“It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres,” reads 1 Corinthians 13:7. In his last sermon on The Love of Jesus, Pastor Kong Hee unpacks the four attitudes love carries.
On the weekend of June 13 and 14, Kong Hee, senior pastor of City Harvest Church preached the final instalment of his series on Jesus’ love (1 Corinthians 13). In it, he delved into the four attitudes that love carries.
Reading 1 Corinthians 13:7, he correlated the four attitudes to four dimensions of Christ’s love. “Love always protects: that is the width. Love always trust: that is the depth. Love always hopes: that is the height; and love always perseveres: that is the length,” he explained. “This is the scope of love.”
He also emphasized the word “always”, which means that there are no limits to love.
LOVE ALWAYS PROTECTS
The word “protects”, in Greek, means two things: to put up with difficult situations and also, to cover in silence or keep confidential.
To put up with difficult situations is to “bear all things” as translated in the New King James Version of the same verse. This means that believers have to walk in a constant atmosphere of forgiveness. Secondly, to cover in silence means it acts like a shelter to protect something. But Pastor Kong clarified that this does not mean that one has to cover up sins or crimes of another in the name of love.
“Sometimes, we need to correct people in the faith,” he acknowledged, “but we must do so in a Biblical way, just as Jesus taught us in Matthew 18.” Jesus would never broadcast the flaws, faults or failures of someone publicly and neither should His believers.
Pastor Kong went on to teach the church that love is careful to protect the dignity or reputation of another person. Using the illustration of the formation of a pearl, Pastor Kong described how an oyster would cover a particle that irritates it until a precious pearl is formed. It does not spit out the particle for all to see. Similarly, if Christians were to cover hurt with patience, longsuffering, and gentleness, that hurt becomes something precious.
“God never wastes pain,” Pastor Kong said. “If you deal with it in love and cover it with godly silence, it will turn around and become a precious blessing to you.”
The pastor also taught the church not to demean their spouse or their friends with their words publicly because love has the ability to cover all shortcomings and flaws. He gave the example of Joseph choosing not to expose and disgrace Mary when he found that she was pregnant. “He wanted to cover what he thought was a serious failure in Mary because he loved her enough to protect her from public shame,” Pastor Kong pointed out.
LOVE ALWAYS TRUSTS
The NKJV of 1 Cor 7 says “love believes all things” and in the New English Bible version, it says “there is no limit to its faith”. Love believes all things concerning others.
How then does one reconcile “love believes all things” and “do not believe every spirit” (1 John 4:1)?
Pastor Kong explained that love is not naive, gullible, blind, unaware of evil, or credulous. Instead, love sees clearly and deeply into every situation and still decides to believe. Understandably, it is difficult, and that is why Christians need Jesus. He is the perfect depiction of what love looks like.
In the case of Simon Peter, it was Jesus’ faith in Him that caused Jesus to love him so much. From the beginning, Jesus called him “Peter” which means “rock”. Jesus was not blind to Simon’s many weaknesses and knew his faults but He saw Simon for who he would become (John 1:42). This is what love is like; it constantly believes in the best of others.
In spite of the flaws and sins of the Corinthian church, Paul believed in them because he loved them (2 Cor 7:16). Believing in others also means to give them the benefit of doubt and not gossip about them. Everywhere he wen,t, Paul always spoke well of the Corinthians, who were clearly flawed (2 Cor 9:2). Gossip is a bait of Satan, pointed out Pastor Kong. “If Satan can tempt us into gossiping, we will never be loving like Jesus Christ.”
“In every conversation text or email, learn to be positive and learn to be encouraging. To encourage means to pour in the courage to make someone stronger braver,” he added. “When you encourage someone, you inject faith into that person.”
LOVE ALWAYS HOPES
Hope is a companion of faith, but it goes beyond that. Abraham, known as the man of faith, waited for a son, who was the key to all the promises God has made to him, for 25 years. Hope fueled Abraham’s faith (Rom 4:18) and gave him the strength to not give up.
“If faith is the spiritual engine of our lives, then hope is the fuel that keeps it going,” the pastor described.
The world defines hope simply as a wish, but to Christians, hope is something entirely different. In Greek, hope is the word elpis, which means “a confident expectation from now until heaven”. “So hope is not just expecting for a day, there is a time duration to it,” explained Pastor Kong. “It is the confident expectation that goes from now until you step into heaven. We know we would receive a miracle either in this lifetime or in the next when we meet the Lord.”
Hope is a very powerful thing because a hopeless person finds no meaning in life. So, where does hope come from? Generally, it comes from Jesus Christ (1 Tim 1:1). Christians have access to eternal hope because they have Jesus in them.
“But specifically, where exactly in Christ?” questioned Pastor Kong. Hope, he stated, comes out of love. “The more loving you are, the more hopeful you’ll become.”
Romans 5:5 reads, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
“The love of God is the source of hope—love produces hope,” he said. “The more you are full of Jesus’s love, the more hopeful you are as a person.”
Love does not disappoint: this means that when love is abounding in one’s relationship with God, he will not be disappointed even when life becomes difficult. “Love always hopes for the best, because it hopes in God,” said Pastor Kong.
At the Last Supper, Jesus knew Judas was going to betray Him but He loved Judas to the very end—He even washed his feet. This is what true agape love looks like. Even when the situation looks impossible and beyond salvaging, love always hopes.
LOVE ALWAYS PERSEVERES
Love bears, believes, and hopes in all things steadfastly and persistently. Love has no limits to its endurance and perseverance even when one is badly or unfairly treated.
Perseverance is a military term, which means to hold a position at all costs, even unto death. Love keeps holding on to the people it loves and keeps loving them even in the face of rejection. Pastor Kong acknowledges that it is difficult especially in tough times because self-preservation kicks in, but agape love will keep families and friends together because true love perseveres.
Love gave Jesus the strength to endure the cross (Heb 12:2). He never once fought back, responded in anger, or sought vengeance. Ultimately, His love brought salvation to the world. Jesus’ way of loving people is what Christians should aim for.
“Don’t be a fair-weathered friend,” exhorted Pastor Kong. “There will be times where we do not feel love for people, but we must love by faith.”
The chapter on love ends with: “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13). Love is the main theme of Christianity, for “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16).
The Bible says the moment one stops loving people, his heart starts dying, and gradually, even his love for God will be extinguished (1 John 3:14, 17).
“Love is the strongest force in the soul. It will sustain one through every trial and sorrow. It is the strongest resisting power against temptation. There is nothing more powerful than love, and it is the fire that melts every heart and opens every door,” the pastor said.
In conclusion, Pastor Kong taught that the verses in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 is the description of Jesus’ character and it must define every Christian’s as well.
“We cannot be filled with the fullness of God unless we are filled with His love,” said the pastor. “Let’s always believe and hope for the best of people. To always be loving, say no to gossip, and to not put others down. Only then would others be touched by the love of God in us.”