Sunday, July 9, 2017

Summer of Love: Love is not Jealous

George Harrison was there, as were The Who, Janice Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jerry Garcia. 

They had joined the so called hippies and flower children who had descended on San Francisco to celebrate, demonstrate and as Timothy Leary so famously said to  “Turn on, Tune In and Drop Out.”

And this year there will be celebrations recognizing what happened that summer.  

But that wasn’t all that happened in the United States 50 years ago.  As the City of San Francisco was trying to deal with the logistics of feeding and sheltering 100,000 teens and young adults the rest of the country was dealing with something of a much darker nature.

There will be no celebrations to remember was has been called the “Long Hot Summer of 1967.

In the summer of 67, 159 Race riots broke out in Detroit and Tampa and all places in between.  Before the summer was over 76 people would have died more than 2,100 were injured and over 11,000 arrests were made.  

The images of that event were very different than what was happening on the West Coast and there will be no celebrations to recognize the “Long Hot Summer of 1967”

This Summer at Cornerstone we are celebrating a different “Summer of love” as we spend ten weeks focused on 1 Corinthians 13.

This is week 3 of our series and as we’ve done the past two weeks, this week we are going to read the Passage together. 

1 Corinthians 13:1-13  If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.  If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.  Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.  Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!  Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture!  But when full understanding comes, these partial things will become useless.  When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.  Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.  Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

Last week we looked at the first two positive attributes of Love, Patience and Kindness.  And we talked about how we need to be patient with Ourselves, with Others and With God.  And then we looked at how we needed to be kind to others, that one was kind of a no-brainer.  

This week we are going to take the next step in verse four where we are told that Love is not Jealous.

So let’s begin with The Definition of Jealous. 

When we think of the word “Jealous” we think of being jealous of someone or something. 

That is, we are afraid they are sharing their affections, or sharing more than just their affections, with another person or thing.  We can be jealous of people, of things, I’ve heard wives say, “I’m sure he loves that motorcycle, car, boat, fill in the blank more than he loves me”.  And people can be jealous of activities.  Like work or hobbies, and sometimes with good reasons.

Which lines up with what Robert A. Heinlein wrote “Jealousy is a disease, love is a healthy condition. The immature mind often mistakes one for the other, or assumes that the greater the love, the greater the jealousy - in fact, they are almost incompatible; one emotion hardly leaves room for the other.”

And when we think of love in the sense of romantic love that makes sense, Love is not Jealous.

However. . . How many folks here have ever seen the movie “The Princess Bride”?  How many have seen it more than once?  Yeah, it’s that type of movie. 

And there is a great line in it, one of the characters is always using the word “Inconceivable” and finally we hear this response from another character says “you keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.”

And when we use Jealous in this passage, I do not think it means what you think it means.

You see, the word jealous fits well when this passage is read at weddings or we think of it as applying to marriage but while 1 Corinthians 13 does apply to weddings and marriages, that isn’t what Paul was originally intending the passage for.

We’ve been down this road before, but let’s go down it again.  We’ve spoken before about how the New Testament was written in Greek and how that language tended to use more words to reflect the meaning of a thought then we do in English. 

When you think about it the English language is a really lazy language.  For example the word fast, you ever think about what fast means.  It can mean that you are quick, or it can mean that colours don’t run, or it can mean to tie something up, or it can mean that someone is morally loose, or it can mean to not eat, or it can mean that your watch has gained time or it can mean that you are loyal or it can mean that you are sleeping soundly, or it can mean that you are close to something.

Fast is a Homonym, which means the words sounds the same and are spelled the same but they have different meanings.  Not to be confused with a Homophone which are two words that are sound the same but are spelled differently.  Like The Bay of Fundy has the highest Tide in the world, I wish I had of known that when I Tied my boat up.   Or I read the red book.

And while technically Love is a Homonym, think of love the emotion and love the tennis score, it goes deeper than that.

We throw the word love around to mean almost anything we are fond of.  I love “”America’s Got Talent” It’s one of our summer guilty TV pleasures, along with Private Eyes.  I love convertibles, I love flying, I love pizza, I love my kids, I love my wife, I love my grand-girls, and I love all of you.  But I love each of those things in different ways, but I describe my feelings with one word. 

The Greek language however has several different words that are used to convey love for different things.  First there is Eros, which is a sensual love, a passionate love.  Eros was the name of the Greek god of desire.  The Romans called him Cupid. 

Eros is the love that you should feel for your spouse.

The next form of love was Philia and this is the warm fuzzy feeling we have for those nearest and dearest to us.  This is friendship.  Have you ever wondered why Philadelphia is called the city of brotherly love? 

Then there is Storge, and this is affection, what you feel for your parents or children.  Many years ago, my sister gave my mother a plaque that says, “I love you more then you love me, because you have only loved me for part of your life and I have loved you for all of mine.”  Cute. 

That was back when if you wanted to say things like, you bought someone a plaque or a poster instead of simply tagging them in a meme on Facebook. 

But Paul doesn’t use any of those words for love instead he uses the word Agape.  And agape is less a feeling of the heart and more a feeling of the mind.  It is as much an act of the will as an act of the emotions.  It is why Jesus can tell us to love our enemies.  It is a conscious action, something that you decide to do and something that you cannot do without the power of the Holy Spirit in your life.

So that’s a long meandering path to the fact that the word that the New Living Translation translates as “is not Jealous” is more accurately translated in the New International Version as
does not Envy or in the King James Version as does not covet.   

And there is a world of difference between Jealousy and envy as that great 20th century scholar Homer Simpson once said “I’m not jealous! I’m envious. Jealousy is when you worry someone will take what you have ... envy is wanting what someone else has.”

And that’s not entirely true.  The Merriam Webster Dictionary states,   “So while jealous may be used to mean both “covetous” and “possessively suspicious”, envious is only comfortable in the first of those two senses”

So, with that in mind let’s look at The Danger of Envy 

You ever think about the Ten Commandments?  They got some big ticket items in there, don’t kill, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t give false testimony against other people. 

And you can kind of understand those things, they attack the very things that hold society together, but then the 10 commandments end by saying Exodus 20:17  “You must not covet your neighbour’s house. You must not covet your neighbour’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbour.”

Story is told about the boy in Sunday School  and when the teacher asked if anyone knew what the 10th Commandment was?  He said “I do, you must not take the covers off your neighbour’s wife.”   Guess that works too.

And if the earlier commandments seem like felonies, then coveting seems like a misdemeanor.   If the other would warrant serious jail time surely covetousness would only deserve a slap on the wrist or at the most a small fine.

But if that was the case then why bother putting it in the Ten Commandments?  Seriously, most of us could think of at least one commandment to replace the coveting one.  It would be littering for me.  Thou shalt not litter.

But coveting isn’t a harmless pastime,  listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 5:27-28  “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’  But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” 

So, Jesus tells us that adultery begins when you covet someone sexually.

The first murder recorded in the bible happened in Genesis when Adam and Eve’s oldest son Cain murdered his younger brother.  And that didn’t just happen out of the blue, “I think I’ll kill Abel today.” 

It began with the two brothers offered sacrifices to God and the bible tells us that God accepted Abel’s and rejected Cain’s.  The reasons are a whole other sermon.    And what began with Cain coveting that acceptance ended with him murdering his brother.

Mark Twain nailed it when he wrote  “There is no such thing as material covetousness. All covetousness is spiritual. ...Any so-called material thing that you want is merely a symbol: you want it not for itself, but because it will content your spirit for the moment.”

The reason that “Do Not Covet” was included in the Ten Commandments was that it is the seed that all the other sin’s spring from. 

It was the seed of covetousness that Satan sowed in the Garden with Adam and Eve when he told them that they could be like God. 

It was the same seed that Satan tried to sow with Jesus when he tempted him in the wilderness. 

And coveting what another person has will eventually destroy your love for them.

Oliver Stone summed it up when he said “Never underestimate the power of jealousy and the power of envy to destroy. Never underestimate that.”

The best example of that danger is recorded in Matthew 27:18 . . . the religious leaders had arrested Jesus out of envy.  

Jesus had what the religious leaders of the day didn’t have, he had the respect of the people, he had an insight into God, he knew the truth and they didn’t and they figured they couldn’t have what he had and if that was the case then they didn’t want him to have it either. 

The religious leaders had Jesus killed because they coveted what he had.

You see that is the reality of envy, in order for you to be happy it is not enough for you to succeed, others must fail. 

There wasn’t room enough in the world of the religious leaders for them and for Jesus, so for them the solution was to get rid of Jesus.

And that is why the New Testament is full of warning about envy. 

Jesus warns us in Mark 7:21-23  “For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder,  adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness.  All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

Did you catch what envy was lumped in with?  Murder, sexual immorality, theft, wickedness.  And then Jesus tells us that it makes you unacceptable to God.  Which was why Paul warned the early church in  Romans 1:29  Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip.

Envy is not a game, it is a sin and it is dangerous.  It’s dangerous for you and it’s dangerous for your relationships. 

Which is why William Penn wrote more than 300 years ago  “Covetousness is the greatest of monsters, as well as the root of all evil.”

So, what should we do? Good question, and a question that leads us to  The Defense Against Envy

The first thing we must do is acknowledge that coveting is not just a bad habit, that it is a sin.  Francis Xavier wrote “I have heard thousands of confessions, but never one of covetousness.”

Why would that be?  Because people don't take covetousness serious.  But we need to.   Remember God took it serious enough to include it in the 10 commandments.  Why?  Because it is the seed of all other sins.  

And then we need to understand that if we are to win the battle against covetousness it will only happen when we surrender ourselves to contentment.

And that begins with understanding contentment.  Sometimes we think that being content means we have no desire to better ourselves or to improve our lot in life.  So really poor people who don’t seem to want to rise out of their poverty would seem to be content.  But that isn’t necessarily the truth. 

Or we think being content means having lots of money and toys and not wanting or needing more.  But that isn’t always the reality either.

Understand, money can't buy contentment and poverty doesn’t necessarily provide contentment.  

Contentment isn’t about possessions, it is a state of mind.

Charles Ryrie wrote,  “One can be covetous when he has little, much or anything in between, for covetousness comes from the heart, not from the circumstances of life.”

Covetousness robs us of the joy of what we already have.  Contentment allows us to experience that joy.   And that doesn’t mean we don’t strive for more.  But we strive for what we can earn, what we can achieve and that doesn’t have to happen at the expense of others.  They don’t have to lose it so we can gain it. 

Years ago I read an article about a guy who rose really rapidly in a company, he was always getting promoted.  And when asked about it he said that he was always on the lookout for a better position or job. . . for his immediate supervisor. And he would let them know and recommend them he would do everything in his power to help them get promoted. 

And contentment isn’t easy.  If it was everybody would be content.  But it would appear that in our sinful nature that Envy is the default.  That’s why Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11  . . . , for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.

Contentment didn’t just happen for Paul, he had to learn how to be content.  And when he wrote to Timothy he tells him, and by default he tells us.  1 Timothy 6:6-8  Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.  After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it.  So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.

Contentment is enjoying what we have and understanding that discontentment is brought about by envy.   And envy is basically selfish and usually completely unrealistic.  Because if we were honest, there are probably good reasons why we don’t have what we don’t have.

Garrison Keillor sums it up when he wrote  “I think if the church put in half the time on covetousness that it does on lust, this would be a better world for all of us.”

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