Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7)
Our society confuses love and lust. Unlike lust, God’s kind of love is directed outward toward others, not inward toward ourselves. It is utterly unselfish. This kind of love goes against our natural inclinations. It is possible to practice this love only if God helps us set aside our own desires and instincts, so that we can give love while expecting nothing in return. Thus the more we become like Christ, the more love we will show to others.
More songs have been written about love than about any other topic. It has inspired some of the world’s best, and worst, poetry. It has set on fire, and broken, countless hearts throughout human history. Many things are said about love. Yet for the final word on the topic, we must turn to the Bible. In 1 Corinthians 13, the apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, provides the world’s most beautiful ode to love.
One common word for love in the Greek language was eros, which suggested physical sexual desire and not much else. Another word (philos) suggested the esteem and affection found in a casual friendship. Because neither of these words came close to describing the kind of love he wanted to communicate, Paul chose a relatively rare Greek word for his definitive passage on love. This word, agape, describes a love that is based on the deliberate choice of the one who loves rather than the worthiness of the one who is loved. This kind of love goes against natural human inclination. It is a giving, selfless, expect-nothing-in-return kind of love. Paul’s description of love is short but full of power.
Love suffers for a long time. Our modern “throw-away” society encourages us to get rid of people in our lives who are difficult to get along with, whether they are friends, family, or acquaintances. Yet this attitude runs in complete contrast to the love described by Paul. True love puts up with people who would be easier to give up on.
Love does not envy. If our love is directed toward others, we will rejoice in the blessings they receive rather than desiring those blessings for ourselves. Fundamentally, the selfless love that God calls us to does not involve pride or glory. It does not parade itself and is not puffed up. In fact, true love does not seek its own. If we truly love others, we will set aside our own plans, agendas, and entitlements for the good of another.
Love is not provoked. That is, love is not easily angered or over-sensitive. When we truly love others, we are careful not to be touchy concerning other people’s words or actions towards us.
Love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth. The godly love described in this chapter has nothing to do with evil, but has everything to do with what is right and true. It believes all things and hopes all things. This does not mean that love is blind or naive. When we love, we may recognize problems and failures in people, but we do not lose faith in the possibilities of what people might become. Love never gives up, knowing that God can change lives for the better.
Finally, love endures all things. Love accepts any hardship or rejection, and continues unabated to build up and encourage. The love described by Paul in this “love chapter” means determining what is best for another person and then doing it. This is the kind of love that God shows to us.
Father God, it is my prayer today that I humble myself before you with all humility, asking your forgiveness for not showing the love that You require of me towards other people. I continue daily in my walk with Jesus, but sometimes I fall short when it comes to thinking more of others then me. Lord give me the courage, wisdom and discernment that I need to be more like You in my relationship with my family, church and others that I come across in my day-to-day living. I pray this all in Jesus’ name. Amen.
References: NKJV Holy Bible, Life Application Bible (NIV), and the Nelson Study Bible.