Ever heard of MELT?
It’s an online video service that teaches you how to give massage. The premise is that if you are really good at massage, then you’ll be able to destress your spouse and your family will grow close. The premise is that massage is the key to a success family dynamic.
So we tried it out! Julianna and I did a head massage video for a date night. We learned how to dig our fingers into the back of the neck, the importance of rubbing behind the temples, and even how to do a proper eyebrow massage.
It was awesome.
But, then, I got an email the other day from the founder. The guy in the video who talks about how massage giving has given his wife and him a strong relationship, guess what? They’re getting divorced.
Apparently massage isn’t the key principle to having a happy family life.
To be fair, no one really seems to have the answer. If you searched on Google for “How to Improve Your Family Life” a bunch of very different pages would come up. Blog post after blog post, top five list after top ten list, each telling you something different: You need better communication. Better looks. Better intelligence. Better health for your whole family. Better cooking and your husband will love you. Better romance and your wife will love you. Better discipline and your kids will love you and we will tell you how to do it, for only 3 easy payments of $9.99!
But, maybe, instead of listening to people with imperfect family lives tell us what’s most important in family life…Maybe, we should listen to the One who invented family: God Himself.
Last week we started our series called Family Matters and we built a foundation for our talks on God’s own family dynamic. Remember last week we learned that (1) sin separated God’s family (2) God achieved unity in Jesus (3) God really, really, really wants you in his family AND (4) God’s family is all about grace.
We’re going to build on that this week by learning from God’s family how to improve our own family life. Today we want to identify the Key Biblical principle for having a solid, godly family life. Before we do, let’s say a prayer:
O Lord, strengthen by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see about our own family lives; to hear what you want us to hear about how to improve our family lives and to believe what you want us to believe about being in your family. Amen.
I. What is the Key?
Check out 1 Corinthians 13. It’s a part of a letter that was written to a congregation of believers in a place called Corinth. Granted the Corinthians weren’t a biological family. But they were a spiritual family. Just like regular families, this spiritual family had its share of family problems.
At that time, the church was experiencing a brand new phenomena. Speaking in tongues was a common thing. Ever heard of it? Speaking in tongues was a special gift from God given to the early New Testament church. It was a heavenly language that one didn’t really understand. I could give you some examples but it would just appear to be babbling. Still, it was important because it was proof that Jesus hadn’t abandoned the church and the Holy Spirit was with them.
But some people saw it as more important than that. Some saw it as proof that they were better Christians. “You know son, the real proof of being a Christian, isn’t confessing your faith in Jesus OR showing love to your neighbor; it’s speaking in tongues. Which – I’m awesome at that.”
How do you think the people who couldn’t speak in tongues reacted? They were jealous! Immediately they started to promote another, more important characteristic in God’s family. It just so happened to be whatever they were good at.
“Actually the most important thing for a successful church family is music!”
“Nope! It’s saying really good prayers. You can talk to me for how to do it best.”
“Well, I think that baking good fellowship cookies is best. And based on what you’re eating right now, I’d say you agree.”
Paul hears about this argument. He’s the one who started this church, their founding pastor. He decides to weigh in. Which is kind of a big deal. Everyone is waiting to find out what Paul thinks is most important – I’m sure he’ll vote for friendliness, I’m awesome at it.
Listen to his response from 1 Corinthians 13:1-3:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have LOVE, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have LOVE, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have LOVE, I gain nothing.
Do you like cymbals? Actually the Greek says, “repetitively clanging brass.” Do any of you have that for your ringtone? As your Pandora station? Is that your favorite station on the radio: “Just hit cymbal music. All the time. Any time.”
Cymbals are loud. They are brash. They are obnoxious. With the exception of the one music note that the one cymbal player plays once in thousands of measures of music – the cymbal isn’t all that luxurious sounding. It’s more of an obnoxious alarm clock than anything else.
Paul says that’s what our family skills and all of our communications are like without love. Obnoxious.
The dad who keeps talking about how much money he makes for you kids so leave me alone. Obnoxious. The mom who tells teenager time and again all the wisdom she learned as a mom and how she knows what she’s talking about because it makes her feel a bit better about her past decision. Obnoxious.
I make so much money for this family you should be more thankful thankful. Cymbal clash.
I learned this from the 47 parenting books that I read, I’m a good mom listen to me. Cymbal clash.
Mom, fine; I love you too, just leave me and my friends alone. Cymbal clash.
I worked so hard making this meal. You should all appreciate this more. It’ll help me feel better. Cymbal clash.
Honey I said, I love you. Now, let me go back to watching the game. Cymbal clash. Obnoxious cymbal clash.
Notice the tone.
Notice the lack of love.
Without love, it doesn’t matter how wise you are. It doesn’t matter how many tongues you speak in. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, how good your looks are, how healthy your body is, or how many books about parenting that you own.
You’re nothing, because you are neglecting the most important principle, love. Without love, even the most incredible skills and assets in family life are worthless.
But, on the other hand, the addition of love to imperfect skills or talents, can transform the whole thing:
The coloring page that says “I love you Mommy” all outside the lines – goes on the fridge. Beautiful.
The car window that was broken, but after countless hours in the garage – goes up – slowly and with a squeak – gets a heart: “Thank you.” Beautiful.
The spaghetti sauce that tastes about as salty as the Atlantic Ocean gets a “Thank you for working so hard on this, Mom.” Beautiful.
Love is the key.
II. Defining Love
But what is love? If you’ve ever watched Disney movies before you might be under the impression that love is this burst into song type feeling. Love means that bluebirds follow you everywhere you go, you defeat the evil sorcerer, and burst into songs together throughout the day. Love means happily ever after.
But is that true?
What happens when Snow White isn’t under a sleeping potion and is just lazy?
Or when Cinderella suddenly becomes materialistic?
What happens when Prince Charming is no longer charming?
Is there still love? Is love over? The feeling is gone.
That’s not how God describes love. It isn’t a feeling or an emotion. Listen to how God describes love:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
Notice. Nowhere in that verse does Paul describe love as a feeling. Nowhere does he describe it as a dream. Nowhere does he describe it as fireworks in the sky while zooming through Agrabah on a magic carpet. Love is an action. It works through difficult times. It acts even when it’s recipient is undeserving!
Take Jesus. In today’s Gospel lesson he comes across a guy with leprosy. Leprosy is disgusting. It’s a terrible disease. When you have leprosy, your skin slowly begins to rot. It turns pale white. It dries up and falls off. You lose the tips of your fingers and the cartilage in your nose. You slowly die.
Because it’s so contagious (and because it’s kind of hard to look at), people avoid you. At the time of Jesus, you were quarantined. Destined to live your life on the outskirts of town. That’s what the man in Luke 5 was experiencing. A slow, lonely, hard to look at, impossible to be with, existence.
Jesus approached him. Jesus spoke to him. Jesus touched him. Jesus healed him. And all of this for an untouchable of society! For someone unloveable. It wasn’t when this man had lots of money, had his life all together and was a cool dude to hang out with that Jesus met with him, but when his nose was missing, stench was growing, and his spirit was bitter and hardened! Jesus showed active love when the man was unlovable.
But that’s not the only time Jesus did that. That’s not the only untouchable, unlovable that Jesus showed love to.
He also showed it to you.
Think for a moment about yourself. Be very real. Think about all the most unlovable things about yourself. Things others have told you. Things you would never tell others about. The pride. The vengeance. The sick as a dog drunkenness. The repetitive pornographic viewing. The adultery – all four times it happened.
Got that picture?
Understand this: That’s who Jesus died for! Not for the social media version of yourself, but for the real, awful, ugly part! It wasn’t romantic. Jesus wasn’t feeling the love. There wasn’t beautiful, soft sonnets playing in the background while you were on a date.
But Jesus died for you the worst of you on the cross.
Get this picture:
He wasn’t dying for his bride dressed in a beautiful gown on our wedding day, but for the angry, vengeful, jaded woman who just finished telling him what an awful Savior he has been. He wasn’t dying for the kind, tuxedoed gentleman on the first date, but for the belligerent, beer drinking, scumbag on the couch.
He wasn’t dying for that peacefully sleeping child who just said, “I love you,” but for the shouting, swearing, door slamming teen who said, “I hate you!”
In fact, that’s exactly what Scripture tells us is the definition of love: 1 John 3:16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. It’s a love that defeats bitterness. A love that defeats hatred. A love that defeats all of the awful things that make our families less than perfect. A love that goes through the worst – a slow, painful death on the cross – for the worst – us.
That’s the kind of love that made you a part of God’s family.
That’s the kind of love we ought to have in our families.
III. WHAT NOW?
(A) Stop Obsessing Over Lesser Gifts
How do you choose a doctor? Is it based on what kind of magazines he has in his waiting room? Is it based on how great of a knowledge he has of Duke Basketball? Is it based on whether or not he has a degree in from the culinary school of the arts?
No. Those things are unimportant for the job he wants to accomplish. We don’t obsess over them, because they are peripheral.
Why not do the same thing in our live? There’s plenty of societal expectations out there. Social media loves to remind us of them: Be a more beautiful. Be better at discipline. Be more romantic. Make more money. Be more athletic. Be a better student. Be more relaxing.
But these are lesser gifts. They aren’t bad, but it is bad to make them more important than the greatest gift: Love.
(B) Pursue the Greatest Gift
1 Corinthians 12:31 says this, “Eagerly desire the greater gifts...”
1 Corinthians 13:13 says, “The greatest of these is love…”
1 John 4:8 says, “God is love.”
Pursue the greatest gift. Pursue love.
Do you want your family to grow in love? Obsess over God! It’s that simply. Because in God you see incredible, undeserved, unfailing love. You hear about his love for you, it motivates you to show that love for others.
So, obsess over Him personally. Make Bible time a can’t miss part of your morning. Make midday prayer an essential part of your day. Find a group to study the Bible with. Make church a can’t miss opportunity! Obsess over God, because that’s how you grow in love.
And obsess over him as a family. Make family devotion a priority. Make church a family activity. Talk about God together more than you talk about Justin Bieber and Transformers.
Obsess over God because God is love.
Love is key.
God is key.
For having a godly family.
For being a part of His family.
Afterall, God invented family. Why would we expect anything less? Amen.