Harold Bennett - Love, I Corinthians 13 - Second Oak Lodge Convention, Australia – 1995

Hymn #6

1 Corinthians 13:4, "Charity suffereth long and is kind; beareth all things, believeth, hopeth, endureth all things." I don't suppose there is ever a time when we think so much of the love of God as on a Sunday morning. We know we can hardly comprehend the love of God to empty heaven for 33 ½ years of His well beloved Son for you and for me! It is hard to comprehend the love of Christ that moved Him to come to this dark world to trace out a path of righteousness that leads back to God's right hand and caused Him to suffer, knowing He had to shed His life's blood on Calvary's cross. I appreciated the last line of that hymn that we sang, "Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all."

I appreciated thinking of the words of Paul in II Corinthians 5:14 when he said, "The love of Christ constraineth us.” That was the same love that worked and was operating in the life of Jesus when He came to this earth; it moved Him to do what He did. He gave himself; that is the sacrifice that He gave and I was thinking of I Corinthians 13 in thinking of the love of God, the love of Christ. It is not the first time I have read this chapter and thought about it. I have appreciated what we have already heard in Convention about charity. Sometimes people ask us how this Way of God works; they see it does work without office buildings, seminaries, printing presses, committees, and the most simple explanation of it is, it is the love of God that constraineth us; the love of Christ constraineth us and makes it work so wonderfully well.

I Corinthians 13 is about charity and that is divine love, love divine. Human love is subject to failure but divine love is not subject to failure. A few years ago a lady came to one of the Conventions and gave her testimony. She told us, fifteen years previously she had gotten her eyes on human love and it took her out of God's way. Human love failed and it brought so many heartaches and disappointments into her life. Now, fifteen years later, she was back because she had gotten her eyes on love divine and it brought her back into the fellowship and to joy and peace and hope again. So I have appreciated thinking about this love divine, the love of God, the love of Christ, and that has brought about all that we know and enjoy and gives us the hope that we have.

The first few verses of this chapter tell about the ultimate triumph of charity and I was thinking about those first few where Paul talked about the necessity of charity, or love divine. He picked out five great things that are so esteemed in this world that you and I might be tempted to measure ourselves by. When he said, "Though I," he was just reminding you and me that the real measurement is how much charity, how much of this love of God, the Love if Christ do we have working and operating in our lives. The first thing that he mentioned was great speaking, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal," for the world esteems great speaking. In the false church when they want to hire a preacher, they have him come and preach a few trial sermons and if they like his speaking, they will hire him; if not, they won't because the world esteems great speaking. They esteem the silver tongued orator who speaks effectively and moves crowds, but Paul said, "It is not great speaking but how much of this love divine do I have working in my heart." I am thankful when Jesus was here, He never taught His disciples how to speak but He did teach them how to love. I can remember my first year in the Gospel, speaking was difficult. My companion told me one evening, "If you can't bring much to the meeting, if you can just bring a heart full of love that will mean more to people;" that is the greatest message you could bring - a heart full of love, love divine. I am thankful that is still the measurement today. Paul talked about music, sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. Music can stir the heart. I have sometimes been stirred by music, but it can't feed the heart; divine love is still what feeds our hearts.

The second thing mentioned is great knowledge, "Though I have the gift of prophesy and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge, and have not charity, I am nothing." The world esteems great heads of knowledge who have facts and figures. That is why in the false church ministers will have a doctor's degree in front of their name or after it; he has a head full of knowledge but it is still love that is the real measurement. One day, some missionaries came to a home of some friends and began asking questions. They said, "You don't know anything!" She didn't have a lot of facts and figures but that woman has a heart that is full of love, filled with divine love. To the world, the important thing is to have a head full of facts and figures.

 
In the Garden of Eden was the tree of knowledge that humanly enticed Adam and Eve but it is the tree of life that we need and the life of this thing is the love of Christ, the love of God moving and operating in you and in me. Knowledge will never help us deny ourselves; it will never change our sinful tendencies. Knowledge will never make us more like Christ. We may be worse off for having a lot of knowledge but we will never be worse off for having a heart full of charity, full of divine love.

Then Paul talked about another great thing, "Though I have all faith to remove mountains." There are people in the world who have taken courageous steps—with faith there is courage—in pioneering places, they have gone into darkest Africa. You can do that just through ambition in your life, in your heart, but be far from God and you can still be courageous. Paul just emphasizes it is the heart filled with love that God wants.

The next great thing mentioned, "Though I have all my goods to feed the poor" - the world will be impressed by the sacrifice. There are sacrificial people in the world who will donate to the poor, build orphanages, and hostels, because the world is impressed with sacrifice. Saul of the Old Testament wanted to keep back the animals of the Amalekites that he should have slain, for sacrifice. He knew it would impress people, but David obeyed, because it is better to obey. Divine love will move you and me to obey. There are people in this world who will open their hands to feed the poor but they won't open their heart to God. A heart full of divine love will always move you and me to open our heart.

Finally he said, "Though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity it profiteth me nothing." That is a great thing in the world. In every age there have been martyrs who died for a cause, people taking great stands, but it is quite another thing to live for Truth. It is sometimes harder to live for Truth than it is to die for a cause, so the Apostle Paul took five things so highly esteemed and would make for brilliant lives, but it is nothing if it isn't the love of God constraining you and me, the same love that moved Jesus to leave Heaven's glory to come to the earth, the same love that moved the heart of God that gave Him, a ransom for you and me. The real measurement of our love is not this brilliant thing, but the measurement is how much of this divine love do I have working and operating in my life that was in the life of our Saviour?

The middle verses of this chapter tell about the ingredients that make up charity because charity isn't just one thing; it is made up of many things, just as bread is not made of just flour but many things—water, shortening, yeast.  Well I don't know how many things go into making bread, but the middle verses of this chapter tell us of fourteen ingredients that make up charity, and I am glad it enumerates them because, that was, the field isn't wide open. Your idea of the love of God may be different to my idea of the love of God. The reality of the love of God that we could have in us is spoilt because of one ingredient lacking.

I was thinking of the first one, suffering long — that is patience, just going on and on and on without giving up. Patience is to continue on and on. Patience ends when we get angry so that we quit.

In this Corinthian church, there were some who weren't being very patient with one another, but there are a number of aspects to patience.  There is perseverance and forbearance, that we just put up with other people and their ideas and ways that maybe are different from ours; that is forbearance; that is part of patience, because we love them, because the love of God is working, persevering, going on in spite of obstacles, continuing because we love the way of God.

Then there is long suffering and that is when we are patient when people misuse us or hurt us. When we are ill-treated, we are patient because of this love of God, this love of Christ; we just keep going on. I was thinking of that little verse that says, "Let patience have her perfect work." Sometimes my work has been very imperfect because I have been so impatient. My struggle hasn't been with wickedness: I find my real struggle has been with impatience, and the love of God is always going to produce this quality of patience in our lives.

The second quality ingredient is kindness. I remember one of our Sisters telling us she wrote about a certain problem to an older Sister where we were, what was the wisest course to take in this problem, and the older Sister wrote back and told the younger one, "It is always wisest to be kind," and that is just part of the love of God — kindness:  treating people better than they deserve. We think of the kindness of God. We read in Luke 6 God is kind to the unthankful and the evil, and I just felt I'd like my ministry always to speak of kindness. Because God has been so kind to me and treated me better than I deserve, I have no right to be anything but kind to others. I felt if I can't accomplish what needs to be accomplished by kindness, I really won't accomplish it any other way either, so charity is kind.

Then the next ingredient, charity envieth not — well, that is contentment; charity is content, not in competition with anybody else. Envy is a kind of hatred over what somebody else has. Jealousy is a little different. Envy is over what somebody else has, what somebody else can do more than you, someone else is praised and you can't stand it, you hate them because they are praised, they are doing more than you do, and I have thought there have been some very good lives, good men and women, that have been ruined because of this thing called envy. We read of Miriam— she envied Moses; Saul envied David; we read of the presidents in Daniel's day—they envied Daniel, they had a decree drawn up. We read Pilate knew it was for envy the Jews delivered Jesus to be tried. Envy is just when somebody else is praised and you can't stand it, somebody else has a mind to do things before someone else gets the privilege and you can't stand it because of envy, but charity is content. It is not in competition with anyone, and because of charity, the love of God, we are happy to see someone else praised because we love them; we are happy to see someone else do well because we love them. Somebody is always going to do more, far more than we can do, and we are happy for them because the love of Christ, the love of God is working and operating in our hearts.

Then we read that charity vaunteth not itself. The next quality is humility; charity vaunteth not itself, doesn't sing its own praises and doesn’t parade his virtues. If we say or do anything that is kind, we are not going to parade that, or let anybody know. It is not puffed up, doesn't swell with pride. It helps me to remember in this matter of charity, that charity is humble and it helps me to remember that divinity can only be expressed through humility. Pride is kind of worshipping ourselves, and humility is honoring God instead of honoring self. The only way we express God, His divinity, is through humility. I was thinking of that verse where Paul said, "Let every man esteem another better than himself," in Philippians 2. Humility: give me a low estimation of myself, give me a high estimation of my brother, my sister. I was thinking of a verse in Galatians 6, "If a man think himself to be something when he is nothing." Sometimes we think ourselves to be something when we really are nothing. We have already heard about that today.

I was thinking of a little story I heard about a lady who went to a priest to confess she would like to confess the sin of pride. She had sat for hours looking at her self in the mirror. He said, "That is not the sin of pride; that is the sin of imagination." Sometimes our pride is just imagination and the love of God, the love of Christ is going to just make us appalled sometimes at our foolishness. Wisdom is strength. Always keep a low estimation of ourselves; it will move you and me to esteem others better than ourselves, to love them just as Christ loves His people.

I was thinking of the next ingredient that goes into charity. It says, "Charity doth not behave itself unseemly; that is wisdom." Charity is wise. We read in Paul's letter to Timothy about that which becometh women professing godliness. He also talks about that which becometh men professing godliness, because wherever we go, we are His house, as we heard yesterday. We are concerned about God's reputation, so we behave ourselves with wisdom. David behaved himself wisely in all his ways, Samuel 18, and then more wisely than all the servants of Saul. I can remember, when I was a little boy, father used to sometimes tell us children, "Don't you go out and misbehave or do anything wrong in the community; the neighbors aren't going to say Harold did that but that Bennett boy did that." That is why, because we love God and we love His Truth, we behave ourselves wisely in this world—because we are concerned about God's name and His reputation and we are not just trying to see how much we can get by with indulging ourselves, but we are concerned about this Truth that we love so much.

Then we read Charity seeketh not her own, that selflessness is the next ingredient. Sometimes it just appalls me how often I find I am going around thinking of myself and how plans that are made concern me, what advantage there will be to me. Charity is selfless, seeketh not her own. The love of God will move you and me to give up our rights, our plans, to think about others and their rights and how things affect others. Someone said about a little girl whose grandmother asked her, "Who do you love most?" and the grandmother probably expected her to say, "I love you most, grandmother" but the little girl answered, "I love myself!" From the lips of babes, that was probably a true answer. So we have sometimes heard that self is the easiest thing to worship but the hardest thing to sacrifice; but we think of the love of our Saviour, who loved others more than Himself, and because He loved you and me more than He loved Himself, we have hope today. The divine love, the love of God, the love of Christ will always move you and me to think of others and their need and what I am doing and saying is going to affect others and it will move me to give up my rights always for the welfare of others.

I was thinking of the next ingredient of the love of God. It says charity is not easily provoked; the next ingredient is mild, soft. The enemies of Jesus did a lot of things to provoke Him to anger but because Jesus was mild and soft in Spirit, they couldn't provoke Him to anger. We talk sometimes about the sins of the flesh and of the spirit.  Sometimes we have a hard time with our anger, our temper, and that is one of the things the Bible condemns again and again, a person who is soon angry. Not easily provoked is charity. I was thinking of anger. Sometimes we provoke God's people; we find because of the new spirit, the new control over their lives, because of the love of God, sometimes human nature would provoke. That could work two ways, either go up to boiling point or it could go down to freezing point; they just won't talk, just brood. One is just as bad as the other but the love of God puts a new control over our lives so that we are not soon angry or not easily provoked.

Sometimes people ask what about Jesus in Mark 3; it says He was angry, and I have appreciated the thought that Jesus was angry because of the violation of principles not, however, in a passion. Sometimes we get angry because of our passion; Jesus was made angry by the violation of some of the principles of God. Sometimes we have to reach the point of anger before we do something about some of the principles of God that are violated. He was never angry of His passion, because of what people said or did to Him; He never got His feelings hurt; He was led as a Lamb to the slaughter, dumb as a sheep before the shearers, so the love of God just puts a new control over our spirits because of its working within our lives.

I was thinking of the next ingredient — thinketh no evil; that just means it is pure. There is purity in charity. I believe one of the easiest ways to become defiled is to be defiled in our thinking. We can have thousands of thoughts in just a very short time and we remember everything that begins with a thought. Someone told about the maker of a bridge. At the dedication of the bridge, it was pointed out that that bridge they were dedicating began with a thought, and I just thought of the necessity of being pure in our thoughts because we will never be any more noble, or spiritual, or godly than our thoughts. I know a woman who just seems to have a list in her mind of wrongs that others have done to her and the grudges and complaints; she seems to go around just going over and over the list. Well, that is impoverishing her, going over and over in her mind, making her poor in the way of God.

"Charity thinketh no evil." In another language, it is translated, "Charity is not suspicious;" it just means one isn't going around suspecting others of evil and wrong because of the love of God working in our hearts. In Titus 1:15, it says, "Unto the pure all things are pure, but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving, is nothing pure." I used to wonder what that verse meant — to the pure all things are pure, to the defiled nothing is pure. It means that we tend to suspect in other people wrong that we see in ourselves. If we are dishonest, we tend to suspect that in others; when we are self-righteous, we suspect others of being self-righteous; when we are proud, we suspect others are proud; when we are pure in our thoughts then we tend to see purity in other people also because it says, "Charity thinketh no evil." I just felt I would like to work on that element of charity. I am not standing up here telling you I have always done these things but I want to do them because I know that is part of the love of God.

Well, then it says, "Rejoiceth not in iniquity;" this means charity is holy. Iniquity is something that is an abomination to God—like taking our own way and going wrong. The love of God in our hearts never causes us to rejoice in somebody else stumbling or going wrong, or anything that is an abomination to God. In Proverbs 24, we read, "Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth." We read in another place, "He that is glad of another's calamity shall not prosper." The love of God makes us grieve when we hear of somebody going wrong, going down in the conflict.

The next element of charity is, "Rejoiceth in the Truth." The love of God is truthful. The only thing the love of God can rejoice in is the Truth. There is no hope in a lie, no future in a lie, but with the love of God working in our hearts, then we are moved to humble ourselves and seek for Truth; seek and seek and seek it until it is found because we can never rejoice or find anything to make us glad, nothing else but the Truth. I have appreciated a statement that was made, "It is not who is right, but what is right, and the love of God is always going to move us to seek not who is right but what is right." Sometimes we get taken up with who is right or who is wrong, but the love of God will move you and me to get taken up with what is right, not with what is wrong.

Then we read, "Charity beareth all things," verse 7; it just means charity knows how to be silent and bear all things. It just means charity will make you and I slow to expose wrong; we are not going to go about publishing another person's faults, blazing it about and talking about it, because charity knows how to be silent. In I Peter 4, "Charity covereth a multitude of sins." I was thinking of the account we have in Genesis 9 where Ham, the son of Noah, came and found his father drunken and told it about. His two sons, Shem and Japheth, took a mantle, walked backwards and covered the nakedness of their father; that is just taking the mantle of love to cover someone else's fault because we love them and because the love of Christ is operating in our lives. Sometimes I fear I have too much of an appetite for bad things, for scandal, but the love of God makes it so we are slow to expose the wrong in the Kingdom and in others and you won't talk about it. There are times when some things have to be addressed and dealt with. We are slow but do it because of the love of Christ operating in our lives.