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Defining Love



Scripture: John 15:12, 1 Corinthians 13:1–13, 1 John 4:8

Memory verse: 1 Corinthians 13:13
"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."


Ask the students if they have ever heard anyone say the following things:

“I love your suit. It is my favourite colour.”

“I love football. It is my favourite sport.”

“I love rice. It is my favourite food.”

Ask: Do these examples of “loving” something represent true love? (Allow responses.)

 Explain that suits are outgrown and discarded, football games last only a short time, and people can grow tired of eating only rice. In all these examples, the term love is associated with a favourite thing. Although these things can be enjoyed, our feelings for them are not good examples of real love.

Stress that the word “love” gets a lot of abuse in today’s conversations. People say they love something, but quickly forget the thing they supposedly loved. At other times they may feel “love” for a person or object until they find someone or something they like better.

When people use the word love in this way, they often mean:

“I enjoy this thing.”

“Right now I feel good about this thing.”

“I have a good feeling right now about this thing or person.”

“This person makes me feel special so I like to be around them.”

Ask: What kind of love are these statements describing? (Let the students give their definitions of the word love.)

Explain that in today’s study, they will learn about the real meaning of love—God’s love.

Hearing God’s Word

Last week we learned that Paul wrote a letter to Christians in Rome. Today we will see why Paul wrote the epistle of 1 Corinthians to a group of Christians living in Corinth.

The Church at Corinth

Corinth was a large, rich, important city. But it was also a sinful place. Most of the people who lived in Corinth worshiped the pagan goddess of love, called Aphrodite by the Greeks and Venus by the Romans. Their worship involved sinful practices that included immorality. They did not show true love and worship at all.

Paul had taught in Corinth during his second missionary journey. Later, while he was preaching in Ephesus, some leaders from the Corinthian church told him their church was having problems. Then a letter came from the church at Corinth. In the letter were questions the people wanted Paul to answer. Paul decided to write the Corinthians a letter to explain how they should live and act.

Problems in the Church

One of the main problems in the church was that some of the members were being influenced by the teachings of idol worshippers. This caused fighting and tension in the church. Paul knew Christians should not be fighting with one another. In 1 Corinthians 13 he explained what true love is like.

The love described in 1 Corinthians 13 is unconditional love or agape love. This kind of love is not based on feelings. Agape love means loving someone no matter what they say or do, no matter how unworthy they are.

The Attitude of Love

Paul wrote that every Spirit-filled Christian has a job to do in the Church, the body of Christ. Although these jobs are important, they are of no value unless they are done in love. This kind of love does not come naturally. It is an inner desire to do good for others. Only God can give this kind of love.

Ask: Have you ever received a gift from someone who did not give it out of love? (Allow responses.)

Imagine you are assigned a painting project in art class at school. When the paints are handed out, you hardly get any. Your friend gets more than he needs. You ask your friend for some paint but he refuses to share. Then your teacher comes by and notices the problem. She tells your friend to share his paint. Naturally, you take the paint given in this way.

Ask: How would you feel toward your friend for his unloving attitude? (Allow responses.)

Giving to God or to others out of love is the only way our actions can please God. Often rich people give charitable gifts to the poor to get tax credit or special recognition, but this is not giving because of love. Even though their gifts help the poor, the people who give only to help themselves will not be blessed by God. True love gives without demanding anything in return.

The word “love” is used a lot today. People say they love anything from soccer to ice cream. They say they love everyone from Mom and Dad to a music star. (Refer to the Lesson Lead—In discussion if you used it.) The word love has become so overused that it is hard to know what true love is. But Paul gave us the answer in 1 Corinthians 13:4–7.

What is Agape Love?

Agape love is patient, or long-suffering. It is willing to put up with the faults or others. Some people might really get on our nerves at times, but true love will see past the faults and love those people as God does.

Love is kind. People with agape love are careful to put others’ feelings before their own. They are not jealous of another person’s success. They are glad and rejoice when good things happen to others.

Love is not proud. A person who shows agape love does not brag on himself or herself. Love does not behave in a rude, unmannered way. Rather, a person who has agape love shows respect for those in authority. His love is not selfish or self-centred. He does not make his own happiness and well-being more important than the needs of others. Instead, he is willing to sacrifice his plans so others will be happy.

A person who has this kind of love does not explode in anger at personal slights and losses. He does not hold a grudge when others mistreat him. He does not keep a record of the mistakes others make. He is not interested in “making them pay for what they have done.” Instead, he wants the person to see the error of their ways and turn to God.

Agape love endures no matter what happens. Someone with this kind of love wants to protect others, not hurt them. He thinks about their good points rather than their bad. He refuses to accept their failures as final. He knows God can change a person.

First John 4:8 says, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Those with God’s agape love do not leave others out and form selective groups or cliques. They want God to use them to show His love to others.

Ask: Have you ever been excluded from a group just because you did not meet the members’ standards? (Allow responses.)

That exclusiveness happens in some groups, but it should never happen in church or among Christian people. Christians should show God’s love—agape love—that never turns anyone away because of how they look or act.

Our Example of Love

First Corinthians 13 is called the “love chapter.” It gives a complete description of love. Since God is love, it is a picture of Him.

Ask: How has God shown us agape love? (Allow responses.)

He sent Jesus to be our Saviour. Jesus’ life shows us what God is like. Jesus fits every description of love given in 1 Corinthians 13.

Jesus’ life can be summed up in one word—love. This is the greatest characteristic a Christian can have. (Repeat the memory verse together.)

Jesus showed His love by dying for the sins of all people—even those who hated and crucified Him. He wants His followers to love one another in the same way.

This kind of love goes against what the world says is “normal.” The world says, “If the happy feelings go away, find something else to make you happy.” But this kind of false love leads to unhappiness and emptiness.

In ourselves we can never show agape love. We want to love only those who are clean, pretty, or rich—and only those who we know will love us back. But Jesus wants us to “love each other, as I have loved you (John 15:12.) We can do this only through the help of the Holy Spirit. This love does not always come easily. But as we try to be like Jesus, He will cause His love to grow in us. There is no better way to please God—and to show Jesus to our family, friends, and neighbours.

Accepting God’s Word

Emphasise that agape love can grow in our lives only if we have accepted Jesus as our Saviour. Remind the students that it was Jesus’ perfect example of agape love that made a way for them to receive forgiveness from God for sin. Ask if there are any who would like to accept Jesus as their Saviour. Pray with any who respond.

Present the information about the Jotoni and Khe Tribes given below.

Meet the Jotoni and Khe

Pray for the Jotoni and Khe Tribes

1. Praise God for 16,000 Jotoni,
2. Praise God for Mali believers in Christ who have contact with the Jotoni,
3. Praise God for Burkina Faso believers who can witness to the Khe.

Prayer Promise

"Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations (tribes) what he has done" (Psalm 105:1).

MORE INFORMATION: www.joshuaproject.net

Remember: LOVE: WHAT IS IT?

Memory verse: 1 Corinthians 13:13
"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

1. I want to express love the way God loves.
2. True love gives without expecting a return.
3. The Holy Spirit can enable me to love others as God loves them.

Pray for the Jotoni and Khe Tribes.

Study 3 | Give to God / Paul Writes | africaatts.org/go-teach

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