For those not familiar with the KJV- version of the bible; the word charity is love. I once saw a Peanuts cartoon which shows Lucy standing with her arms folded and a stern expression on her face. Charlie Brown pleads, “Lucy, you must be more loving. This world really needs love. You have to let yourself love to make this world a better place.” Lucy angrily whirls around and knocks Charlie Brown to the ground. She screams at him, “Look, Blockhead, the world I love. Its people I can’t stand.”…….
I’m sure we all feel that way from time to time, and some of us feel that way most of the time. Maybe you feel that way right now. Loving the world in general isn’t that difficult; loving the people around us can be a major challenge.
In this passage, we find one of the most beautiful and familiar chapters in the Bible. This chapter is typically read at weddings. It has even been set to music. Yet, this was never the original intent. Instead, Paul was writing a rebuke to a dysfunctional church for their abuse of the spiritual gifts. Typically though, this understanding is often ignored.
Consequently, I wonder if most Christians have truly pondered the deeper meaning of this passage. Have we heard this Scripture so often that we no longer think about what the words mean? I would suggest that if we ignore the context of this chapter we are in danger of missing its major impact.
In these verses, Paul will argue that love is an action ~ not an emotion. The kind of love Paul will talk about is seen, experienced, and demonstrated. This is contrary to our culture that honors personal feelings above almost everything. We do what we want when we want because we “feel” like it. And if we don’t “feel” like it, we don’t do it. But as I studied this passage, I am struck by the complete absence of any stress on personal feelings. Hence, if live is an action, and not an emotion, we need to study what God has to say about love. We need to know what love is and what it looks like when it is lived out in the church and the body of Christ ….
In (v.2-3), Paul mentions spiritual gifts. Prophecy refers to the ability to declare God’s truth in a powerful, life-changing way. Knowledge involves the deep understanding of the Word of God. Verse 3 poses a problem because it asks us to ponder activities that we automatically consider noble. Giving to the poor is a good thing to do. And dying for your faith in Christ is the ultimate sacrifice. But as good as these things are, without love they do you no good. Paul declares that the greatest expression of spirituality is love. We could summarize these three verses like this: Without love…I say nothing, I am nothing, and I gain nothing …..
Clearly, we must have love when we are exercising our spiritual gifts. So stop for just a moment, and reflect on your spiritual gifts and your ministry in the local church. Do you do what you do out of genuine love for people? Or do you serve out of a sense of obligation? Do you serve because of the satisfaction you derive from ministry? Do you minister because you like honing your skills? Although no one has perfectly pure motives, we ought to be seeking to grow in our love quotient. Paul’s words expressing that love is in action, not emotion, means to me that it is in what we do, and not what we say that exhibits our love, therefore, we need to put feet to our love.
After talking about the importance of love, Paul now will discuss how love behaves in (vs. 4-7).
Love is a word that can only be properly defined in terms of action, attitude, and behavior. Paul has no room for abstract, theoretical definitions; instead, he wants us to know what love looks like when we see it. Thus, he paints fifteen separate portraits of love. Yes, that’s right: in the space of four short verses Paul uses fifteen verbs, all of which have “love” as their subject. Our contemporary definition of love is that it is an emotion or a feeling ~ we love our jobs, we love football, we love pizza. In the biblical definition of “agape love”, love acts, not feels, as (v. 4) begins by summarizing the unselfish nature of love.
Love is patient. The Greek language has several words for “patience.” One signifies patience with circumstances while another is used only in reference to patience with people. The Lord knows we need both kinds of patience, but it is this second word that is found here. The KJV renders this word “long-suffering.” I like this! Paul seems to be saying that love doesn’t have a short fuse. It doesn’t lose its temper easily. A person who readily exercises agape love does not lose patience with people. Love never says, “I’ll give you just one more chance.” Love is patient ….
As God humbles me with my own sinful shortcomings, I find it easier to exercise greater patience with others. Loving people are willing to tolerate the shortcomings of others because they know they have faults too. As you mature do you feel more and more patient or do you feel you are growing more and more crotchety? God wants you and me to grow in patient love for those whom we minister to and with …. Love is Kind. Patience must be accompanied by a positive reaction of goodness toward the other person. Kindness, however, is not to be equated with giving everyone what he or she wants. Sometimes love must be tough. In the context of the church, kindness may mean forcing an addict to go through the hell of withdrawal. Kindness may mean saying no to a spoiled child. Kindness may mean reporting a crime committed by a friend. Kindness means to withhold what harms, as well as give what heals. Love is kind, but often tough. Paul followed the two positive expressions of love with eight verbs that indicate how it does not behave. Love is not Jealous. Jealousy implies being displeased with the success of others. Yet, true love desires the success of others. The best way to cure envy is to pray sincerely for the one of whom you are jealous. To pray for him or her is to demonstrate love, and jealousy and love cannot exist in the same heart.
Love does not brag. The root word for “brag” in Greek is closest to our English word, “wind-bag.” Love is not an egotistical blowhard. Love is not big-headed ~ but big-hearted. This means the more loving you become, the less boasting you need to do. The greater your spiritual gifts, the less prone you should be to brag. After all, the gifts you have been graciously given are from God. When you and I brag, we are demonstrating our insecurity and spiritual immaturity. Paul states that bragging is the not of biblical love. Hence, we should pursue Christ so that we will be humble before Him and others. Love is not arrogant. The term “arrogant” refers to a grasping for power. It is more serious than bragging, which is only grasping for praise. Arrogant people push themselves into leadership, using people as stepping-stones, and always consider themselves exempt from the requirements on mere mortals. Arrogance disrespects others and carries a distain for others. God calls us to serve others and be gracious toward them. Love will not act unbecomingly. This word is best translated “rude.” There are some Christians who seem to take delight in being blunt, justifying it on the grounds of honesty. They will say, “I’m just telling it like it is.” But love doesn’t always tell it like it is; it doesn’t always verbalize all its thoughts, particularly if those thoughts don’t build others up. There is a graciousness in love which never forgets that courtesy, tact, and politeness are lovely things. Love does not seek its own. Love is the very opposite of insisting upon one’s own rights. Needless to say, this is a rare quality today. Ours is a society in which self-seeking is not only tolerated, it is even advocated. But a self-absorbed narcissistic person cannot act in love. Love is not possessive, demanding, stubborn, or dominating. Love does not talk too much, but listens as well. Love does not insist on its own way. It is always willing to defer to others. Love is not provoked. Love is not given to emotional outbursts, is not exasperated by petty annoyances, and refuses to let someone else get under one’s skin. But, you say, when someone else provokes me, it’s not my fault. Yes it is. We don’t have to get irritated, and if we were exercising love, we wouldn’t. Love is not touchy. Do you know people who are so quick to take offense that you have to handle them with kid gloves? You try to avoid talking to them and when you can avoid it no longer, you carefully measure every word you say to make sure that you say exactly what you mean. But still the person seizes upon something and twists it to make you look bad. That kind of person knows nothing about love.
Love doesn’t keep track. Love does not keep a ledger of evil deeds. It doesn’t write down each injury done and keep the account open to be settled someday. There are some people who are quite accomplished “bookkeepers” in regard to injuries sustained. Love doesn’t hang on to reminders of wrongs. Who are you keeping a book on? Are there some ledgers you need to go home and toss in the trash? Love won’t rejoice in sin. There is something in our human nature which causes our attention to be drawn to murder trials, FBI probes, natural disasters, and human tragedies. Love is not like that. Love takes no joy in evil of any kind. It takes no malicious pleasure when it hears about the inadequacies, mistakes, and sins of someone else. Love is righteous. And finally, after eight sobering negatives come five glorious positives …. Bottom line: Love Rejoices. Love NEVER fails. I am learning that if an action does not conform to the Word of God, it can’t be done in love.
Today, how will you grow in your love for others? First, I would suggest that you cannot become the loving person you desire to be apart from a loving and vibrant relationship with God. This love relationship must be cultivated first and foremost. Once you have accomplished this, you will be able to better love the world around you. God has called us to love people. Jesus said that all people will know we are His disciples by the love that we have for one another (John 13:34-35).
God bless you. Walk in love today ….