sermon on the Mount. If you put the Sermon on the Mount to music, words and music would show up here in First Corinthians 13. It's really a portrait of Christ and you can always just substitute the word Jesus or Christ for all the times that love is mentioned here in First Corinthians 13 because ultimately the love of God is what lasts. And that's really the ultimate message of First Corinthians 13 is that love lasts; love is eternal, God's love. Human love fails. We fail, I fail to love as we ought to love, but the love of God in us can love in a powerful and a persuasive way. The church of the Lord Jesus Christ should be filled with love, great, great love.
We are the body of Christ and Jesus said, John 14:15, "If you love Me keep My commandments," and that is to love Him and to live for Him. He also said John 13:34, "A new commandment I give unto you: that you love one another even as I have loved you". You might say that's the eleventh commandment. "A new commandment", Jesus said, "I give to you; that you love one another". And so the first thing that I want you to see as we begin reading this passage of Scripture that love is the priority of all relationships; the priority of loving relationships is to love. Beginning in verse one, we're going to read the entire chapter and ask God to speak to you as we read these beautiful and, yes, powerfully and illustrative words. "If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing".
So we've already learned that love is greater than prophecy, speaking; love is greater than understanding the mysteries and love is greater than knowledge; love is greater than education; love is even greater than faith. And then he says love is greater than martyrdom. "If I give away all I that have but deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away, When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I become a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love".
Well, love is really not defined in this passage. It's almost impossible to define love. We use love indescrimenently. we say, well I love my dog, I love my wife, I love pizza, I love my church, I love baseball. Love is a coverall, but it's a word really here that is in context of a Corinthian church. Let me give you a little quick Bible study here. The Corinthian church was a selfish, childish church. And the people there, though they considered themselves very spiritual and were practicing certain kinds of esoteric gifts, Paul calls them on the carpet and says that love is greater than prophecy, love is greater than languages, love is greater than anything and, therefore, you need to love because you're childish and. Not child-like; we ought to be child-like, but they were childish and carnal and selfish.
And First Corinthians 13 is not just, you know, a beautiful poem put in the middle of this text, but it is right really in middle of solving dissentions and divisions and divisiveness within the church. And what's true in the church is true in a marriage or any kind of relationship. That love is the solution. But really, it's a misunderstood word. The word here is agape which means sacrificial love. It's the love of Christ; it's the love of the cross. And when we are deeply loved, and realize that we are deeply loved than our identity is in the love of Christ; then we are able to love someone else. What did Jesus say in Matthew 22:39? He said, "Love your neighbor as you love yourself"! The fact that we love ourselves is presumed. So the very fact that we love ourselves, we're to love one another. But many people really don't love themselves because they've not discovered their identity in Christ, who they are in Christ! But once you know how much you are loved in Jesus Christ then you are free to love someone else!
That brings me to the second point which is the practice of loving relationships, because what we have here is a series of action words, verbs that tell us what love does. Love is, he says, first of all, patient. That's one I keep working on because I'm not naturally patient, and neither are you, by the way. But it means to suffer long. In fact, the King James says "Love is longsuffering". To be loving is to be slow to anger, to be longsuffering. It means you don't constantly blow up and lose your temper. You know, losing your temper... You don't lose it by losing it! And it means you don't snap with people; you have patience with people. You don't fly off the handle. You don't retaliate or seek revenge. Love is forgiving. How often are we to forgive? Jesus said seven times seventy.
In great relationships, in particular a great marriage is made up of two good forgivers and two good forgetters. In fact there are nine words that will change your life and change your marriage. Nine words! And if you will learn these and live these, it will absolutely revolutionize your home and your family. What are they? "I am sorry; I was wrong; please forgive me". In fact, I want all the guys to repeat this with me this morning, all right, guys? Now guys, we're going to do this with your pastor, and I'm in this with you. Just the nine words that will change your marriage. I'm sorry; I was wrong; please forgive me! Are you ready? Repeat with me: "I am sorry; I was wrong; please forgive me". Now see how easy that is? Teach that to your wives as well, by the way! But it's so important because real love... You say, "Well, you know, she/he". Well, real love doesn't give people what they deserve; it gives people what they need. And every one needs patience and kindness because none of us have arrived.
If we're not careful in our marriage we can become irritable and constantly on edge, and because we're stressed out at various levels we just get impatient with one another. And when we do that's when we say: "I'm sorry; I was wrong; please forgive me". It's from my vantage point as a pastor all these years, for the most part, breakups in homes and families, divorces and marriages etc. it happens because of unresolved conflict. Conflict that just never gets resolved. It gets stuffed and people get bitter and angry and they hold on to that until there's an explosion. Well love is patient. Love is kind. That's what verse four says there. Love is kind.
Now to some kindness is seen as weakness but kindness is not weakness. In case you didn't realize it, kindness shows incredible strength. It is love that is extremely powerful. It take kindness to love people who may be weak or who may be hurting or who may be difficult. At the root of this word kindness in First Corinthians 13 is the word useful. So kindness is useful in expressing love of ministry and service and devotion. Kindness can heal the hurts of this world. Kindness can restore your marriage. Kindness will bless your children. God's love is described as loving kindness. "Your loving kindness is better than life". Psalm 63 and verse 3. It's being nice. You know a little girl prayed, "Lord, make all the people good and all the good people nice". Nice, N-I-C-E. Here it is especially when it comes to conversations and talking about other people:
N — Is it Necessary? Is what I'm about to say or what I'm about to repeat... is it really necessary?
I — Is it Important. So many of the things we say are just not important.
C — Is it Caring?
E — Is it Encouraging?
So there's what it is to be nice. Love is not jealous. That's in verse 4. Do you see it there? Again, love is patient and kind; love does not envy. It is not envious, it is not jealous. Why? Because when we are envious and jealous we're not grateful. We become discontents. You know, we live either under one of two tents; either content or discontent? Which tent are you in? You one of the problems we've got in marriages is financial problems and indebtedness and one of the major reasons of indebtedness is because of our desire to have more. We're not grateful for what we have. Now, look, there's nothing wrong in being a high achiever and being successful in life, when you give God glory and He gives you abilities to do certain things, I'm not talking about that. But some people make money the goal of their life, and they give up their families and spending time together for the pursuit of riches and it never works! That's an epic fail!
And so we get more and more things. We think we've got to have more stuff to satisfy us, to bring us security. You know, it's like you spend your life keeping up with the Jones... and about the time you catch up with the Jones, they refinance! And a lot of that is just pure jealousy and envy of what somebody else has! Love doesn't do that. Love is not envious. Love is not boastful. You see that there? It is not boastful. It is not arrogant. It is humble. Love and pride are totally opposite. In fact, the Proverb says, Proverbs 13:10, "Only by pride comes contention". Here's what happens in a marriage. You've got King James here and Queen Jill. King Jack, Queen Jill, both vying for the throne, and therefore contention. But when we allow Jesus to be the center of our lives, the center of our home, when He takes control and when we yield to Him then we can submit to one another.
Love is not egotistical or self-centered but humble. And humble is genuine, authentic. Not thinking lowly of yourself, but not thinking of yourself, and putting others first. Then verse 5 says love is not rude; does not insist on its own way. It's not irritable; it's not resentful. Now rudeness here refers to unbecoming behavior of any kind. It means don't be the south end of a northbound horse. That' what it really means. There's so much crudeness and so much rudeness in the world today especially in relationships. But love is courteous. It practices good manners. It says please and thank you and, as noted earlier, I'm sorry. Love is considerate of others and not just of self. Someone said that kindness is love in the little things. That's what your wife needs: love in the little things. How's your tone when you talk to each other? Is it rude? Is it crude?
There's so much profanity in our culture and our society, and it often spills out like a gutter into our homes. There's no place for profanity in your home in your conversation! It's not rude, it's not unbecoming! Use good manners! Don't just speak when someone speaks to you. Reach out to people in love! Love is unselfish; it does not insist on its own way. We all battle self: I battle self, you battle self. But love enables us to conquer our selfish motivations. Love is not irritable or resentful. Some people just live in a total state of being ticked off all the time. But love is not touchy or thin-skinned. How often do we lose our testimony among unbelievers in particular because we just blow up at the smallest little thing at the office, or in the neighborhood. You want to know what's inside of you? Just see what comes out when somebody jostles you. Love is not irritable or resentful. Love is optimistic because it says love (verse 7) "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things".
Love is full of faith and optimism; believes the best about one another, not the worse! "Bears all things", it's really a word which means protected. It protects. Guys, one of the callings that we men have with our wives is to be protective of our wives. If someone says the wrong thing about your wife, you ought to stand ready to protect her. And certainly as a husband, if you're a loving husband, you always speak well of your wife around your friends, in public wherever you go. How critical it is that you always speak well of one another! Because love believes in one another, and bears all things and believes all things, trusts in all things. Love is optimistic. It does not keep adding up offenses; the word here is "not resentful"; that means doesn't keep records of wrongs.
Don't be like that wife in the marriage counseling situation. The husband said, "You know every time we get in an argument my wife gets historical". He said, "You mean hysterical, right"? "No, historical! She brings up everything out of my past"! See, love is not resentful. It doesn't keep account of wrongs. It's doesn't, you know, keep a little short list, and then, you know, bam! unloads! Love is the greatest force on earth. And husbands, your wives need you to love her and women, your man needs you to return that love. And we're different, right? We don't do it in exactly the same way because we're not the same.
God made us different, and as the French said, "Viva la difference"! For example, you come home from, let's say, playing golf and you walk in the door, it's about 7 o'clock and you say, "Hey, honey, how was your day"? "Oh, I'm just so tired; it's been a rough day"! And you say, "Well, then go to bed". Wrong answer! That's what you think because you think that you're supposed to fix stuff. I mean men are hardwired to bring solutions. You're tired? Go to bed! Right? No, wrong! Because women are wired to converse, and they don't want your mouth, they want your shoulder.
Here's what your wife wants: She says, "I'm tired". You say, "Well, honey, come over here on the couch. I'm going to turn my phone off for the rest of the night. We're going to unplug the batteries to the remote. Honey, take your shoes off. Let me give you a foot rub Baby doll, lean on my shoulder here. Let's cuddle a little bit". Because your wife doesn't want your mouth, she wants your shoulder! She doesn't want you coming, figuring things out. See, "go to bed" is a lot easier than what I just described! But love acts in kindness and goodness and generosity and faithfulness. Loves believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, and therefore, love lasts when that love is Christ-centered.
In Ecclesiastes 4 we're told that "two are better than one; when one falls the other is there to pick them up". Two are better than one; when you are in bed one will warm the other. It's two and two and two. But then in Ecclesiastes 4 and verse 12 it says: "A three-fold cord is not quickly broken". It goes from two and two to three.
And this is what I tell young couples, and this is what I'm telling you today: that it is a three-fold cord that is not easily broken. The two of us can be snapped, but the three of us, and three being the strand of God in you! It is Christ in you and Christ in your home! He is the third! This makes marriage a trinity and a three-fold cord is not easily broken. A Christ-centered home, a Christ-centered family, a Christ-centered marriage: that kind of love will prevail. And even though faith will be turned aside and hope will be fulfilled when we get to heaven, love will just keep on loving forever and ever and ever. A little boy, his daddy came to Christ, his mother came to Christ, older brother came to Christ. The little boy said, "You can't believe the difference in our home when we started loving Jesus"! You start loving Jesus and watch God give you love for your wife, for your husband, to your children, a love like you've never known before.