MESSAGE TO THE PARENTS AND THE CONGREGATION

Now the message that I have today is for Joshua’s benefit and is a challenge for his loving parents – Helen and Chris – and is an encouragement for us all. But you might be a little surprised at the Bible text that came to me while I was walking on a rare day of blazing heat around the coast of Kent from Birchington to Margate. As the verses came to me I declared “but this is a passage more suited to weddings that dedications!” But God opened it up to me and I pray He open it up to you as well:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13)

This came to me after a morning where I was led to focus on Jesus’ words to His disciples and found in John 14: 15 –

‘If you love me, keep my commands’.

Surely, I thought, love of God is not about obedience…is it?

And as I pondered on this I understood that we do what He says because we love Him and not in order to get Him to love us.

So, I pondered (yet again!!!) on what “love” really is.

It FEELS like it should be an emotion – “I feel love”. Isn’t love all about that “gooey sensation” you have in your stomach when you see a beautiful woman?

Well, if love is about feelings or emotions then God help us! For the man for whom you miss a heart-beat for today is the same one that tomorrow you are going to be really irritated with. Our feelings go up and down like a yo-yo and if we were to take our feelings as an indicator of love then we would get divorced one day and remarried the next.

No – it struck me that love is about commitment. It is a man saying to the woman he loves that “I choose to be one with you, and be one with you, for the rest of my life – for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer” and it is demonstrating that love in care, understanding and support – even when the other person is a “right numpty”!

And – Chris and Helen – so it is with love for your child Joshua.

You have chosen to be parents – you have given birth to this beautiful boy. Your love towards him must NOT be based on emotions and feelings – because one day he will be the most beautiful boy in the world, and the next he shall be screwing his darling-little-face up and screaming at the top of his voice for no obvious reason at 3 o’clock in the morning and keep it up till 6 and you will most-definitely NOT be feeling a tender love for the little blighter!

You are called to love him – with a higher love – what the Bible calls an “Agape” love that is based on a calling to parent him, a commitment to care for him, a decision to support him no matter what. This is love – that you are willing to lay down your life for him (John 15: 13).

Oh yes – he shall get through this baby-phase…to be replaced by new phases that will continue THROUGHOUT YOUR LIFE!!! You will discover along with the joys of seeing him growing and developing that he will hit the “I don’t want to do what you tell me to do” phase; then the “oh! You’re so out of order! I hate you!” phase, then the “I wanna stay out all night with my mates” phase and the “don’t you tell me that my girlfriend is totally unsuitable!” phase. And don’t think that the day will come when he gets married and has a job of his own and will be “out of your hair”. You will continue to worry about him and will continue to have to “bail him out” of difficulties till the day you die!

How does this tie in with our chosen passage of Scripture? Well, the call to love for you is to add your names to the ways in which love is manifested…a bit like this…a paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13:

Dear Joshua – out of our deep love for you, we shall always seek to do the following –

We shall be patient with you, and kind towards you. We shall always wish the best for you – wanting better for you than we have for ourselves. We shall hold you in the highest regard in our hearts and shall always seek the very best for you. We will not be easily angered with you and we will keep no records of your wrongs. We will delight in God being with you and pray that His Truth fill you. We commit ourselves to always protecting you, always trusting you, always hoping the very best for you, and we will never give up on our love and care for you. Our love will never fail for you. We will love you to the very end of our lives.

Now…how are Chris and Helen going to be able to do this?

Well, I believe that they will be able to do this for Joshua because God is doing this for them.

We are told in 1 John 4: 8 “God is love” and everything that I hope they are going to promise for Joshua is everything that God promises for them…and for you too! Are you aware that the promises of 1 Corinthians 13 are what God promises for YOU TOO? Don’t miss out on God’s great declaration of love for you.

God is love, therefore we can replace every word of “love” with the Name of “God”:

God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud. God does not dishonour others, God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Our God is an awesome God!

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT AND DISCUSSION

  • What struck you most from the service on Sunday?
  • Read 1 Corinthians 11: 1 – surely Paul is being arrogant here? How does this relate to parents with their children? How does this relate to us with other Christians and how does this make you feel?
  • We’ve been talking a lot about Grace recently. How does the Love of God and the Grace of God link together?
  • OK – if 1 Corinthians 13 is all about love – “Agape” love – then how about trying to break down verses 4 to 7 and understanding what each phrase means.