1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth:
After Paul shows that no activity, sacrifice or speech is of any value unless love is it's motive, he begins to describe this love. What follows is not a definition, for no definition could possible fill all the nooks and crannies, all the height and depth of agape. The description Paul writes is the highest, purest description of Christian love that has ever been written. No one short of Paul's talent and the Holy Spirit's inspiration could ever write anything like it again.
Love suffers long, and is kind
"Love is patient" Paul says. The word used here means to patiently endure. The idea of patient endurance is not passivity. The fact that there is something to endure means that there is activity. Love does not quit at the first injury or offense, by its very nature it is conditioned to expect injury and to endure it without revenge or failure.
Remembering that this love is God's love, given to us by Jesus Christ, what does the following verse tell you about enduring through love's power?
Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Next Paul tells us, "Love is kind." In a sense he is giving us the other side of the same coin. Or considering the rest of the descriptions, the opposite facet of the same diamond. We first saw that love has the ability to patiently endure, but endurance alone would do injustice to God's love. This love cannot be held down it is an active power and a pro-active quality. While it accepts and even expects the hurts done to it by the world, love will not simply be a punching bag.
Kindness is an pro-active force of love. It seeks out others to bestow goodness and mercy on. Even to those who are causing its pain. Love finds opportunities or it makes opportunities to reach out to others in kindness, helpfulness and demonstrations of God's love.
Paul gives an example of this principle in Romans 12:19 -20. 19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. 20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
What acts of kindness is Paul telling the Romans to do?
Feed, give drink to your enemy.
What is the reason for these acts?
The enemy had done something to cause harm to the Christian. Thus the need for vengeance.
What does Paul mean about coals of fire upon his head?
This is not a type of spiritual revenge. In Paul's time there were no matches. If your fire went out in the hearth, it was a long tedious process to re-light it. Often a neighbor would go next door and borrow hot coals from the neighbors hearth and carry them home in a jar on their head. This speaks of causing our enemy to think and see us differently because of the kindness we have shown them. They react to our kindness, rather than us to their hurt.
Love envies not; Love vaunts not itself, is not puffed up, Does not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.
Now Paul moves from what love is and does to what it is not and what it cannot do.
Love does not envy. This means it is not jealous of the success or happiness or others. It counts all good things as being from God and therefore it must share the joy of those blessed of God and not begrudge it.
Love vaunts not itself. Love is not boastful. The Greek word Paul uses here is the word for windbag. Love does not need to brag on itself or call attention to itself. The person who is under the control of this love will not need to boast either.
Love is not puffed up. In plainer words love is not conceited, this again is a complementing facet of the preceding phrase. Boastfulness is the outward showing while conceit is the inward cause. Neither of these can rightly exist where true, Godly love dwells. How can I brag or think greatly of myself when I consider who I was when God found me, what He gave in order to save me, and what I would have been if He had not saved me? Boasting and bragging in a very real way, is an affront to God. As Paul said in Galatians, "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." Any other glorying diminishes what He has done.
Love behaves not unseemingly. Love does not misbehave. The word used here means "not according to proper form." Love deep within us proscribes a proper course of action in every situation. If we are under the dictates of God's love we will act according to that control. This couse of behavior is not a mystery nor complicated, it is an understanding of what is right, made knowable and doable by love within me.
Proverbs 11:22 a favorite verse of mine, (which shows that the writers of scripture used humor.) How is it related to love acting according to proper form? A jewel in the snout of a pig is not right, it is unseemly and ludicrous. So also is a pretty girl who by a dirty mouth, dirty mind or dirty life makes a mockery of her beauty. She has no more understanding of God's gifts to her than the pig to the person who gave them nose-ring.
Love seeks not her own. Love does not work to take advantage of others and better itself through the process. Love always, always gives more than it can get. It is not God's love if it does anything else. Is my interaction with others often based upon what they can do for me? Do I often think in terms of how I can get someone to help me out? If I view those around me as a means to my own particular end then I am not under the control of God's love. For God's love is ever unselfish, it takes no thought for itself but only for others.
Love is not easily provoked. Paul is simply saying that love is not quick to take offense, it has no "chip on it shoulder" it does not "wear it's heart on it's sleeve." Agape love has given up it's own rights for the greater good of those who have not yet experienced God's love.
William Barkley put it this way, "There are two kinds of people in this world, those who think of their rights and those who think of their duty." As Christians our duty is to not allow the petty offenses of others, whether unintentional or intentional, stop us from loving them. Once anger begins love disappears often never to be seen in that relationship again.
Let's listen to Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:7, "Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather [suffer yourselves to] be defrauded?"
What is Paul saying the Christians should do simply because he is a Christian?
Paul says give up your rights and lay down your rights, allow yourself to be taken advantage of. Love makes me see that my relationship to people is more important than my relationship to things.
Love thinks no evil. The word Paul uses here is the same one used in Romans 6:11 when he tells the Roman Christians to "reckon yourselves dead indeed unto sin." The word is logizamai and it was taken from accounting and finance, it meant to write it down, keep record of it. In Romans 6 it is used positively of realizing we are dead to sin, here in Corinthians it us used negatively to show that love does not keep record of the hurt, pain and evil done to it. Love does not dwell on these things. Paul is not saying love is blind to sin, but that love realizes the best means of helping others is to lift them up not beat them down. A Jewish Rabbi, Juluis Gordon, said, "Love is not blind- it sees more not less but because it sees more it is willing to see less." John McArthur said, "Love looks past a person's sin to his potential."
Love does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in truth. Love and the person under it's control finds no joy in sin or hurt. It sees no happiness or light-heartedness in the sin of others or in my own sin. Instead of finding pleasure in sin, it finds it in truth. The wording Paul uses literally says, "Rejoices with the truth." As though truth was a beloved companion whose company we long to share. A faithful friend who will never let us down or bring us to shame. Real love cannot keep company with sin. Sin is selfish and mean spirited. It demands more and more of those keeping company with it. Ultimately it brings me to sorrow, regret and ruin. But truth does not lead me to such destinations. I rejoice in it because wherever it leads me, will be a place of joy, strength and righteousness.
Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails
Paul now increases the power in his description of love. Never would it be enough to just say what love would not do, he now begins to show what love will always do. Love now begins to show real strength, real quality.
First, Paul says love bears all things. We gain insight by looking at the Greek word Paul used, for it means to cover with silence. Love bears all things means that it has the power to carry the ills and suffering of others and not complain of the burden it bears.
The same truth is taught in Proverbs 10:12 Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.
Looking at that verse, What power are we under when we gossip or backbite? Those times when we do not cover sin?
Is there any exception? Is it ever all right to "bear tales"?
Paul goes on the say that love believes all things. This does not mean love is gullible or naive. It does mean that love looks for the best in others. It is a positive belief in its own power to overcome sin and faults in others in the same way Jesus overcame those faults in me.
If a Christian must err in the area of human relationships it should alway err on the side of love. We should be guilty of trusting too much, of giving too much or caring too much. We should never be guilty of trusting, giving or caring too little.
In the book "Les Miserables" by Victor Hugo a convict by the name of Jean Val Jean is allowed to spend the night at a priest house. During the night he rises and steals the only thing of value in the poor priest's house, some silverware. The next day the police catch the convict and bring him back to the priest home just as he realizes what has been taken. The police tell the priest that Jean Val Jean was carrying a bag filled with silverware and told them that a priest had given them to him. They did not believe him and so brought him back to ask the priest personally. The priest looks at the miserable convict and then walks over to the fireplace mantle where two silver candlesticks sit. He walks back to the convict and says, "Here Jean, you forgot the candlesticks I gave you also." With that the startled convict was released by the police. The priest believed in the power of love to overcome the power of sin within Jean Val Jean. And Val Jean was never the same man.
Love hopes all things. Here again is another facet of the gem of love. Belief is the short range cut of the gem, it immediately steps forward to show its trust of others. Hope is the long-range cut, it steps in after belief has seen the faults and flaws in those we love, yet it will not allow itself to give up. It refuses to accept those failures and sins as final. It never gives up, it never quits looking forward to the day when love will triumph.
Let me share an illustration. George Mueller was the last centuries greatest example of the power of prayer. Empowering the prayer, as Paul would point out, was great love. Mueller had five friends that he began to pray for their salvation, deeply, passionately consistently he prayed. After five years one of them came to Christ. In ten years, two more of them found peace in the same Savior. He prayed on for twenty-five years, and the fourth man was saved. For the fifth he prayed until the time of his death. The final friend went to Mueller's funeral a lost man, but then about two months later the pray driven by love reaped its reward and that final man accepted the Lord Jesus. In all Mueller had prayed fifty-two years. That is the love that hopes all things.
Finally in this section Paul says love endures all things. The word is a Greek military word that meant to continue fighting no matter how violent or hard the battle. Love's endurance means that we fight and endure because we know we will win. Our greatest weapon is the love that Jesus has shed abroad in our hearts. It has conquered millions, it has overcome staggering obstacles and it still continues to win. It wins because it will not quit, it will not surrender. It is God's own weapon in our hearts and no force on earth is more powerful.
It is no wonder then that Paul begins the next verse by saying, Love never fails. It cannot fail, it is of God. We may fail to be under its power and control but it will not fail. When we are inundated and saturated with God's agape love no task will fail, no battle will be lost, no loved one left behind. God's love coursing through me will meet every challenge and ultimately must win every fight.
Reflect back once more upon the powerful, sweeping description Paul has just given to us.
Love suffers long
Love is kind
Love envies not
Love vaunts not itself
Love is not puffed up
Love doe not behave itself unseemly
Love seeks not her own
Love is not easily provoked
Love thinks no evil
Love rejoices not in iniquity
Love rejoices in the truth
Love bears all things
Love believes all things
Love hopes all things
Love endures all things
Love never fails
After looking at the description, do any of us naturally have this type of love? No. it is not possible of us to love like this.
Where then can we find this love? Only in the person of Jesus Christ in us.
If as a Christian I don't find this kind of love in my life, what does it mean? What must I do? It means I am not close enough to the source of the love, Jesus. My failure is in not strengthening my knowledge, walk and time with the source of agape love.
Will greater determination or sacrifice or prayer or faith or discipline bring me greater love? No, only a greater relationship with Jesus. This love is supernatural, it can only come from a supernatural source Jesus, through a supernatural means, the Holy Spirit dwelling in me and then it will accomplish supernatural things.
Listen to Oswald Chambers as he talks about love. "There is nothing of mathematical certainty in Paul's category of love. We cannot say- 'Now I am going to think no evil, I am going to believe all things.' We do not set the statements of Jesus in front of us as a standard, but when His Spirit is having His way with us, we live according to His standard without knowing it... The springs of love are in God, not in us. It is absurd to look for the love of God in our hearts naturally, it is only there when it has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. If we try to prove to God how much we love Him, it is a sure sign that we do not love Him." pg. 87 My Utmost for His Highest.
What do you think Oswald is saying about agape love? It is not within me, I cannot produce it or come by it naturally. It only comes when I am close enough to Jesus that His love is my love and His life is my life.
What do you make of his statement, "If we try to prove to God how much we love Him, it is a sure sing that we do not love Him?"
If you have trouble understanding what Oswald is saying, you will have trouble living in the power of love that Paul has described. Yet in the Christian life, as Paul says, "The greatest... is love." What are we to do if we do not let God's love dwell in us and flow through us. Paul has not given us ten commandments about love, he has simply descibed the different facets of The Love. The love that was God when he created man, the love that was Jesus when he died for us on calvary and the love that was in Paul when he wrote these beautiful words, "Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails."