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Agape I
Agape II
Agape III
Agape IV
Agape Notes I-III
     
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Agape II

 

“Love Does Not Parade Itself; Love is Not Proud”

 

We’re on Agape, part II here.  Let’s take a slight review.  You can understand the whole Bible, but without agape, we’re nothing.  Agape love does not equal the English definition of love.  The two words are incompatible.  Agape is not based on how others treat us, good or bad.  Agape is outgoing concern for the other person, no matter what their actions toward you.  Agape suffers long, agape is kind (through actions), agape does not envy (which is emotional ill-will towards a person who has something you want).  Now for the next definition of agape, “Agape does not parade itself” (1st Corinthians 13:4) and “agape is not proud.” 

 

“Agape Does Not Parade Itself” or “Agape Does Not Boast”

 

1st Corinthians 13:4, “Love [agape] suffers long, and is kind; love does not envy, love does not parade itself”---or as other translations have it, “love does not boast.”  The NIV has it “love does not boast.”  What he means by boasting is that you have an emotional need to always be the center of attention.  You must always bring every conversation back to yourself.  Parading itself could be in how we dress, how we speak, or how we act.  A perfect example of someone parading himself is found in Acts 12, Herod Agrippa.  He was the king of Judea at the time, and he was having some trouble with the city-states of Tyre and Sidon.  Acts 12:20-23, “Now Herod had been angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, but they came to him with one accord, and having made Blastus, the king’s personal aide, their friend, they asked for peace, because their country was supplied with food by the king’s country.  So on a set day, Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on his throne and gave an oration to them.  And the people kept shouting, ‘The voice of a god and not of a man!’”  Josephus could have actually been there.  And he gives this story how they wove a special robe for Herod Agrippa which had silver thread woven throughout the garment.  And he was standing in such a place where his voice would boom out like in an amphitheater, and as he stood in the sunlight, whenever he moved, rays of sunlight would appear to be shooting off of his body.  It made him actually look like a spirit-being, angelic.  Josephus said that because Herod would not stop the people from praising him as if he were a god, God punished him.  He was parading himself.  And he was a king, he didn’t need to parade himself.  They’re already there for the peace-treaty, it had already been signed, he’s already a hero.  But he had to parade himself.  So verse 23 says, “Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God.  And he was eaten by worms and died.”  And Josephus relates that it took five days for these worms to kill him, so he died a horribly painful death.  This is what parading yourself is about.  It’s meeting an emotional need which causes us to want to be the center of attention. 

 

Three Things We Can Do to Fight This Need to Boast---this need to be the center of attention

 

1.  You must learn to have a genuine interest in others.  We all love to hear each other’s stories.  But have you ever talked to somebody who never let’s anybody else tell a story---because they always have to be the center of attention?  This is talking about a viewpoint where you always have to be the center of attention.  There are three sub-points to this first point, which I’ll call “a” “b” and “c.” 

 

a.  In Our Speech & Hearing---GPQ

 

How do you have a genuine interest in other people, in speaking and listening?  Here is a simple way to start doing it.  One little point:  Listen to the other person enough, make yourself listen, so that the first thing out of your mouth is, when it’s your turn to talk, is a question.  You are going to get your chance to talk.  What I mean is, if someone is telling a story, the first thing out of your mouth, after they tell the story is “What happened next?”  That means you listened.  You have to listen really hard to ask a question.  At that point, you are not the center of attention anymore.  You will discover that relationship is far better than being the center of attention, popularity.  We’re always telling kids, and the earlier they learn it the better, friendship is a whole lot better than popularity.  Popularity is meaningless as the years go by, friendship is worth something, relationship is more important.  Remember, the letters GPQ,  ask gentle, probing questions.

 

b.  In Our Actions, Serving the Needy

 

James 1:27, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this, to visit orphans and widows in their trouble and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”   We’re good at keeping ourselves unspotted from the world.  We’re anti-abortion, anti-homosexual, anti-godless society, we’re observing the Sabbath, and trying to remain unspotted from the world.  We’re trying to obey God’s commandments.  There are two parts to this, though.  It’s not one without the other…we must do the other part too.  And that means that we must serve those who are in need.  He says the orphans and widows, because they are usually the ones in the most need.  We must serve those in need, and you must learn to have a genuine interest in other people.  And the next thing is, you must go and do something---you must serve and look for opportunities to serve others every day.  I actually heard about one church in NYC which brought blankets, hot soup and sandwiches down to the red light district for the homeless, and invited them back to church for more.  It was selfless giving.  A good number ended up taking up their offer, and some ended up becoming members of that church.  James 1:27 says pure and undefiled religion before God is this:  keep the commandments and do all the right doctrines and go help those in need (and don’t forget, the unlovable).  It’s easier not to take the emotional risk and just give money to an organization that helps the needy.  We’re all supposed to give money, that’s not wrong.  But if we just give money, without actually visiting the orphans and widows, and the unlovable, we’re failing to realize that service is also about relating to others.  We have to step out on the emotional ledge, which can be painful, we don’t want to do it.

 

c.  Bearing the Burdens of the Spiritually Weak

 

Part “c” in this first point about learning to have a genuine interest in others (so that we’re not parading ourselves), is found in Romans 15.  We must learn to bear the burdens of the spiritually weak.  The Roman church was having problems with vegetarianism and all kinds of weird customs of fasting.  In Romans 15:1 it says, “We then, who are strong, ought to bear with the scruples of the weak and not to please ourselves.”  Now if you are spiritually strong, the commission here is to help those who are weak.  What we tend to do is to condemn those who are weak in the church.  We have to learn to help the weak instead of condemning the weak.  Those of you who are strong, bear with the people who are weak.  Verse 2, “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.”  So this is talking about spiritual edification.  If there are weak in church, you have to learn to bear with those people, their lack of understanding, they may be crude in language, maybe they’re not keeping the Sabbath exactly the way you think it ought to be kept, or they have questions.  They have genuine spiritual questions, and you’re thinking, ‘Boy, they should understand that by now, they’ve been in the church six months.’  Those who are strong are to bear with the weak---not condemn them.  There’s a saying, “The Churches of God seem to be the only army that shoots their wounded.”  There’s a lot of truth to that statement.  We don’t nurse our wounded, we shoot them, or even worse, we leave them to die on the battlefield, we desert them in the line of fire.  I’ve watched a huge number of war documentaries, and the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marines always did all in their power to recover their wounded off the battlefield, and nurse them back to health.  We were leaders in that regard.  I don’t see that in the Churches of God, sadly.  Verse 3, “For even Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.’  For whatever things were written beforehand were written for our learning, that we, through the patience and comfort of the scriptures, might have hope.”  Verses 5-6, “Now, may the God of patience grant to you to be likeminded towards one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may, with one mind and mouth, glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Verse 6 is important.  When we have agape, everything we do ends up in one place.  Everything we do ends up to the glory of God.  Whenever what we’re doing is to the glory of ourselves, we are parading ourselves. 

 

“Agape Is Not Proud, Puffed Up”

 

The other part of this two-part phrase, “love does not parade itself” is “love is not proud, is not puffed up.”  1st Corinthians 13:4, “agape is not puffed up”, and the NIV says, “agape is not proud.”  Either one is accurate.  So now we have to talk about this idea of pride.  How important is this concept of pride?  All of us Sabbath-keeping Churches of God have a whole Holy Day season where we are told not to be puffed up. That is the spiritual theme of the Days of Unleavened Bread.  So if ever there was a Passover preparation sermon series, this is it folks.  So this material is pretty important.  Actually, the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread laid the spiritual foundation for both the nation of Israel, back in Moses time, and for Christianity.  All the other Holy Days, with their symbolic meaning would be nothing without this first Holy Day season.  Now what is pride?  Pride is having an overly high opinion of yourself.  It is an emotional belief that your opinions, your needs, your ways are always right.  In other words, you will become so emotionally attached to your own opinions that you cannot leave unchallenged anything that disagrees with your opinion.  So you’re  basically in conflict all the time, because of your wounded pride. 

 

Six basic concepts of what pride is:

 

1. First, pride is one of those core problems of corrupt human nature, where we always end up having to defend our wounded pride. 

 

2.  Pride is one of the great destroyers of relationships.  Pride destroys more marriages than adultery.  “You just won’t give in.”  “You always have to be right.”  “My feelings were hurt.”  And once pride takes over, that’s it.  “I won’t say I’m sorry till you say I’m sorry.”  “Well, I’m not going to say I’m sorry until you admit you were wrong.”  And on it goes.  Pride is not based on what’s right for the other person.  It’s based on my opinions, my ways, my feelings get all the priority at all times. 

 

3.  A third point about pride:  Pride motivates us to make emotional and irrational decisions.  This is best described in 2nd Kings 5:1-8, 11-14, “Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master.  Because of him, the LORD had given victory to Syria.  He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper.  And the Syrians had gone on raids and brought back captive a young girl from the land of Israel. And she waited on Naaman’s wife.  Then she said to her mistress, ‘If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria, for he would heal him of this leprosy.’”  She’s talking about Elisha.  “And Naaman went in and told the king, saying, ‘Thus and thus said the girl who is from the land of Israel.’  Then the king of Syria said, ‘Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.’  So he departed and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing…”  I mean, this is a great amount of wealth.  “And when he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which said, ‘Now be advised, when this letter comes to you, that I have sent Naaman, my servant, to you, that you may heal him of his leprosy.’”  That didn’t settle too well with the king of Israel.  Verse 7, “And it happened, when the king of Israel read the letter, that he tore his clothes and said, ‘Am I God, to kill and make a man alive, that this man sends to me to heal one of his lepers?  Therefore, please consider and see how he seeks a quarrel with me.’”  The poor king of Israel just thought the king of Syria was trying to start a war with him, by asking him to do something  that was humanly impossible.  Verse 8, “So it was Elisha, the man of God, heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes.  Then he sent to the king saying, ‘Why have you torn your clothes?  Please let him come to me and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.  Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha’s house.”  Verse 10, “And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go and wash in the Jordan seven times and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.”  “Wait a minute, I am Naaman, the most feared general in the Middle East.  I have come to the house of this great man of God, and he sends a servant to tell me to take a bath?  Verse 11, “But Naaman became furious, and went away, and said, ‘Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.”  He believed that he was going to be healed, but boy what a show this was going to be.  Naaman the general is there, there will probably be singing and dancing, and they’ll have a choir---and this little servant comes out and says ‘Sir, go take a bath, seven baths in the Jordan, good-bye.’  And he goes back into the house. “This is it?  And Naaman’s pride is hurt.  Verse 12, “Are not the Abana and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than the waters of Israel?  Could I not wash in them and be clean?’  So he turned and went away in a rage.”  This is where pride always takes you, pride always takes you to anger.  Not all anger is wrong, but we’ll get to anger in the next sermon.  Verse 13, “And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, ‘My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it?  If he had said, ‘Come out and dance with the timbrels and sing praises to God and slay fifty lambs,’ wouldn’t you have done that?  How much more, then, when he says, ‘Just wash and be clean?’”  This God of Israel doesn’t require much, just the faith to go and do it.  Verse 14, “So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God, and his flesh was restored, like the flesh of a little child.  And he was clean.”  He comes out of the water and he goes to Elisha, and says, “I get it.”  But see, he almost missed the blessing.  Why?  His pride, his pride in his country, his pride in who he was.  It’s just like Herod Agrippa. 

 

4.  Fourth thing:  Pride blocks our relationship with God.  James 4:6, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  He doesn’t say that God ignores the proud.  I want you to understand that.  He says, “God resists the proud.”  When you and I go before God in a proud state of mind, he pushes us away.  He pushes us away.  And so understanding what pride is, it’s very important if we’re going to understand how to properly maintain our relationship with God.

 

5.  The fifth point is that pride motivates us to harshly judge others, without considering our own weaknesses.  The opposite of that is found in Galatians 6:1, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such an one with gentleness, considering yourself, lest you also be tempted.”  Sometimes we can be so harsh in our judgment toward others that we don’t actually give them an opportunity to repent.  Agape restores people when they repent.  Verse 2, “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”  Verse 3, “For if anyone thinks himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.  For each one shall bear his own load.”

 

6.  Last point:  Pride leads us to feel like a victim and to suffer anger---and eventually leads us into depression.  Pride drives us to be angry, because it is wounded.  It’s wounded, and either something has to be done so your pride’s not wounded anymore, or you have to get rid of your pride that’s wounded.  Those are the only two choices.  Nations down through history since Cain and Abel have gone to war and killed because of wounded pride.  When Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7th, 1941, the wounded pride of America caused her to go to war.  It was so bad, that when some men tried to join up but were classified 4F, they would commit suicide because they couldn’t go to war and fight the Japanese.  That is where wounded pride in these men went straight into severe depression---the double wounded pride, because of the Japanese attack on Pearl, and the personal wounded pride of being classified 4F.  That was pride of a massive amount, and ended up bringing the United States very rapidly into a world war.

 

Three Points On How To Deal With Pride

 

1.  “Let each one of you look out not just for his own interest, but that of others.”  Philippians 2:1, “Therefore, if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy fulfill my joy by being likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord and of one mind.”  He’s not saying we all should have the same exact opinions.  Opinions are opinions, we’ve all got differing opinions, all of the time.  Verse 3, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit.”  We’re back to pride, conceit---being puffed up.  “My opinions, my ways, my feelings are what’s important.  And my feelings, and my ways, and my opinions are what must be carried out and heard.”  He says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit.  But in lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than himself.”  We’re back to doing what’s best for the other person.  Verse 4, “Let each of you look out not for his own interest, but also for the interest of others.”  “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God but made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond servant and coming in the likeness of men, being found in appearance of a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.  Therefore God has also highly exalted him and given him the name which is above every name…Jesus did this with our interests in mind, not his own.  He wants to share eternity and eternal life with everyone who genuinely comes to him for salvation.  His supreme interest was in others, not himself.  Had he been thinking of himself anywhere along the line during his physical lifetime, we wouldn’t be here as Christians, endowed with the indwelling Holy Spirit and the promise of eternal life. 

 

Fasting for humility

 

2.  Pride is one of the great destroyers of our spirituality.  We just saw in Philippians 2 what Christ’s example was, it was of supreme humility, stepping out of eternity and taking on the form of a lowly human being.  Humility is not normal for us.  It is something we must learn.  If you want humility, you must go ask God for humility, and you must fast for humility.  To understand this, we have to go to Isaiah 58, verses 1-11.  In Isaiah 58, verses 1-11 he says, ‘You are people who seek me every day.’  They prayed, they went to temple, they came to God.  And yet they were saying, “God, why do you not accept our fasting?”  God said to them through Isaiah, “The reason I don’t accept your fasting is because you fast to me to have me correct other people…you fast for strife, you fast because you want me to hear your voice.”  And basically, he goes on to show them, ‘You don’t fast to prepare me for your will, you fast to get prepared for my will.  So when you come fasting for me to correct somebody else, I’m not interested in that kind of fast.’  He said, ‘You will know when you have fasted the right kind of fast, because at the end of that fast, you will be motivated to go help the poor, the sick, to be hospitable.’  There are actions that come out of a right kind of fast.  The actions that come out of the right kind of fast are humility that leads to agape.  And agape leads to actions of outgoing concern type love toward others.  ‘And instead of spending all this time being driven with the fist, you’re now looking for somebody to care for.’  Isaiah 58 says ‘This is the fast I will accept, if you stop slandering people, talking wickedly, and ignoring your own children.  If we need to deal with pride, and all of us do, we need to pray for humility and we have to fast for humility.  Fasting itself, when done correctly, is an act of humility.  He says, “I’ll do this.  I’ll take the wickedness off of you. I’ll take the bonds off of you.  I’ll break your troubles.  I’ll break your depressions.  I’ll break your anger, I’ll change you---if you’ll just fast the right way.

 

Forgive quickly

 

3.  The third point is, you must learn to forgive quickly.  If we don’t, anger sets in.  If we just let things stew in us, and brood about how other people have treated us, or how we perceive how other people have treated us, anger builds up.  And then anger turns into bitterness.  And it’s all about wounded pride.  So that is the third point, that we must learn to forgive quickly.  Now for the next two traits of agape found in verse 5 of 1st Corinthians 13.

 

“Love Is Not Rude; Love Does Not Seek Its Own”

 

Agape does not behave rudely

 

Verse 5, “Agape does not behave rudely.”  This concept of rudeness is connected to kindness.  But it really means something else, too.  Rudeness, or as the King James has it, “Does not behave itself unseemly”, there is a behavior here.  Remember, agape always deals with motivations, thoughts and behaviors.  Agape always asks, “Why am I doing this?”  Secondly, “What is my thinking process in this?”  And third, “Is this behavior agape?”  At its heart and core, it always has to do with doing what is best for the other person at that time.  I would like to take this in a direction that we don’t normally think of.  We all know what rudeness is.  It’s when somebody cuts us off in traffic, people being rude in the checkout line, things like that.  Those are overt acts of rudeness.  Rudeness has to do with harsh, offensive behavior.  Rudeness is to treat others without grace---in a harsh, offensive way.  It has to do with offending people. The word here, translated rude in Greek, literally means ignorant.  Rudeness is acting in an ignorant way that offends another person.  Treating people in that way is hurtful and offensive.  Then there are some people, no matter what you do, you’re going to offend them.  That’s different, you can’t do anything about that.  That’s a different problem, that’s called pride.  We dealt with that in the earlier part of this sermon.  We’re talking here about our willingness to enter every situation with a certain approach.  As we’ve gone through each one of these points that make up agape, it has nothing to do with how the other person treats us.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re always going to get the right outcome.  It always boils down to, though, ‘How can I approach this situation, what is my motive approaching this situation?  How do we approach others so that we are not being barbarians in the way that we treat others we’re dealing with, even if they’re wrong?  The outcome isn’t always what you want it to be.  Turn to Luke 17:1, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘It is impossible that no offenses should come.”  In other words, people are going to be offended, and people are going to offend, and it’s impossible that it won’t happen.  So we all have to accept that sometimes we’re going to offend others, and some people are going to offend us.  But the question is, what do we do?  Jesus goes on to say, “But woe to him through whom they come.”  In other words, we should be approaching these situations from the point of view “I hope I don’t offend, I hope I don’t offend.”  See, agape has always got this outward viewpoint.  Agape flips that around and says, “How can I try not to offend?  I know, sometimes people are going to get offended, but how can I try not to do that?” 

 

Verse 2, “It would be better for him if a millstone was hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than he should offend one of these little ones.  Take heed to yourselves…if your brother sins against you, rebuke him.  And if he repents, forgive him.”  This is the whole thing about offense.  Remember how all these points fit together?  One of the ways we deal with pride is we have to forgive quickly.  That was the last point we went through on pride.  Verse 4, “If he sins against you seven times a day, and seven times a day he returns to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”  What does this have to do with rudeness?  Remember, rudeness has to do with offending and being offended.  It has to do with being rude and how we deal with other people’s rudeness.  It goes both ways.  You aren’t to behave rudely, but also we have to learn to deal with ‘How do I behave when people treat me rudely?’  It’s a two-way street.  What can we do so that we don’t offend or behave rudely, so that we’re not being offensive?  Sometimes we can’t help it, sometimes the truth of God is offensive to others. 

 

Tact:  7 Points

 

What do we need to learn so that we’re not offending others?  There is an interesting word in English called tact.  Tact means: a delicate perception of the right thing to say or do without offending.  Notice, tact doesn’t mean a way to twist things around, a way to snowball people, butter people up, so that they walk away feeling good and you did the wrong thing.  I want you to really listen to the definition:  tact is a delicate perception, it is a perception.  You must go in with this lens on your camera.  When we don’t we end up creating absolute messes, you’re going to create all kinds of problems.  Tact is the delicate perception of the right thing to do or say---not some made-up thing, not lying to somebody, not telling them what they want to hear so they feel good---it’s the right thing to do without offending.  That has to do with this concept of rudeness, in terms of offending other people.  We’re talking about a much deeper understanding of rudeness.  It is, how we can be rude by causing offense---by doing the right thing in the wrong way.  First point,

 

1.  Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”  Not all anger is wrong, by the way.  When we get to the part of agape that states “Agape is not provoked”, we’ll go through the  whole subject of anger and being provoked.  But, here, in tact, we approach every situation with a willingness not to be confrontational and a willingness to give a soft answer. Someone might say “Oh, I can be awfully blunt at times, that’s just me.”  That can and does cross over into rudeness, as we will see in a little while.  Just bear with me on that.  Rudeness has to do with offending people.  Your being “blunt” may actually be classified as giving harsh words, as Proverbs 15:1 says, which stirs up anger.

 

Grace under fire---the spirit of tact

 

I’m going to read this kind of quickly, but here is a super example of what tact is.  Booker T. Washington was in a difficult situation---a black educator in times when there just wasn’t equal opportunity for minorities.  He started the Tuskegee Institute of Alabama so that young black people could get an education.  Now, he was walking one day through an exclusive section of town, because he liked to go out for long walks.  He was stopped by this very wealthy woman, and she said, “You know, I need some work done.  If you would like to make a few extra dollars, I’d hire you to do some work.”  So he took off his suit jacket, took off his tie, and said, “Yes ma’am.”  He went into the backyard and chopped wood for her.  When he was done, he said, “No, no, no, that’s no problem.  I was happy to do that for you.”  She couldn’t believe it.  And he put on his tie, put on his jacket and walked away, walked back towards the college.  This woman’s daughter happened to walk in and see this happening, and as he was leaving, she ran up and said, “You have no idea who that was.”  She said, “No.”  She said, “That was President Washington from the University.”  Well, the next day, the woman went in to apologize, and he said, “It’s perfectly all right.  Occasionally I enjoy a little manual labor.  Besides, it’s always a delight to do something for a friend.”  Not only that woman, but all her neighbors, became some of the biggest contributors to Tuskegee University ever.  And for years and years afterwards, money rolled in from that neighborhood.  And why?  Because he showed that kind of grace under fire---that kind of grace under fire.  He went and chopped her wood and he was the President of the University.  He was admired by the people who saw it.

 

2.  Second point:  To keep from offending people, when at all possible, first try to understand where in the world they are coming from.  And this goes right back to empathy.  You see how all of these are connected.  Understanding the person first is what is important.  The apostle Paul said “I became to the Jews a Jew”, “I became to those who were without the law, as one without the law.”  And then in parenthesis he said “not that I am without the law, I am under the law of Christ.”  But what he meant was that when he was in certain communities he adapted to their cultures, as long as it wasn’t against the law of Christ.  But from the Orthodox Jewish point of view, what he was doing was very wrong, especially when Paul was visiting with Gentiles.  Remember, according to the Oral Law, Orthodox Jews couldn’t even eat a meal with a Gentile.  Paul had no problem going into a Gentile’s house, a pagan’s house and sitting down and having a meal, and telling that person about God and Jesus Christ.  He was able to adapt to cultural customs as long as they didn’t go against God.  It’s a remarkable idea.  Paul said, ‘I can adapt to what’s going on here, as long as it’s within God’s law.’  He would adapt to those customs and win those people to Christ.  His motivation always was, where do we end up here?  We always end up with God. Paul learned to show extreme tact in presenting the Gospel. 

 

3.  Third point:  We’re all in this together.  When we’re in situations where an offense has taken place, we must go to that person and let them understand that, even if they’re wrong, we’re not against them---we’re all in this together.  That’s important, even if they’re wrong.  The idea is, we’re all in this together.  Now we’re back to the church or family.  That is, if we have a problem, we’re all in this together.  Now here’s an example of David.  David has to make a decision, he has to bring the Ark of the Covenant back into Jerusalem.  That’s what the Law says to do.  And that’s what he’s going to do.  And you’d think, then, that he would just pick it up, tell everybody what he’s going to do, and bring it back.  But that’s not what he did.  1st Chronicles 13:1, “David consulted with the captains of thousands and hundreds and with every leader.”  David brought the entire leadership of the nation together and said, ‘We have the Ark of the Covenant, and it’s supposed to go to Jerusalem.  We need to sit down and think about how we’re going to get it there, and what to do.’  All he had to do is say, ‘Bring the Ark.’  But he didn’t, and there is a reason why.  This concept of us, and not just “I.”  He didn’t want the Ark of the Covenant coming just because he and God, you know, were going to do it.  He wanted Israel to do it, because Israel was doing it for God.  That was his job as a leader.  He could have done it all by himself, but he wanted us to do it, and not just I.  “And David said to all the assembly of Israel, ‘If it seems good to you, and if it is of the LORD our God, let us send out to our brethren everywhere, who are left in all the land of Israel, and with them to the priests and the Levites, who are in their cities, and their common lands, that they may gather together with us.’”  “And let us bring the ark of our God back before us. for we have not enquired of it since the days of Saul.’  Then all the assembly said that they would do so, for it was right in the eyes of the people.”  He convinced the entire nation to do something that he was going to do anyway.  That is the concept of we and us.  So often we want to isolate and cast off someone who has been offensive, acted rudely, or cast off others in the correction of problems we encounter within our churches.  This goes against the concept of we’re all in this together.  So many schisms, splits and divisions have happened within the Sabbath-keeping Churches of God by not following this powerful principle of agape.

 

4.  Point number four:  When we do confront someone because of an offense, pick the time, place and choice of words very carefully.  Paul always had a great deal of tact, seen in his ability to delicately figure out what to do in a sticky situation.  But you know, there are a few times he didn’t do it.  One of those times is found in Acts 23.  Acts 23:1, “Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council”---this is when he was before the Sanhedrin---“said, ‘Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.’  And the high priest, Ananias, commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth.”  Now you can imagine, you’re standing up before these guys, giving a defense of yourself in a formal setting, before the Sanhedrin.  And this man stands up and tells one of his guards ‘Punch him in the mouth.’  And a couple of guards came over and just started slapping him around.  “Then Paul said to him, ‘God will strike you, you white-washed wall!  For you sit to judge me according to the law, and command me to be struck contrary to the law.’”  Now I want you to understand, he was right in that, according to the law.  He shouldn’t have been struck.  But notice Paul’s reaction to their next statement.  Remember, tact isn’t just knowing what’s right to do, but it’s doing it in a way that’s not offensive.  “And those who stood by said, ‘Do you revile the high priest?”  The law also said you could not get up and publicly revile the high priest.  Paul could have argued here that this guy was no longer the high priest, Jesus was high priest (Hebrews 4).  But as long as the Temple stood, the high priest still worshipped God.  So Paul realized ‘What this guy did was wrong and offended me.  But whose going to listen to me, because I’ve just offended the entire Sanhedrin.’  “And then Paul said, ‘I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest.  For it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”  He said, ‘You’re right, the law says I shouldn’t do that, and I didn’t realize who he was.’  And so he said he was sorry.  The high priest was absolutely wrong.  This is an example of one of the few times Paul actually sort of loses it and responds in anger to something.  With Peter it happened every other day.  Paul had a lot more tact, it had to do with his upbringing in both Greek and Hebrew cultures, which taught him how to live and get along within different cultural situations.  Peter probably would have punched out the guard and started a donnybrook.  What can we learn from this as well?  It does no good, at times, to offend those who are offending you.  That is a major part of this point.

 

5.  Number five:  Realize, as we live God’s way, it is impossible not to offend those who have enmity against God, but let them be offended by our obedience to God, not because of our arrogance.  There are people who are going to be offended because of what you believe.  There are those who are going to be offended because you don’t believe in abortion, that it’s murder.  There is nothing you can do about that.  But I can remember a time when observing the Feast of Tabernacles, some of our super-deacons would march into some of the kitchens of the local restaurants at the Feast site, like Nazi Storm Troopers, to see if they were cooking with lard, pork fat.  Now that was an arrogant and offensive way for us to express our adherence to the Mosaic food laws of Leviticus 11.  There’s a right way, and a wrong way, folks, to live and project the truth of God.  If some are offended when we do it the right way, that’s part of life.

 

6.  Number six:  If you are going to someone who has offended you, before you tell them, try to say something good if you can.  In other words, praise before you criticize.  Judges 8, here’s the mark of a man who was a leader.  Judges 8:1, “Now the men of Ephraim said to him…”---and this is all about Gideon “Now the men of Ephraim said to him, ‘Why have you done this to us, by not calling us when you went to fight with the Midianites?’  And they reprimanded him sharply.”  Now at this point it would have been easy for Gideon to say, ‘You know what?  I just destroyed an army of tens of thousands with three hundred men, and you want to mess with us?’  ‘Okay guys, we’ve got another battle on our hands.  Slay all the Ephraimites!’  But that’s not what Gideon did.  “So he said to them, ‘What have I done now in comparison with you?  Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?  God has delivered into your hands the prices of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb.  And what have I been able to do in comparison with you?  And their anger toward him subsided when he said that.”  Why would he do that?  Was he trying to flatter the Ephraimites?  No, the man was standing there saying ‘Israel is not to fight a civil war.’  God has just done something great, let’s praise God.  You see, after Gideon had gotten the Midianites on the run the Ephraimites were told to go man the river fords on the Jordan to keep the Midianites from escaping.  The Ephraimites were able to slaughter a great number of Midianites as a result.  But they were jealous they were not a part of the original battle, that Gideon and the 300 had started the battle without them. ‘You’re the ones who grabbed all the Midianite leaders, this will go down in history as one of the great Ephraimite battles of all times’, is basically what he was telling them.  Was Gideon playing politics here?  No.  This is called tact.  He averted a civil war by simply not having to receive all the credit, by simply giving them some of the praise. So Gideon showed great tact here.  1st Corinthians 13:4-8 is everything.  It says our knowledge of God’s mysteries and prophecies are nothing if we don’t have this.

 

7.  Point seven:  When in confrontation with someone, ask God to help you be humble in your approach.  The whole chapter of Matthew 18 is about how to go to your brother over offenses.  But you know, at the very end of the chapter, Jesus gives the bottom line for the whole chapter.  We tend to get all wrapped up in how to apply all those verses in Matthew 18, but ignore the bottom line, which is: the main burden there is on the person who is offended not to stay offended, that’s the main burden of Matthew 18.  The bottom line at the end of Matthew 18 is, “Forgive because your Father in heaven has forgiven you.”  In other words, you’re the offended party!  You’re the offended party and the main burden of Matthew 18 is how you are to act as the party who has been done wrong, and it stresses forgiveness.  It’s all about agape. 

 

“Agape Does Not Seek Its Own”

 

The last phrase in verse 5 of 1st Corinthians 13 that we’ll look at this morning is “Agape does not seek its own.”  Verse 5, “Agape is not rude, agape does not seek her own” or agape is not self-seeking.  Does that mean we’re to be giving to everybody with no regard for our own welfare?  In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said your Father knows your need of clothing, food, and housing.  He doesn’t say you don’t have physical needs.  And we need to put time into procuring those things.  We’re not being told to ignore our needs, or those of our family.  But we’re not to be absorbed with ourselves and our needs. 

 

Three points here---how not to be self-seeking

 

1. First point:  we must ask for God’s will in our lives.  Some people will not ask for God’s will in their lives because they’re afraid that it may be different from what their will is (and it probably is).  But we should be asking God what his will is for our lives.  Why?  Because when you ask for and then go about following God’s will for your life, it means we are not seeking our own will---“thy will be done.”  It’s that simple.

 

2.  The second point:  we must desire the physical and spiritual betterment of others.  When you look at other people, both within and outside the Church, do we want their punishment or do we want their repentance?  Luke 15:1, “And all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to him to hear him.”  So whose gathered around Jesus?  The prostitutes, the drunks, the tax collectors.  And Luke has put in the tax collectors here, the most despised of this bunch of sinners in Jewish society.  “And the Pharisees and scribes complained saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.”  He didn’t just preach to them, he sat down and ate with them.  He sat down in a public place, with scores, maybe even hundreds of these people, and talked with them about God’s way.  Verse 3, “And Jesus spoke this parable to them, saying,”  See, this is the point, if I’m not going to seek my own, if I’m going to seek God’s will, we have to be open to the repentance of others.  “What man of you having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, will not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one which is lost until he find him?’” Isn’t that great to know?  When you and I are lost, alone, and some of us have wandered around for years, haven’t we?  God’s still out there coming after us.  Some of us have been wandering around for years since 1995.  “And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders rejoicing.  Then he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.’  I say to you, likewise, there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”  We have to be willing to desire the physical and spiritual betterment of others. 

 

We Must Be Willing To Cooperate, Be Cooperative

 

3. Point three:  We must be willing to cooperate, be cooperative.  This is a major point in not being self-seeking.  I see so very little cooperation amongst brethren to get a job done in the church.  There are various ministries that are or should be within a local congregation, and due to lack of cooperation these ministries are not carried out or are under-staffed with volunteers.  It’s scary sometimes.  Here is the problem with being self-centered, we just don’t want to cooperate.  Cooperation is the simple attitude of being willing to work with other people to accomplish a common goal, and not always having to have your own way.  Too many times cooperation is like the old story of four men named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.  “There was an important job to be done, and Everybody was asked to do it.  Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it, Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.  Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job.  Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, and Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.  It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody, and actually Nobody did anything about it.”  There you go, it’s the ability to simply say, “There’s a task at hand, what is it that we must do to accomplish it?” 

 

This ends part II in this condensed series on Agape.  Part III will be dealing with “agape is not provoked” and “thinks no evil.”

 

[This whole four-part series on Agape was condensed down from notes taken from Gary Petty’s 8-hour sermon series on Agape.  Full credit goes to Gary Petty.  If you’d like the full version, contact him at http://san-antonio.ucg.org]

 

Listen to the Audio version by clicking here Agape II Pt 1 Agape II Pt 2

 

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