Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
28 February 2021
Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.
“The Lord goes before us and opens the way for us and He always helps us, especially when the going is tough. He gives us strength when we are experiencing difficult circumstances. He will never leave us or forsake us, provided we keep in step with His Holy Spirit: “Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all people will see God’s salvation” (Isaiah 40:4 and Luke 3:5-6).”
Reading: 1 Corinthians 13
“Love … always protects”1 Cor. 13:7
Imagine this scenario of someone coming to Church for the very first time and it’s Bethel they are attending. Their home situation is one of terrible abuse and as they enter Bethel they immediately begin to experience the protecting love of Jesus operating through His body, His Church, – His hands, His feet and His mouth here on earth, you and me. This place is a safe place, one of the very few places where they feel safe – that person will keep coming back. Eventually, they will have learnt and experienced enough about the Christian faith to want to get baptised and join this group where such love is tangible and pervades the whole atmosphere.
‘Protects’ comes from a Greek word (‘stegei’) that scholars describe as difficult to translate, as can be seen by the variety of translations e.g.
- “Love bears all things” (NKJV; NRSV)
- “Love keeps every confidence” (NASB)
- “Love is always supportive” (CEV)
- “Love never gives up” (GNT)
- “Love knows no limit to its endurance” (J.B. Phillips)
- “Love suffers all things” (Wycliffe)
- “Love never tires of support” (REB).
Such has to do with the richness of the Greek language; e.g. in some lexicons 1 – 2 pages might be devoted to explaining one Greek word, so imagine how thick our Bibles would be if they resorted to this in translations. In such circumstances, I always take all the meanings to try and get a deeper understanding, as for example here in 1 Cor. 13:7, of what this love is.
“The first of these four unlimited qualities of genuine love [“Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres”] finds a focus in a word (’stegei’) that may relate to both ‘a roof as a covering’ and ‘a roof as a protection’ and is also related to support. This leads to a difference of emphasis among translators.”
So, in Greek literature, this word has been used alongside the word for roof which acts as a covering, and elsewhere with roof as a protection, and it has also been used in the context of support which helps us understand its meaning, so these will be my three headings.
(1) Love Always Covers
A roof covers and gives privacy, it conceals things. We can think of the story Jesus told of ‘The Prodigal Son’ and upon the son’s returning home, his father loved his son (Luke 15:20), and covered all his sins and errant ways, as Conzelmann puts it: “covers with silence”. Compare this to the elder brother who didn’t love his younger brother and was very vocal about his sins (Luke 15:30).
Remember this: whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.James 5:20
So, by loving a person with this protecting, covering love of Jesus, we can love them into His kingdom, and save them from eternal death and eternal separation from Christ. We know we must do this, e.g.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.1 Peter 4:8
So, this must be our number one priority, not to look at people’s sins and shortcomings but to make sure we love them with the love of Jesus, the love that covers.
Paul uses the same Greek word:
If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything (from ‘stego’ to roof over) rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.1 Cor. 9:12
“we put up with anything” is from the same word as used here in 1 Cor. 13:7 for “protects” – again another nuance of the word in which love puts up with anything. Rather than put this person off Jesus we put up with anything (obviously not if they are breaking the law). The apostle Paul put up with a lot of things from the Corinthians, even losing those things that he had a right to, rather than in any way hinder the gospel. The NJB puts it like this: “Love is always ready to make allowances”. We might want to object and say are you expecting us to become so naïve? People will walk all over us and take advantage of us! No, rather, we want people to know that we love them first and foremost and love is very powerful:
Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned.Song of Songs 8:7
The world is desperate for love, real love, not the so-called love that is basically selfish, the “I, me, my” self-centred love which is all about what can I get from this person / situation. But when people experience the true love of Christ, such is very attractive. When I first walked into the Bible College of Wales, the first thing I experienced was the love of Christ, it pervaded the whole atmosphere of the place. As the weeks went on, I continually enjoyed this love but became aware that there was also a discipline involved with this love, and that dying to self was a big part of how this love worked.
In the Rehabilitation Centre I worked in, I saw first hand from the Warden and his wife how powerful this love of Christ is, as they covered many obvious sins, lies, and deceptions of some of the lads. What I did notice, as well, was that those lies and deceptions all unravelled and came out into the open. They say that when you tell a lie, you have to tell another to cover it, and so it goes on till eventually you forget what you have said and it all starts to unravel. But by then they felt safe enough to talk about it and explain their backgrounds because they knew they were loved and would be still accepted no matter what they brought out in the open, the love of Jesus truly covers.
(2) Love Always Protects
It is sad when you read in the newspapers of someone (often a woman) who has been absolutely battered by her so called ‘lover’ and when asked to comment says: “Well he says he still loves me”. How such contrasts with this love of Jesus, a love that “always protects”. We can think of Joseph and Mary and when Joseph first heard the news of his future wife being pregnant, he didn’t batter her, even though the only conclusion he could draw was that she had been unfaithful to him. Yet he loved her so much:
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: his mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.Matt. 1:18-19
He protected her from public disgrace and even from potentially being stoned to death (Lev. 20:10). It was the same with Jesus, His love first protected the woman caught in adultery from being stoned (John 8:1-11). Only later did He deal with her sin (John 8:11).
(3) Love Always Supports
Or, ‘love never tires of support’.
(a) The more we look at this ‘love,’ the more we realise that it is beyond us, that this is not a mere human quality but this is God’s love and we need to rely and trust in Him to do the impossible, to love others through us as Christ loves them.
(b) Such love carries one another’s burdens: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). Such love means that we all have to be ‘The Good Samaritan’ – note two religious people passed by the man lying half-dead (Luke 10:31-32). It was a Samaritan, people they looked down upon, who stopped to help him, who gave him all the (substantial) support he needed at the time (Luke 10:33-35). How did all this start off? – Jesus answering a man’s enquiry about the greatest commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,” and, “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Luke 10:27). This is genuine Christian love that supports someone in need.
(c) Such love carries prayer burdens for others. We gain insight into the powerful effect of intercessory prayer, of praying for others, as we look at the account in Exodus 17:8-16. We are told that the Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim (Ex 17:8), so Israel is in serious trouble. Moses directs Joshua: “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites”. Moses, Aaron and Hur, however, went to the top of the hill. We read: “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning” (Ex 17:11). Moses was supporting Joshua by praying for him. However, Moses himself needed support from Aaron and Hur: “When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up – one on one side, one on the other – so that his hands remained steady till sunset”. The result: “Joshua overcame the Amalekite army” (Ex 17:13), because: “hands were lifted up to the throne of the Lord” (Ex 17:16).
Questions for Discussion
- Have you witnessed this protecting love of Jesus operating in a Church towards ‘needy people’? Share with the group the impact it had on them.
- If you had been the father of the ‘Prodigal’ how do you think you would have reacted when he returned? Can you see where the elder brother is coming from?
- Think of someone you find is really difficult? Isn’t is nice to talk to others about all their annoying ways, their difficult habits, their self-centred ways? What do you think about “love that covers with silence” in this context?
- Re. the person in (3) above what about “love never tires of support” towards them?
- Why does someone who has been regularly battered by a partner get comfort from the mere words “I still love you” of that abuser? Should we also love the abuser as well as the abused?
Quote for the Week
“Some of us believe that God is almighty and may do everything; and that He is all-wisdom and can do everything; but that He is all-love and wishes to do everything – there we stop short. It is this ignorance, it seems to me, that hinders most of God’s lovers.”
Julian of Norwich
Verse of the week
“Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” And he said, “The one who showed compassion to him”. Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise”.Luke 10:36-37
Heavenly Father, these are indeed difficult and searching things for us to do and to be. We pray that you would help us to love the unlovely, the difficult, the outcast, all those you love Jesus, with your love that always protects, in Your Name, Amen