Jesus Fruit: It All Starts With Love - 1st Corinthians 13 (Wednesday Night Reflection)

How many of you love top ten lists?  If you do, great, we’ve got one tonight.  If you don’t, then learn to love them because we’ve got one tonight.  In 2009 I surveyed over 400 people and asked, “What is the Number One Love Song of all time?”  231 submissions were made, nominating 130 different songs.  Here are the songs that made the Top 10:
Tied for 10th – “All My Life” by KC and JoJo, “Always and Forever” by Heat Wave, “God Bless The Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts, “Here and Now” by Luther Vandross, “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You” by Elvis Presley, “Moonlight Serenade” by multiple artists, “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton, and “You’ve Got A Friend” by James Taylor.
Tied for 8th – “Annie’s Song” by John Denver and “Love Me Tender” by Elvis
Tied for 5th – “Endless Love” by either Lionel Richie and Dianna Ross or Luther Vandross and Mariah Carey, “Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole, and “When A Man Loves A Woman” by Percy Sledge.
4th – “At Last” performed by either Etta James or Ella Fitzgerald
3rd – “I Will Always Love You” performed by either Whitney Houston or Dolly Parton
2nd – “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers.
And voted the #1 Love Song of all time by those surveyed, it has been performed by more folks than we could ever imagine and translated into probably every language imaginable, it is “Jesus Loves Me.”
I conducted the survey several years ago for a Valentine’s week sermon.  I had intended it to be a sermon in which I contrasted the number one love song of all time with the love of God.  I had gone online to look for the number one love song…but there are almost as many different opinions about the number one song as there are people who use the internet. Too many places listed too many different number one songs, so I decided to conduct the survey.  I grew excited as I watched the survey results come in, truly surprised at what was clearly becoming the number one submitted song.  I realized I was not going to have to provide any contrast because those surveyed, which ranged in age from 13 to their mid-80’s and included church goers and non-church goers alike, chose a song of the church as the number one song.  I was surprised, but, as one of my colleagues pointed out, what song could express a more perfect love than one that acknowledges the source and supreme example of all love and sings of that love for us.
Last week we began talking about Jesus Fruit and that if we are truly attached to the True Vine, which is Jesus, we will bear this Jesus Fruit, otherwise known as Fruit of the Spirit.  We learned that to truly bear Jesus Fruit, we don’t get to pick fruits to bear and other to not bear…there is only one Fruit of the Spirit: “the fruit of the Spirit IS love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”—and that if we are truly bearing Jesus Fruit, our lives will be marked by all these things, so we are going to examine them one by one…and as Paul began with love…so do we.
There are so many different understandings of love…there is the mistaken thought that the physical attraction known as lust is love…then there is the actual love between to individuals attracted to one another that go beyond the physical cravings, the love between husband and wife, the love of parents for their children, the love between siblings and other family members, the love between friends that care for one another, and so on.  All of these, though pale in comparison, though, to the love of God.
1st John 4:8 tells us that God is love.  God has been all about love and relationships from the very beginning of Creation.  Creation itself was an act of love.  From the time of Creation, we find that God is about loving, caring relationships.  Prior to the Fall, God spent time in loving conversation, His divine presence in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve.  Even after the Fall, God has been about loving Creation and His people.  Throughout Scripture, God frequently uses the imagery of husband and wife as a comparison of the relationship between Himself and His people.  Rather than abandon His people altogether when they failed to faithfully love Him back, He sent prophet after prophet in a loving effort to renew that loving relationship.  When the people continued to go astray, God loved the World so much that He sent His only Begotten Son, Jesus the Messiah, so that whoever believes in Him may not perish but have everlasting life.[i]  Jesus lived a life of love…bringing healing and restoration to those who would believe and follow.  He called the disciples around him to live in a community of Love, commanding them, prior to his arrest, to love one another[ii]…a love enacted in service…and promised that people would know that they were His followers because of their love.[iii]  Jesus told His followers that “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for his friends.”[iv]  Then Christ, in his arrest, proceeded to call all in the world his friends, because to show His love for us, He laid down his life for all, taking our sin upon himself, that we might be forgiven and we might have the opportunity for eternal life with God.  Paul echoes this in by telling the Romans, “But God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”[v]  God is all about love.
What does this love look like?  Paul answers this question as He paints the church in Corinth a picture of what the love of God looks like…God’s true, agape, no-strings-attached, unconditional love.  “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful; it odes not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.”
This is what the love of God looks like.  This is the love that we see depicted in the life of Christ.  And, my brothers and sisters, this is the kind of love that we are called to have in our lives, if we are truly followers of Christ.
How important is this love?  It is important enough that Paul lists love as the first aspect of the Fruit of the Spirit.  Love is a sign that we have surrendered our lives to Christ and are allowing Christ to live in us.  Paul notes in our reading tonight that of all the gifts that God gives, even compared to faith and hope, love is the greatest.  Paul says if we do not have love, then anything we do is worthless: “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”  In other words, we can do whatever we want to do, and it can be the greatest thing the world has ever seen, but if we do not love, and we do not do it out of love, then it is completely worthless.  We can have the most amazing and inspiring worship services, but if there is no love here, then we are doing nothing but making noise.  We can accomplish tasks that others would consider improbable or even impossible, but if there is no love, then we have done nothing.  We can give a million dollars to charity or even allow ourselves to be arrested and/or killed for what we believe, but if we do not love, then we don’t deserve a single bit of recognition, even from God.
It’s all about love, my friends…the fruit of the Spirit begins with love because all of it is rooted in love…if there is no love, then the fruit is spoiled.  If we are seeking to live after Christ, then the Holy Spirit is going to fill us with God’s love, and we are expected to live out that love.
How do we know if we are living out the love of God?  How about this quiz?
Are we patient?
Are we kind?
Are we envious?
Are we boastful?
Are we arrogant?
Are we rude?
Do we insist on our own way?
Are we irritable?
Are we resentful?
Do we rejoice in wrongdoing?
Do we rejoice in the truth?
Do we bear all things?
Do we believe all things?
Do we hope all things?
Do we endure all things?
If we can answer the first two and last five with ‘yes,’ and the rest with ‘no,’ then we have begun bearing Jesus Fruit in our lives.  The fruit is not ripe yet…it is not complete yet…but it has begun to form.  If we have to answer any of those questions in the opposite way, then we have work to do…we need to do more surrendering of ourselves to Christ and focus less on ourselves.  Christ calls us to imitate and live out the same sacrificial love that He offered the world.  Maybe we should add another verse to “Jesus Loves Me:”
Jesus loves me! this I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus Loves me,
Yes, Jesus Loves me,
Yes, Jesus Loves, Me,
For the Bible Tells Me So.

Jesus loves me! This I know,
as he loved so long ago,
taking children on his knee,
saying, "Let them come to me."

Yes, Jesus Loves me,
Yes, Jesus Loves me,
Yes, Jesus Loves, Me,
For the Bible Tells Me So.

Jesus loves me still today,
walking with me on my way,
wanting as a friend to give
light and love to all who live.

Yes, Jesus Loves me,
Yes, Jesus Loves me,
Yes, Jesus Loves, Me,
For the Bible Tells Me So.

Jesus Loves Me This I know,
On the cross His love did show
That same love he bids us give
Of ourselves so all may live

Yes Jesus Loves me
Yes Jesus loves me
Yes Jesus loves me
And that love I am to show. 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

[i] John 3:16
[ii] John 13:34
[iii] John 13:35
[iv] John 15:13
[v] Romans 5:8

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