- The Washington Times - Monday, November 13, 2000

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Henry Y. White at Brown Memorial AME Church in the District of Columbia.

The apostle Paul had to straighten out the church in Corinth. There were big happenings going on, and the members had many gifts. But the church had forgotten who it served, and of all the getting up and testifying and prophesying, Paul said: "You're just making a whole lot of noise before God [I Corinthians 13]." Without the motive of love, the church is just showboating.

What qualifies you to be pleasing to God in the church is love. It doesn't matter how many talents we have. If they're not used in love, Paul said, they are "as a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal." The qualifying love is a God-kind-of-love, an unconditional love the Greeks called "agape."

There are all kinds of love out in the world. There is sentimental love, and love songs are big hits because people fall in and out of love all the time. But God's love is permanent.

It's not the love the Greeks called "eros." That is erotic love, the kind that looks only at the outside. It makes men say, "She looks fine to me," and sisters say, "That brother sure is …" But that's not God, you all. Will that love make you treat people right?

What happens when that girl with the Coke-bottle figure and long black hair grows old? Or that man who was tall, dark and handsome? He had wavy hair when you said "I do" 30 years ago, but Father Time comes and that hair's all gone… .. You need God's kind of love.

There's another kind of love called "philos," as in Philadelphia, the "city of brotherly love." We have a fellowship with others, but you know we fall out of that. Relationships can grow apart. Now, Paul is not talking about eros or philos, but agape, the God-kind-of-love. This is the love that makes you qualified in God's sight.

To meet God's qualifications, it does not matter what you know or who you know, or whether you have two degrees or none. Everybody could meet God's qualifications. All you have to do is make sure your heart is right… .

I'm so glad that in God's kingdom, love rules. That is what the church ought to reflect. When people come to the church, they ought to find love. In Corinth, everything was going on in the church but love. It was show time. And Paul said, "Sit down, because it's only sounding brass and tinkling cymbals."

The church ought to be like a magnet of love. It should draw everybody, and that makes many people afraid. Everybody comes, no matter their position in society or how they are dressed. Rich folk and poor folk, young and old and people from the wrong side of the tracks are drawn by love… .

That's why Jesus said to the disciples, "Bring me the children so I might bless them." They said, "Don't bother, Jesus, you're too important for that." And Jesus said you must be like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven. Children are loving. They are forgiving. You abuse children, but they love you anyhow. They may argue, but they always make up and keep playing. Jesus said, "Become like one of these children."

In the letter of I John, he says, "you can tell when we pass from death into life because we love the brethren." In Corinth, the church had gifts but not the humility of children and love of God. When you stop loving, you have passed into death, and a lot of church folks die an early death. The church, then, has a single ingredient that the world does not have.

You can have this love no matter what happened to you, in a first marriage, in a hurtful relationship, or with your parents. All you have to do is ask God into your life, and be born again in the Holy Ghost.

The politicians asked us, "Are you better off than you were eight years ago?" Well, I don't care how good the economy is, or if you have a new car and the best job ever. If you're not saved, and don't have God's love, you are as bad off as you were before. For God's people, that ought to be clear.

Next week: a sermon by the Rev. Michael C. Turner Sr. at Faith Missionary Baptist Church in Capitol Heights, Md.

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