Last week we started our series on 1 Corinthians 13. This continues our look into the heart of God by digging deep into key passages of the Bible. As always, my hope is to draw people into a fuller understanding of who God is free from politics, hustle, religious upbringing, etc. I encourage you to read the Word for yourself and let God show you how His “unforced rhythms of grace.”
You can find all the posts in the series here.
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul lists 15 attributes of what love is or is not. The best way I can summarize is the following:
Love is to believe the best, to be patient, and kind. To not strut or boast, to not be infatuated with my own importance, or to behave gracelessly or rudely. Love is laying down my rights, not insisting upon them or my point of view. Love is to be patient, thick-skinned yet open-hearted. Love is not to be glad when others falter. Yet, it rejoices in the Truth and rests there, knowing that is where one’s identity, purpose, and hope come from. Love keeps showing up. It trusts that God has all of this and so simply keeps persevering.
Allen Redpath wrote, “I am quite certain there is nothing we need more than a refreshing of the love of God in our lives.”
But as David Guzik points out, “Paul is not writing about how love feels, he is writing about how it can be seen in action, true love is always demonstrated by action.”
Love is not a feeling. Love is a verb. It is an action, a choice. It is what we do and choose not to do.
God is love and He calls us to change the world through our love. And, as we will see, Jesus does not invite us into any representation of love He did not live out Himself.
So, let’s get into what love means.
Love is patient.
The Greek word here means: to be of a long spirit, or to not lose heart. It is to be patient in bearing the offenses and injuries of others. It is patience with people, not a situation.
Other translations say: Love suffers long or Love is longsuffering.
It is the idea of someone who has been slighted or wronged not taking revenge. It is taking a deep breath and not seeking what some see as “yours” to exact. It is being slow to anger.
It is how God is with us. Remember when we looked at Exodus 34 and God said He is slow to anger? God is not asking us to deal with one another in a way that He does not already interact with us.
When God went looking for Adam and Eve after they ate the apple, He already knew they had done the ONE THING he told them not to. But instead of coming at them with a vengeance, accusations, or indignance, He sought them out in love. “Where are you?” He asked them tenderly.
Jesus was patient in the face of mockers, the smug religious elite, and even those torturing Him before His death. He understood the power of holding back a slight remark or insult, and letting His actions being what left the impression. He met their anger with restraint.
To be patient in the face of anger, of being wronged, or being proven right, of gaining the upper hand, etc. is a sign of strength. “Though (love) could rightfully be resentful when it had been unjustly treated,” Redpath writes, “it does not strike back.”
To be patient is to lay down every “right” we have for vengeance. It is choosing not to gloat, be impatient, pursue revenge, etc. out of a sense of mercy and restraint.
How many relationships and opportunities do we kill because of our need to be right or our inability to hold back our anger? How much is lost because we are impatient? Patience is not waiting for someone to conform to what we want. It is choosing to stay in the arena when every instinct tells us to walk away or draw our sword.
Love is long-suffering. It is in it for the long haul.
Love is Kind
“So much of Christianity is good but unkind.” Barclay writes. The idea here is from simple gestures of kindness to being kind to our “enemies.” Love is tenderhearted to all, regardless of merit or preference.
Jesus walked with Judas for three years. Judas was present at every miracle, every teaching. He was there for a hundred intimate moments between Jesus and His disciples we do not know about. Jesus, knowing Judas was only moments away from betraying Him, washed his feet with the same tenderness and love as the other disciples. Jesus was kind to Judas until the end.
“Love not only takes the injury,” Wiersbe says, “but shows positive grace and kindness to the person responsible for it.”
How can you be kind to those you interact with today? How can you go first and show love to someone you have a hard time with?
Still True in Our Times
But being patient and kind is hard, especially in this divided time of life.
You might be thinking you cannot help but retaliate or you could never love the person who slighted you at work or someone who voted for ______. So and so is beyond love. That person is unworthy of it.
And I would ask, how much has God loved you through?
God never gives up on us. He loves us when we are in the muck, when we cannot see our hypocrisy, or the light in the midst of our darkest night.
To say you cannot help but retaliate is to say you are a slave to your emotions. That is a lie. Our emotions do not control us. We determine our emotions. Just like we determine our response. The Bible places a premium on personal accountability. To say you cannot control yourself is to be a slave to sin. If you surrender, God can help with that.
To say someone is beyond love is to deny all that God has loved you through (including your pride). It is to say that the love of God is not big enough to cover said offense or action. If that is you, I invite you to ask God to show you how truly big and longsuffering He is and all that He has stood with you through.
We cannot love as we ought to on our own. Like so many other things in Scripture, it is only by letting God work through us that we can bite our tongues or show real kindness to someone who irks or has truly hurt us.
As we discussed with The Beatitudes, the whole point is that we are to live differently. So when the whole world hates the other side, we are to love. When many would leave the MAGA hat wearer on the side of the road (or the one with the Biden bumper sticker) we are to stop and lend a hand.
It is in this living differently we draw others to God. It is not by what we say, or who we vote for, or what issues we identify with.
It is by our actions – what we do and what we do not do – that God is displayed in the world. It is also by our actions – when we are willing to step in and love for the long haul or be kind to one who simply is not – that God is given space and the ability to change people (and us).
There was no more religious a man than Philip the Second of Spain, and yet he founded the Spanish Inquisition and thought he was serving God by massacring those who thought differently from him. The famous Cardinal Pole declared that murder and adultery could not compare in heinousness with heresy. Apart altogether from that persecuting spirit, there is in so many good people an attitude of criticism. So many good Church people would have sided with the rulers and not with Jesus if they had had to deal with the woman taken in adultery.William Barclay
In our political climate, on BOTH sides of the debate, we have got to show kindness to each other. I do not care how wrong, evil, stupid, (insert your descriptor here) you find the other side to be – you will do more by being openly patient (with no agenda) and kind to them than standing arrogantly on your side and wishing them evil.
Ultimately, is it more important to be right or to show love?
Jesus would dine with those you so vehemently judge, discard, and overlook. He did it with their equivalent in his day. And if you think you get a free pass to judge when Jesus chose to engage and love – oh dear sweet friend, it is time to repent because you are nothing but a discordant gong in a show no one wants to attend.
In the coming week take time to sit with God and ask Him to show you His heart for those you find it hard to love. Ask God for His eyes and love towards those in your life you find unloveable. You have nothing to lose but your pride and hard-heartedness, and everything to gain by letting God into the part of yourself that is (I bet) wrapped in wounding.
Until next time.
- Alan Redpath The Royal Route to Heaven
- David Guzik’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13
- Warren Wiersbe New Testament Commentary (affiliate link)
- William Barclay’s Commentary of 1 Corinthians
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