- “Love is a many-splendored thing.” . . .
- “Love is all you need.” . . .
- “Love conquers all.” . . .
- “Love lifts us up where we belong.” . . .
- “Love is in the air.” . . .
- “I will always love you…”
- “I really want to love somebody.”
- “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.”
These love-songs remind us that our world is filled with the language of “love.” The word gets thrown around constantly and carelessly. “Love” is used to describe our feelings for everything from God to chocolate, from cars to pets, from football to family. Sadly, the kind of love implied today bears little resemblance to the meaning of the love in the Bible, stated beautifully in 1 Corinthians 13. 1 Corinthians is the center of 1 Corinthians.
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul refers to agape love – the kind of love that seeks the highest good of the other person, even at the price of one’s own comfort, safety, and benefit. The Corinthians were strutting their own giftedness rather than using their gifts to serve others. It was Jonathan Swift, the author of Gulliver’s Travels, who said, “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.” May we have the kind of love this chapter describes.
So, what kind of love are we talking about?
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul lists several positive and negative aspects of love – what love is and what love is not. The verbs Paul uses are all in the present, continuous tense, indicating actions and attitudes which have become habitual, ingrained through constant repetition. It is not something we fall in and out of. Let’s go through those…
Positive Aspects of Love:
Love is patient. The Greek word indicated patience with people, not circumstances. This is a love to bears with annoyances without complaint. If God loved us enough to put up with our foolishness as long as He did (and does), can’t we love others to put up with some of their problems?
Love is kind. This is the only time this Greek word is used in the whole Bible. This is kindness that takes the initiative in responding generously to others’ needs. It is gentle, mile and always ready to show compassion, especially to those in need.
Love rejoices in truth. Even if it hurts, love desires truth and transparency. Only truth will set you free.
Love bears all things. The Greek word means to cover. Love tries to protect others from embarrassment, gossip or any harm.
Love believes all things. Love takes God and others at their word. Love believes the best about others rather than the worst.
Love hopes all things. Love looks forward to the good rather than backward at the bad.
Love endures all things. Love is permanent. Love will last when everything else has faded away.
Negative Contrasts of Love:
Love is not jealous. Two kinds of jealousy – wanting what someone has and disgruntled with what someone has. Love isn’t envious.
Love does not brag. While some may have a problem being jealous with what someone has, others have a problem with pride in what they have. They like to talk about themselves, their accomplishments, and possessions. Love doesn’t brag.
Love is not arrogant. An arrogant person is self-centered, selfish, and what they think is best for themselves.
Love is not rude. Love does not behave impolitely, discourteously, or crudely. Love never humiliates others.
Love doesn’t seek itself. Love uses its gifts, time, and talents for the benefit of others. Love never demands rights.
Love is not easily provoked. The Greek word can be translated touchy, irritable, or sensitive to slights. Love doesn’t get angry easily.
Love does not rejoice in evil. It is a strange habit of human nature that we prefer to hear about the misfortunes of others rather than their good fortune. It is much easier to weep with those who weep than rejoice with those who rejoice.
The ability to love like this can only come from love’s source. As you try to bridge the canyon from where you are to where you should be, please recall the great love God has already shown us through the Lord Jesus Christ.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
God commended His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
We love because He first loved us. As we are filled with His love, we can return His love and share His love with others.
In has been observed that we can substitute the word “Jesus” for “love” throughout verses 4-7. The only sinless person in human history provides the perfect example for helping us understand what real love is all about.
Jesus is patient. Jesus is kind. Jesus is not jealous. Jesus does not brag. Jesus is not arrogant. Jesus is not rude. Jesus does not seek Himself. Jesus is not easily provoked. Jesus does not rejoice in evil, but Jesus rejoices in truth. Jesus bears all things. Jesus believes all things. Jesus hopes all things. Jesus endures all things. Jesus never fails.