Good evening. Please turn with me in your bibles to 1 Corinthians chapter 13. 1 Corinthians 13.
We’re diving back into Paul’s section on Love, wherein he describes what Love IS and what love DOES. He’s giving the Corinthian believers, and us, a benchmark, a standard by which we may test ourselves to see how we are doing.
Love is a defining mark of true believers, which is why Jesus himself said that it is by our love that the world will know that we are his disciples. Love is the very essence of who God is, as John tells us in chapter 4 of his first letter.
Love is what binds the church of Christ together in harmony. Love is what makes us effective, makes us winsome and makes our message attractive to the world.
So what is love? let’s read what Paul says. 1 Corinthians 13:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 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. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 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.
13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
By way of review, last week we finished verse 4 by looking at the sin of pride. Paul says that Love does not boast, and it is not arrogant. We said that these two things are connected: boasting is the fruit, arrogance is the root. Bragging about yourself and your accomplishments is what necessarily overflows from a heart that is puffed up and arrogant.
We also said that pride has certain consequences. We saw from scripture that Pride gives a false assurance of safety. We mentioned the Edomites in the book of Obadiah as an example of someone who thought they were safe in their pride, but God brought them down.
And that’s what flowed into the second point, that Pride makes God your enemy. God speaks clearly throughout the bible to say that Pride doesn’t merely bring some vague consequences, but that it makes God PERSONALLY your enemy. He himself opposes the proud.
And that pointed us to the third fruit of pride: that it brings a terrible judgement. Pride merits for itself God’s white-hot holy wrath and judgment, culminating in an eternal appointment in hell. Sodom and Gomorrah were just foretastes of what God will do to all the proud and boastful.
But we also remembered that scripture offers us all a way of escape. Christ has absorbed the wrath and judgement for those that trust in him. Those that humbly cling to him by faith are spared eternal judgment, and given instead the reward earned by Christ’s humility and meekness. The wicked spared, and treated as righteous, because the righteous one humbled himself to be treated as if he were wicked. That’s the glorious exchange of the gospel.
Tonight, I’d like to continue in into verse 5 and look at some more of the fruit of pride, and the corresponding fruit of humility.
First, we see in verse 5 that love is not rude. It isn’t rude.
Rudeness is a fruit of pride, and we’ve all seen and experienced people being rude to us. Somebody pulling out in front of us in traffic, or cutting us off in the middle of a sentence.
But have you ever spent time to think about the category of rude behavior? What exactly makes a behavior rude? Is it a universal standard, or is it tied to a specific context and time?
I find it interesting that rudeness assumes a category of behaviors which are agreed upon within some society, but not necessarily absolute moral law. That is, something might be considered rude here, but be perfectly acceptable in South Africa, and therefore not necessarily sinful there. Wearing your shoes in someone’s house might be perfectly normal here, but in Japan that might be utterly offensive, and therefore, potentially sinful.
So there exists in Paul’s mind, and therefore ought to exist in our minds, some category of ethical behavior of which we ought to be mindful. And, as long as those culturally expected behaviors are consistent with Scripture, then we ought to conform out of love.
Scripture is our standard, it’s the final say, but as long as some custom is not contrary to scripture, then we ought to conform in love.
Let me give us an example. Nothing in scripture commands a man to hold a door open for a woman. It’s a custom. But that custom is consistent with God’s design of men and woman, and is a way for man to show deference to woman, who is man’s glory, Paul says in chapter 11, and by holding the door, man also shows honor to woman as the weaker vessel.
So, because that custom is consistent with many biblical principles, for us to reject such a custom without good reason, is for us to be rude, and therefore not be loving. I hope this is helpful, for us to see the connection between custom and cultural expectation on the one hand, and absolute moral law on the other. To understand rudeness, we need to know the difference between absolute law and cultural norms.
So back to rudeness as a category, the word that Paul uses for rude refers to something that is offensive to decorum, some conduct that is inappropriate, unseemly, unconcerned with civility and propriety. It certainly includes poor manners and tact-less-ness, but it is larger than that.
A rude person may be rude in how he speaks. He or she might be crude, joking about things that are unseemly, or juvenile. You might simply try to justify it as locker room talk, or guy’s talk, but what it most often is, is sinful. In Ephesians 5:4 Paul says, “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place,” which means they are inappropriate. They are rude.
There are certain words and topics which ought not be joked about among believers. And if you’re not sure if a word or topic is acceptable, ask your grandmother. She’s likely a decent barometer of its acceptability. And if she’s not around to ask, you might just not say it. God has given each of you a sufficient vocabulary to speak in a way that honors him, and if you’re unsure if a word is rude or not, wisdom might just skip it.
But it’s not merely the content of what we say, that is the words alone. It’s also the manner in which we speak that can be rude. Proverbs speaks of the timing of our speak as indicative of whether or not we are a fool.
Proverbs 27:14: “Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice,
rising early in the morning,
will be counted as cursing.”
That means the fool might come to your house and bless your name, speaking wonderful words of encouragement and praise, but if he does it at the crack of dawn, those words of blessing will be received as words of cursing, because the fool is rude.
He is inconsiderate to show up at dawn. Love knows that we are called not merely to avoid filthy words, but we’re also supposed to consider the timing of the words that we choose to use.
The rude person is unconcerned with timing, usually because he is impulsive. He often blasts off as soon as he has a stray thought. He calls or texts immediately, without a second thought to what time it is, or what the other person might be doing.
But love is not so. Calvin says it this way, which I like, “Love does not bluster…but instead observes moderation.” He observes moderation, rather than blustering, which is to say that love moderates, throttles back their impulsivity, in order to consider others.
One more way that rudeness might express itself: in how we dress. Sometimes a person might be considered rude because how they dress themselves. It may be in a clearly flashy way, or a certain hairstyle, or in a clearly immodest way that is in appropriate. A rainbow colored suit isn’t appropriate at a funeral, nor is a swimsuit appropriate at a wedding.
Sometimes the rude person is offensive because they are not considerate of what is appropriate. They are unconcerned with what impact their dress might have on others. They don’t care about the weaker brother that might stumble because of what you put on. The rude one doesn’t care, because he’s unconcerned, and inconsiderate.
In fact, that’s a good way for us to transition to the opposite of rudeness. Some people might agree that rudeness is the sin, and so they think that proper manners is the virtue being extolled instead. As if Paul is simply commending us all to act well-behaved and proper.
But Love demands more than using the right fork and speaking with polite niceties. Be assured, there are plenty of well-mannered, genteel, proper gentlemen and gentlewomen in the halls of hell right now. Manners alone don’t necessarily demonstrate genuine love.
Rather, love is not rude because love is instead considerate. Love is considerate. That’s the positive virtue behind the prohibition of rudeness. Put off rudeness, not by replacing it with simple manners, but by replacing it with loving consideration.
The rude person is rude because he is proud, he’s arrogant, he’s concerned only with himself. But the humble person will be considerate of others.
Rather than speaking crudely, using filthy speech and course jesting, the considerate person will weigh the words that he uses, and use only that speech which is good for building up. Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
We’re to use words that build up, so that it may give grace to those who hear. That’s a much higher standard.
Are people given grace by my words?
Are people encouraged, strengthened, bolstered in their faith by my words? That’s a much harder standard.
It would be easier if Paul would just give me a list of rude words to avoid. Don’t say this, don’t use that. But the bar of love is in fact much higher. I’m supposed to impart grace with the words that I choose.
Further, rudeness is inconsiderate of timing, as the comical proverb mentioned. But love chooses to speak at a time which is considerate.
Proverbs 25:11, “A word fitly spoken
is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”
A word fitly spoken, which assumes at the right time, is considerate of all the factors and circumstances. That’s what love does. It considers not only the proper words to say, but when and how to say them. It considers the hearer, and what’s going on their life. Love listens, considers, then speaks, rather than blustering out whatever pings into his head.
How are you at this? Would people look at you and say that you are always considerate of others? Are your words seasons with salt, like Jesus commended, or are your words just plain salty, which scripture condemns?
Are you considerate of others when you speak and act, or do you just impulsively?
Further, do you consider how you dress and act as a necessary duty of Christian love? It’s not necessarily sinful to wear this or that, but love goes deeper than mere sin and non-sin. Love is concerned with others. Legalism is concerned with what can I get away with, or what is my right.
Love is other-centered, rudeness is me-centered.
Rudeness is unconcerned with its impact, unconcerned with imparting grace, unconcerned with seeking the good of those around them, while love is deeply aware of how it’s words, timing, and dress should all be martialed together in order to impart grace to as many as possible.
When we look at rudeness like that, we can see that we’ve all got a ways to go. I was taught manners, like saying please and thank you, but what can’t be taught, is to have a heart that is joyfully considerate of others, that joyfully seeks to put others first.
That’s because we’re all born proud. We don’t have to be taught to put ourselves first. We do that naturally, don’t we?
In fact, Paul speaks very clearly in Romans 3, quoting from the Psalms, about the disposition of every man and woman’s heart from birth.
Instead of considering the words we say, and choosing words that impart grace, he says that their throat is an open grave.” Instead of imparting life, their tongue reveals death and decay.
And instead choosing to time words with beauty, like apples of gold in a setting of silver, Paul says this about man: “the venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” We’re the fool who shows up at dawn with mouths full of curses.
And rather than being considerate of how our behavior and our dress impact others and how we might show love to all those around us, scripture teaches us that man has “feet swift to shed innocent blood; and in their paths are ruin and misery.” Death and misery are the fruit of our actions, because we’re bent on self alone, and unconcerned with the well-being of others.
That’s the status of every person, every son and daughter of Adam. We’re gifted at sinning, centered on self, and unconcerned to do good to anyone else. And what else does Paul say about this sinful tendency?
He says later in Romans that the wages of sin is death. That means that we have justly worked, and our earned paycheck is death. We all deserve to die. And because our sin wasn’t against a mere man, but against our infinite God, our death will be infinite also. Eternally judged and punished in hell.
But praise be to God that Paul also explains the good news of Jesus Christ to us. You see, the God of the bible is love, and part of being love is being considerate.
Rather than being rude in his speech, God spoke a word that imparts grace. And that word was his own son, the eternal word of all grace. John 1 tells us that the Eternal word was with God and was God, and that word became flesh and dwelt among us. But then it says this: “the law was given through Moses, but GRACE and truth came to us through Jesus Christ.”
In love, God considered us, and chose to speak a word to us, a word which imparts grace. That’s the good news of Christ’s coming. This word put on flesh, and always spoke out of love. He chose the right words to say, and never once spoke an unkind or inconsiderate word, never said a single thing that was unloving.
But God didn’t just send to us the right word, he also spoke the right word at the right time. Have you ever thought about that? Jesus could have came down right after Cain killed Abel. But He didn’t. Jesus could have come down right after the final old testament prophet. But he didn’t; God waited 400 years.
In fact, scripture says that Christ came “In the fullness of time.” Which reveals that God not only considered what word to says to us, His Son, but also considered when to speak that word. He didn’t haphazardly speak. God doesn’t haphazardly do anything.
Further, he considered this word from the beginning of time. He knows the end from the beginning, and therefore knew the precise moment to speak his perfect word to the world, thereby making his speech like apples of God set in silver.
Lastly, unlike the rude fool who acts and dresses without concern for others, Christ is considerate of his actions and dress, and how they impact others. But unlike the rude person who is immodest and flashy, Christ was meek and lowly.
In fact, scripture says that Christ had no form or majesty that we should look at him, Isaiah 53.
He should have justly been clothed with the finest robes, crowned with the most beautiful crown. But instead he was content to be stripped naked, publicly humiliated, crowned with a crown of thorns. All because he considered his bride as more important than himself.
What kind of love is this? I can’t be bothered to serve my friends this well, but Christ served those who were his enemy this well! I hope you marvel at the depth of Christ’s love.
This love is what compelled Charles Wesley to write:
And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me?
Doesn’t it warm your heart, that while you were an enemy and still a sinner, Christ came and bought you in love? No man would ever do this for his enemies. No king would do this for his subjects. But Christ did, to the praise of his glorious grace.
What more could you want in a king? He not only considers you in your helpless state, but personally bears your punishment, pays your debt, and places you into glory.
Trust in this Christ, that’s all that is required of you. Consider your state, if you’re still unbelieving, consider your woeful condition and the sure and certain judgment to come. But also consider this Christ, the Christ of the scriptures.
He is the perfect, loving, word of God, spoken at the right time to redeem the ungodly, which is you. And all that he requires is trust. Faith. Belief in him and his work. And if you do that, you too will be a recipient of his love. You’ll know his grace.
And he will speak to you another word of love, which is his Holy Spirit. The Father and the Son will send the Spirit of God into your heart to help you grow in love for others. You’ll grow in the ability to consider others, instead of being rude. You’ll grow to love others, rather than loving yourself. You’ll grow in humility, rather than being boastful and arrogant.
That’s because the first fruit of the holy Spirit is LOVE. When the Spirit gives you a new heart, you will bear new fruit, Love being one of the most prominent. You won’t do it perfectly, but you’ll grow in it, as he teaches you more and more about the love of Christ.
Won’t you trust in Christ tonight? Don’t stay stuck in your sin. Come and be forgiven, be filled with the love of God, and grow in your ability to love others.
And for the believers, seek to put off selfishness and rudeness, not simply to be well-mannered or more gentlemanly. Rather, think much of Jesus, how he spoke, when he spoke, how he carried himself and dressed himself. See his love in how he considered others, considered the interests of those who had nothing to offer him, no way to improve him.
And as you consider his love, you’ll find motivation to consider others as more important than yourself. You’ll choose words that impart grace, rather than curse. You’ll speak them at the right time, rather than in your own time. And you’ll joyfully dress and behave as if your appearance has consequences in the lives of others.
I’ll close with this. It is said that the measure of a true gentlemen is not in how he treats kings, but in how he treats his servants.
And that makes sense, because many people treat kings with kindness, out of a self-interest and a hope at promotion. But a true gentleman, a truely loving person who is not rude, will treat his servants, his subordinates, with love, even though they have nothing to offer him.
If that is true, that the measure of a man’s behavior is in how he treats servants, then what does it say about Christ, who served his servants by becoming one himself, dying in their place, and giving them His life instead. That’s a love that no mere man can match.
And that love of Christ is pictured for us tonight at the table, where Christ’s love to his servants is seen. His body and blood is given for you and me, rude sinners. See again how considerate he was, of us in our woeful state.
If you’re like the saints in Acts 2, devoted to the apostles teaching, and to fellowship, and to the breaking of bread at the table, and to prayer, then join us at the table. But if you’re not united to Christ and his body, then let these plates pass. Be made right with Him, and then join us.