“A Noisy Gong and Clanging Cymbal
I Corinthians 13

s a child I loved ice cream: I still do! Any kind: ice cream bars, high priced with a foreign name, or no-name store brand. But I remember Mother correcting my verbiage--- "We like ice cream, we love people." Maybe so, but I still love ice cream.

We English have two verbs love and like while the French have to get by with just "aimer." But most modern English is on the side of the French, for it has become a part of our culture to talk about how much we "love the Braves," or, "hate the Falcons." We don’t really mean it (maybe some do), but we say it anyway, and so it’s become O.K.--- along with words we have created such as O.K.

C.S. Lewis, Oxford and Cambridge Professor of the English Language, is on our side in recognizing that we can love non-human creatures and objects. He loved his British Tea, his dogs, his garden, his home, his nation. It is natural for us to love the world around us

I certainly love my cat, Ginger. I am teaching her to use the computer. She never cared much for T.V., but she’ll sit for hours on my lap and gaze at the computer screen’s little moving arrow, icons, and changing screens. She has come to realize that when I click the mouse, something always correspondingly moves on the screen. So, her little head is bobbing back and forth. I am currently training her to click the mouse, after that it will be online banking.

Love is a many splendored thing that can not be encompassed by one small word. The New Testament world had four words for love. But even with four there is no perfect definition. Love springs from the heart; it is a matter of the soul.

Maybe we are most familiar with the Greek word, eros. Biblically, this is love that is wonderfully meant to be shared by a husband and a wife, only. There is absolutely no room for sexual love between anybody else. Christians teach our young people to wait, and keep on waiting, until that beautiful day when you take vows before God. Any sex outside of marriage is, in the long run, not good for anybody involved; O.K. maybe temporarily titillation, but eventually it will become destructive.

Some months ago I received a pamphlet which tried to prove that homosexuality was not condemned in the Bible. It fell far short. Homosexuality is absolutely considered an "abomination" in scripture, and there is no way around it. In fact, if suddenly homosexuality was O.K., then would God not owe Sodom and Gomorra a big apology?

Another word for love used in the New Testament is storge: Affection, the humblest of human loves. It is the casual relationships that we have along the way. However, it’s importance lies in that it is through just these friendships that we have our greatest witness as a believer. Fellow human beings that casually know us, and feel a certain affection for us, are the ones that are the most likely to see the reflection of Christ in us.

There is a deeper word for friendship, philia. Philadelphia, in the ancient world, and in Pennsylvania, is named "The City of Brotherly Love." However, this word should properly be reserved for that deep relationship between persons that only includes a few best friends.

I read a story this week about 40 year old Millie who was a in charge of inviting members of her high school graduation class back for their 20th reunion. She was given the names and addresses and there on the page was the name of her former best friend Brian, whom she had not seen in nearly 20 years. She added a special note to his invitation letter saying how much she hoped to see him. Millie received a note in return from Brian’s wife saying that he had terminal kidney disease and was on dialysis, and of course could not make the trip. Millie was shocked and saddened. Even though she and Brian had never been romantically involved, she still loved him with a deep fraternal, philia; love that was rare. He was the best friend she had ever had, even after 20 years. She immediately phoned and offered to donate a kidney. He refused saying, "Nobody should have to pay that high a price for another." She called again, and again, and flew a thousand miles to visit him. Finally Brian grew much weaker, and agreed to the transplant. The operation nearly killed them both, but they soon recovered, each with one healthy kidney, and an even deeper friendship.

Most social scientists agree that we are fortunate if we can have two or three best friends during a lifetime. However, it has been my observation that folks who remain active in the same Sunday School class will develop many dear friends. These are the loyal friends who will attend your daughter’s wedding, and if they outlive you, they will be at your funeral. Sometimes Sunday School love can even approach the fourth type of love that we find in the Greek New Testament, and the word used over and over in our "Love Chapter," agape.

Agape is God’s love shared with us as we get to know him. We then in return love with the same kind of love that He first loved us with. This means that folks who really know the Lord, know how to love.

But how do we express God’s love toward others? During the week I have come to believe that the best synonym for agape, is "caring," or, maybe even the King James Translation’s choice, "Charity." The point of the "Love Chapter" is that love never seeks it’s own way, or elevates it’s own desires over the desires of others. This chapter is a guide for community building, Church living. This agape living community is only realized within local churches that experience a rare bond of deep love. Some say it can’t happen in a group larger that four or five, for pretty soon somebody will want to take a vote, or call a committee meeting. But, we see it every day in these halls. Love is our hallmark.

Will we become more than "A Noisy Gong and Clanging Cymbal?"

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor