I Corinthians 13: 4-7
Love. You know what it is. You tell your favorite people you love them, whether it be family, romantic interest, spouse or even a close friend. But do you really know what “love” is? I’ve heard people who are frustrated with people in their lives say, “I love the world, but it’s people I can’t stand!”
There is a passage about love from the Apostle Paul’s writings in I Corinthians 13. This chapter is known as the “Love Chapter” in a similar way that Hebrews 11 is called the “Faith Chapter.” A segment of I Corinthians 13 is so popular that it is often used in wedding ceremonies as part of the vows or as a spoken entreaty by a third party. In looking at the popular passage, I wonder if people really understand what it means – what it really means.
To set the background, Paul just spent Chapter 12 discussing spiritual gifts and how they are used in the church for ministering to those within the church as well as to those outside the church in the community. However, the church at Corinth had a bit of problem. There were those who received some of the more “showy” public gifts. Those people seemed to enjoy flouting their gifts to others, as though they were extra special people and should have elevated positions in the church. Paul is about to set those people in their place by telling them that they don’t seem to be exercising their gifts for the good of the people in the church and the community. In I Corinthians 12: 31 to 13: 3, Paul says that all these wonderful gifts are not worth anything if they aren’t practiced with love as their foundation and motivation. That is the setting for what Paul is about to teach about love.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” [I Corinthians 13: 4-7. NIV]
You can see why these verses are used in wedding ceremonies. But what do they really mean? What do they look like in a relationship?
Love is patient. Many times, another person does not live up to your expectations. The other person may not act or think in the way you think they should. When you love someone, what could be your considerations in this matter? First of all, are your expectations reasonable? Perhaps not. Or would it be better to help the other person develop into the person they can be? Consider letting the other person, be it a spouse, a child, a friend or a fellow believer, find their own answers and their own place in life – and without judgment. Your role may be just being encouraging and supportive of them as they go through this journey called “Life.”
How can you do this? Don’t sweat the small stuff. Will this concern about the other person matter in twenty years? Perhaps something isn’t done the way you would do it if you were doing it yourself. Be patient.
Can you be comfortable enough with yourself to be patient with their process without feeling you have to fix everything? Be patient.
Can you rest in the role of God in the other person’s life along with a sense of God’s timing to let them become what God wants them to be or do? Be patient.
Love is kind. Can you love another person enough to do good things for the other person – but without expecting anything in return? Are you able to be kind without a thought of the other person being obligated to you? (That was a good meal. Here let me take out the garbage for you. Don’t do the other person any favors! The garbage needs to be taken out? Then take it out. It doesn’t matter if the other person is preparing a wonderful meal. Garbage can is full or it has something stinky in it. Take it out. Then have the maturity to NOT say, “I took out the garbage for you!” You took out the garbage as a part of your participation in the household!)
Did you invite someone for dinner? They are under no obligation to return the favor. You did it because of your kind love.
Did you fill someone else’s truck with gas when you borrowed it even though you used it for only a few miles? It’s the least you could do. You did it because of your kind love.
Have you taken a cart into the store on your way in? Or removed a cart from a parking space or on the line between two parking spaces? Why not, if you are physically able? Do it because of your kind love.
Look for ways to be kind to others without expecting anything in return. That is maturity. That is kind love.
Love does not envy. A relationship is not a place or time to compare. Is there another person who you think looks better than you do – or better than your spouse? Perhaps the other person is healthier or you think they are more talented. Do they have more money or greater social standing? None of these matters to one who loves. You are who you are because God has set your path and because of choices you have made in your life. There is no need to try to be another person – or want a loved one to be more than they are. Love does not want to be someone else or have the loved one be different like someone else. Love that does not envy accepts others and one’s own situation without comparing it to others. Don’t the last five of the Ten Commandments address the issue of enviousness (Exodus 20: 13-17)?
Love does not boast. This is similar to the issue with envy, but it is focused on yourself. There is no need to think of yourself more highly than others. This is comparable to the following quality “Pride” as a negative quality. All such striving and elevation of yourself at the expense of others is contrary to God’s desires and the example of Christ’s life:
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: . . . .” [Philippians 2: 1-5. NIV (2011)]
Love is not proud. All that you are and that you have is from God (see Deuteronomy 8). Without God, you are not all you could be. The Apostle Paul constantly reminds us that all he is as well as his strength is from God. In his weakness, God made him strong. It is only when you are humbled before God that he lifts you up:
“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time, [casting] all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” [I Peter 5: 5b-7. NIV]
I think I will stop there for the moment. Next up is Rude, Self-Seeking, Easily Angered, Keeping a Record of Wrongs and so on. My pastor asked me to preach this Sunday, so I need to concentrate for the remainder of this week on preparing a message. It will be on the account of Jesus meeting disciples on the road to Emmaus after his death on the cross and his resurrection according to Luke 24: 13-35: “Looking for the God in Front of Us.” Pray as I prepare, if you are a person who prays. I’ll finish this section on “Love” as soon as I can. Have a great remainder of your week!
Categories: How Can the Bible Relate to Us Today?