Last Sunday was Mothers’ Day. Fittingly, senior pastor of City Harvest Church Kong Hee preached on the famous Love Chapter in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, unpacking the two main virtues of love: patience and kindness.
Last weekend (May 9-10) was the Mothers’ Day weekend (Mother’s Day being May 10). In his online sermon for the weekend, Pastor Kong Hee began by acknowledging and thanking all mothers watching the service for their sacrificial love and care. A mother wears up to almost 17 hats in a single day, the pastor said, in addition to her full-time job—mothers would happily sacrifice and provide for their children. Pastor Kong and his wife, Pastor Sun, prayed for all the mothers in the CHC family and all those watching the service online.
For his sermon proper, Pastor Kong picked an apt topic to teach on: love. “Love is the most important virtue of all,” he said at the start of his two-part series based on 1 Cor 13. “When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He replied without hesitation, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind’.” The second is to love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt 22:37-30).
Jesus loved the disciples “to the end“, even when He knew they would forsake Him. (John 13:34-35) “With everything we do, we must make love our greatest aim,” exhorted Pastor Kong. “To follow Jesus in the way of love is the climax of all Christian living. If we want to be like Christ, we must love in the way Jesus loves.”
Reading from 1 Corinthians 13, the famous “Love Chapter”, he expounded on what agape, or the unconditional love of God, is.
He started by saying that it was possible for people to be busy serving God, yet forget to love Him. For example, the church in Corinth was anointed and powerful, but its people did not have a love for one another. “They missed the whole purpose of spiritual gifts and the goal of ministry: to grow in love for one another.”
“Love is not abstract knowledge, but an action word. Paul is writing (in 1 Corinthians 13) about how love can be seen in action. True love is always demonstrated in action.”
From 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, one can see that Paul gave the clearest definition of what love really is. “I call this portion the 2-8-4, because it describes the two main virtues of love; eight things it is not; and four attitudes it carries.”
The two most basic things about love are found in verse four: “Love is patient, love is kind”.
LOVE IS PATIENT
The word “patience” in Greek is makrothumia, which is made up of two words: makros (long) and thumia (boiling, anger). “This means that patience arms our hearts with a very long fuse, so it takes us a very long time to be angry,” Pastor Kong explained.
Patience is the capacity to accept or tolerate delays, problems, or sufferings, without becoming anxious or angry, he added.
For Peter, John, and Paul, the three pillars of the early church, the patience of the Lord impacted them so much that they wrote about it in their epistles. “Our Lord’s patience means salvation” (2 Peter 3:9), meaning that Jesus is so patient with His people that it results in their salvation. John talks about the patience of Jesus in Revelation 1:9, while Paul in 2 Thessalonians 3:5 spoke of the “steadfastness of Christ”.
Even when Jesus’ very own brothers mocked and ridiculed Him (John 7:2-5), and only believed in Him after His resurrection, Jesus never lost patience with them.
Continuing, Pastor Kong explained, “Our home is the very place that God teaches us to treasure patience. Jesus never complained about slow learners. Jesus always taught simply, patiently and—most importantly—lovingly.”
To be a loving person, one needs to accept people as they are, just as Christ accepts them (Rom 15:7). This also means one must treat another with respect, even if one cannot accept that person’s behavior.
Further exploring the meaning of patience, Pastor Kong explained that patience is also forbearance, that is, to “be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Eph 4:2), and to put up with the weakness and personality traits of people.
This means that forbearance requires forgiveness, and forgiving as the Lord forgave His people (Col 3:12-13).
“We must be conscious to forgive every day, all the time,” encouraged Pastor Kong. “We must walk constantly in an atmosphere of forgiveness. To have boundless love, we need unlimited patience.”
LOVE IS KIND
While patience is the passive part of love, kindness is active. To love means to be kind. In fact, the Bible puts the two words together very often: loving-kindness.
Exodus 34:6 records that God is merciful and gracious, which is essentially what kindness entails. Mercy means to help the weak and needy, helping those who cannot help themselves, while grace is God’s unmerited favor.
“Mercy is God not giving us what we deserve, while grace is God giving us what we don’t deserve,” reminded Pastor Kong.
Kindness has to do with the heart; it is to be compassionate. When one shows compassion, it means that he shares in the suffering of someone else (Eph 4:32). “When you can do that, affection can flow out of your heart and touch the other person,” Pastor Kong said.
Lastly, being kind means to be gentle. Matthew 11:29 reads, “If we can learn how to have a quiet and gentle spirit, we will find inner peace and rest in our souls. It is the gentleness of the heart that gives us tremendous inner strength.”
Therefore, to be kind means to be merciful, gracious, compassionate, and gentle.
“For us to be Jesus-like, we must imitate Him in His love, to have unlimited patience with people, [to be] forbearing and forgiving. Make it a goal every day to aim for zero anger outbursts, zero impatience, zero anger, and zero irritability,” encouraged the pastor.
Pastor Kong also stated that 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is the perfect resumé of Jesus Christ Himself. “It becomes very clear that Jesus is love when we substitute the word ‘love’ with His name (in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Because we are in Christ, the Holy Spirit is transforming us every day, into Jesus’ likeness. This should be the ‘resumé’ of our lives.”
“We must be able to insert our own names into the verse,” he said. “That love is the story of your life.”