We’re concluding our series taken from the “Love Chapter.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says, “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” I’ve come to be more in love with God over the weeks as we’ve looked at how He loves us. With the Holy Spirit growing this fruit of love in our hearts, we’re able to love others more and more like He loves.
Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-40, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.’” All of the laws and everything God asks of us are summed up in agape. For the rule-following Pharisees, and the legalistic rule followers of today, it is hard to comprehend. In John 13:34-35 Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” This wasn’t a new command. Deuteronomy had commanded to love God and love your neighbor. The newness in Jesus command was agape. “Love how I love,” He was saying. Not just when it feels good, not with brotherly affection, but with the other’s best good in mind. Here’s a review of what love is:
Love is patient: Paul prays for us in Colossians 1:11. “We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need.” All the patience I need. It can only come to me through God’s glorious power pouring His love into me. I better get praying for more patience.
Love is kind: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:21-32) Kindness is part of what proves to the world that we are followers of Jesus. It is the evidence of God’s power working in us.
Love is not jealous: Jealousy is a big sin with God. Romans 13:13b ranks it right up there with some pretty disgusting sins. “Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy.” Why is it such a big deal to walk in the darkness of jealousy? 1 Corinthians 3:3 explains. “You are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world?” God desires to set us free from the slavery to our sinful nature. As long as we maintain jealousy, we’ll never experience the freedom with Jesus to walk in God’s agape love.
Love does not boast: The power of Christ works through those who know they are weak in their own strength. It’s only the strength Christ gives that accomplishes the working of His power through them. What is left of personal pride to boast of? I think humble people who are mightily used of God are especially aware of their weaknesses. They see what is accomplished, and KNOW it’s only through the power of Christ that this could happen.
Love is not arrogant: Just like a hard blowing wind, blowhards can wreck much. People are left devastated in their wake. You can see why the way of love is not the way of arrogance. “But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.” (1 Corinthians 8:1b-3; NIV) When one is puffed up with arrogance, agape is not present. Agape builds others up.
Love is not rude: When we’re rude, it puts up a barrier. People take offense. They don’t listen to what we have to say about Jesus. We continue to enjoy the benefit of walking in freedom with Jesus when we aren’t distracted by taking offense and becoming rude in return. When we behave properly, it has the potential to prevent barriers and to invite the other person to walk in freedom, too.
Love does not demand its own way: I think this aspect of agape is the most difficult to do, and sums up all the other characteristics of love. We are so prone to think of ourselves first (or maybe that’s just strong-willed me!). I think my generation was called the “me first” generation. After all, I was a freshman in college when Frank Sinatra released “My Way.” But I don’t think things have changed. Left to our own, we look out for #1. Philippians 2 has some challenging instruction for us. Verses 3& 4 say, “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.” (NIV) Love makes sure someone else isn’t hurting; someone else isn’t passed over.
Love is not irritable: So, it’s the enemy, not my kids or my husband, or anyone else, that is provoking me to anger. To truly love people, I need to resist the enemy’s schemes and not become irritable. I need to rely on the leading of the Spirit, not my own will. I can become more loving as I move away from, not toward, irritation with others. Then I will know I love them no matter what my feelings are.
Love keeps no record of being wronged: We actually are sinners. God could remember all of our sins. Yet, he has chosen not to count or reckon our sins against us. He has completely cleared the record. We are not to keep a record of others’ wronging us either. In fact, we are instructed to, “Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:14, 15)
Love does not rejoice about injustice: To love is not to gloat or be especially delighted when there is injustice or evil… To be right with God, is to love His way. Only He knows the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Only He knows what will satisfy grace and truth. Only He makes true judgments. Our job is to love; not to rejoice over injustice.
Love rejoices when truth wins out: The Message paraphrases 1 Corinthians 13:6 as “Love takes pleasure in following the truth.” It’s part of the joy of agape to have mission alignment with God’s very nature through His truth. John put it this way: “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” (1 John 3:18) Agape calls for action based on the truth.
Love never gives up: I think the New Living Translation of 1 Corinthians 13:7a misses some of the meaning of the original Greek. It says, “Love never gives up..” That translation speaks to me more of endurance, which comes later in the sentence. The ESV translates, “Love bears all things…” I really like how the NIV translates it: “It always protects…” The Greek word translated “bears” or “protects” is stego. It literally means to put a roof over. The original writers of the Bible understood it to mean, “to protect by covering.” Love hides the faults of the beloved or covers them up, protecting them from public display.
Love never loses faith: This aspect of agape is the Greek word pisteuo. It means to have faith in, believe and be firmly persuaded of an idea with hope and a certain expectation. It isn’t blind belief. Love demands that what we believe in, what we hope for, we know is truth.
Love is always hopeful: Being hopeful is part of agape love. When we relate to others secure in our faith and waiting with confidence for Jesus to fulfill all He has promised, we are free really to love others as we are instructed in Romans 12:9-13. “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.” Only confidently hopeful people are empowered by the Holy Spirit to love like this.
Love endures through every circumstance: Hupomeno is perseverance in the face of circumstances. It means to suffer without giving up on faith. It does not surrender to circumstances or succumb under trial. It’s a quality of the mind. The noun form, hupomene, is the “bearing of evils and suffering with a tranquil mind.” (Zodhiates).
The “Love Chapter,” (1 Corinthians 13) concludes with these words on love: “Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!...Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” (verses 8 & 13) When the Bible says “love never fails,” it means NEVER. From now and throughout eternity, we are secure in God’s agape love for us. We can work at getting better at loving each other this way in this life as the Holy Spirit helps us. Throughout eternity our love will be perfected and heaven will be a place where “Perfect Love Is.”
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