Understanding and Practicing Love

This is part four of a four-part series by Pete Hammond. Mr. Hammond is a long-time leader in the American church, starting with his involvement in the racial integration of a few southern Universities during his early years on InterVarsity Staff, and continuing through his long-term passion of challenging Christians to live as witnesses in their "marketplace" - in their everyday jobs. More about Petehere.

1. A Case Study of Ephesus: 40 Years, 3 Authors, 7 Documents, 7 Leaders
2. The Ephesus Converts:“A New Community’s” Raw Material
3. "Truth" and "Love" in The Ephesian Church
4. Understanding and Practicing "Love"

Paul explains Godly love in his letter to another group of believers whenhe wrote the first generation of believers in Corinth.

Traditional Rendering: “Love...
Modern Use: “Love...
... is patient (4)
... is steady, not hasty.
... is kind (4)
... is sympathetic and generous.

Regarding Oneself:

... is not envious (4)
... does not compete for attention.
... is not boastful (4)
... does not brag on itself, or strut about.
... is not arrogant (4)
... does not inflate its self-view.

Regarding Others:

... is not rude (5)
... does not tread on others feelings, or force itself on others.
... does not seek its own (5)
... does not insist on its own way, or play “me first” games.
... is not irritable (5)
... is not easily provoked, or fly off the handle.

Regarding Sin:

... is not resentful (5)
... does not keep a record of wrongs suffered.
... does not rejoice in wrongdoing (6)
... finds no joy in evil.
... rejoices in the truth (6)
... celebrates other’s achievements.

Regarding Sinners:

... bears all things (7)
... keeps all things in confidence.
... believes all things (7)
... trusts in what God can do.
... hopes all things (7)
... holds out holy ambitions for others.
... endures all things (7)
... survives and serves in all situations.

Regarding Life:

... never ends.” (8)
... outlives all problems and challenges.”
Note: We can love...
becauseGod first loved us! (1 John 4:19)

Love... (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)1 ... is patient and kind:

- Regarding Self:

... does not compete for attention (not jealous).
... does not brag on itself (no boasting).
... does not inflate itself (not proud).

- Regarding Relationships:

... does not tread on another’s feelings (not rude).
... does not seek another’s things (not selfish).
... does not take offense quickly (not quick-tempered).

- Regarding Sins:

... does not keep a record of wrongs suffered (sins of others).
... does not make unrighteousness its object of rejoicing (not in evil).
... does celebrate others’ achievements in righteousness (is always supportive).

- Regarding Sinners:

... does keep all things in confidence (is loyal).
... does know what God can do (is trusting).
... does hold out holy ambitions for others (is hopeful).
... does survive under every condition (never quits).

How can we love like this? Because God first loved us in Christ!! (1 John 4:19).

“So Then... Lead a Life Worthy of The Calling...”

Back to Ephesus, how, then shall these recovering sinners deal with one another? Paul coaches them with these principles of “truth and love.”

  • “...putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.” (Eph. 4:25)
  • Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down upon your wrath, and do not make room for the devil.... (4:26-7)
  • Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. (4:29)
  • And do not grieve the Holy Spirit... (4:30)
  • Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven you. (4:31-2)
  • Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.... (5:1-2)
  • Be careful how you live, not as unwise people but as wise.... (5:15)
  • Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.... (5:21)
  • Peace be to the whole community, and love with faith, from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (6:23)

A Personal Postscript

I find church life messy, frequently difficult and sometimes dangerous.

But, what else should I expect? Unlike all other human communities— clubs, business, families, associations, neighborhoods, etc. the church is the only organization where membership is based upon confession of failure. All other groups expect each incoming member to bring assets that will enhance their reputation and increase the strengths, like fame, fortune, skills, wit, influence, power, etc. Not the church. We come into Christ’s family be admitting we are sinners in need of help.

A congregation of Christians is a collection of recovering sinners, each of whom has lots of bad baggage, and who will have flashbacks of the old ways regularly. We need to assume brokenness, pain, fear, unhealthy ways of living, and bad habits in every member. We need to accept the reality of this slightly redeemed zoo, and offer each other space and grace for growth and love.

What we share in common is Jesus’ delight in forgiving each one of us, and giving us another chance.

Herein is love that cannot be found outside of faith.

So, I find great encouragement and hope in the Ephesian story. These people had all kinds of reasons to dislike, hate, and avoid one another. What a realistic profile! And what a realistic history over a long period of time! And the last chapter challenges them about how difficult it is to continue loving one another and welcoming new “messies” into their fellowship.

Lord, help me to be an honest, gracious, truthful and loving member of the people of God.

1. With thanks to the Apostle Paul and former IVCF/USA co-worker George Hunsberger


1 Corinthians 13:4-8


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