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Mark Coppenger describes facets of love at Southeastern convocation

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Painting a collage of word pictures, Mark Coppenger defined love as forgetting about one’s self in the service of others, during an address at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s fall convocation Aug. 24.
Drawing on illustrations including characters such as a St. Bernard, a carnival performer, Princess Diana, partygoers, the biblical Noah, as well as his own life experiences, the president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Mo., compared and contrasted the attributes and antitheses of love.
Like the St. Bernard who patiently endures seemingly incessant pulling and tugging of playful little children, Coppenger said, “we are to let people swing on our ears and grab us by the cheeks, hang on the back and then not snap at them.”
Preaching from 1 Corinthians 13, Coppenger acknowledged the “love chapter” is a “difficult chapter to read because I find myself wanting … [to grow] to the measure of this standard.”
Coppenger echoed the Apostle Paul’s admonition that a preoccupation with self-advancement, boasting, envy, remembering disappointments and delighting in evil are the antithesis of love.
When the carnival gymnast moves from the middle to the top of the human ladder by knocking off those standing on his shoulders, Coppenger said, the trick may prove effective but falls short of love when motivated by envy.
“If you’re always saying, ‘I wish I were on top,’ and ‘I think I can do something to make that happen,’ then chances are you will succeed. But you will show that you are not one who loves.”
Commenting on Paul’s admonition against boasting, Coppenger said God is probably amused when people brag. He speculated God’s response to bragging would go something like this: “Look, I gave that person his wit, his health, his opportunities, and now he’s boasting and thinks he’s done it.”
Coppenger said when people are so full of themselves, they really don’t have time to think of other people. “We have to be very careful not to trample on each other’s feelings, and it’s so easy to do, and when you’re self-absorbed you forget this.”
Describing the partygoer who maneuvers through the crowd talking to people all the while looking for someone he thinks is more important, Coppenger countered love is not self-seeking. “Love is free to lose itself in the person at hand,” he said.
Coppenger said there is nothing biblical about wedding vows that were rewritten in the 1970s. “The classic one is, ‘Til death do us part.’ They changed it to, ‘As long as love shall last.’ Well folks, if it’s love, it lasts,” he said.
Remembering the royal wedding of Princess Diana and the long train on her dress that trailed her practically from the carriage to the wedding altar, Coppenger used that image to describe how people sometimes fail to love by relating with others who have hurt them — always being mindful of their debts and long trail of disappointments. Then there was the wife who, when arguing with her husband, always got “historical” instead of “hysterical” when she brought up everything from the past. Such is not love, said Coppenger.
Continuing in 1 Corinthians 13, Coppenger said love rejoices in the truth.
“We don’t [always] have a party when we learn that we were wrong because we are so full of ourselves that we are defensive, or we are embarrassed and we can’t have a party over truth at our expense,” Coppenger suggested. “But the way of love is free to have a party over truth found because it is forgetful of self.”
Paul describes love as patient, kind, protective, trusting, hopeful, durable and indispensable, as well.
Referring to the Genesis account of how Noah’s two sons covered their father’s nakedness after he got drunk and passed out in his tent instead of following their other brother’s invitation to make fun of the situation, Coppenger said the way of love protects. “They refused to get in on the party of someone’s debacle,” he said.
“If the church of God could just get to the level of the secular courts, we’d have revival — innocent until proven guilty,” he said.
Coppenger said like his former church softball coach who heartily encouraged him to get a hit that could win the ball game despite his repeated failures throughout the contest, hope is a genuine expression of love.
“My wife, everyday in a sense, despite all the evidence to the contrary, [encourages me] to get a hit,” Coppenger said.
In other convocation activities, Maurice Robinson, professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern, received the “Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award.”
Robinson, 51, has taught at Southeastern since 1991. He has also taught at Luther Rice Seminary, Jacksonville, Fla., and St. Petersburg Baptist College, St. Petersburg, Fla.
A native of Quincy, Mass., Robinson earned his bachelor of arts degree from the University of South Florida, Tampa; a master of divinity from Southeastern Seminary; and master of theology and doctor of philosophy from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.
Three newly elected professors signed Southeastern’s Abstract of Principles, also known as Articles of Faith, which call for adherence to the belief that the Bible is the infallible and inerrant Word of God.
Those professors signing the seminary’s Abstract of Principles were Josef Solc, assistant professor of theology and missions; Stephen N. Rummage, assistant professor of preaching; and Steven A. McKinion, assistant professor of church history.

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  • Byron McMillan