So much poetry and beautiful prose have been written over the millennia of human experience to try to capture its purpose and meaning. All of humanity in all cultures, places and time has sought out the meaning of love. They have done this through experience, emotionalism, experimentation, seeking desires, trying to add logic and reasoning to it, and seeking a higher being to name a few.
So what is love? Well let’s find out by seeking love through His Word.
First Corinthians 13 states: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. 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. Love never fails.” (I Corinthians 13:1-8 NIV)
What Love is
This passage is our template on how we must behave towards one another as well as those around us. We can do our best in preaching the gospel with power and conviction, and have a church filled with wonderful programs and staffed with gifted people. We can be in a magnificent cathedral reaching upwards, manifesting, and pointing to the glory of God. However, if we are doing it for ourselves, out of selfish gain and not out of real love, we accomplish nothing. We become just an annoying noise to our neighbors to whom we are called to reach. The proper use of our abilities and gifts as a Christian is always within the parameters of love, just as God Himself works through all of His characteristics in love. (I John 4: 7-12)
What Love Means
This passage in 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 shows us the path and way of our Christian life and walk. As Christians, we are to imitate Christ, and work within His parameter, which is love. This passage is a character description of who Christ is, and this passage must be our character description of how we are to act and behave responsibly in all that we do.
When God tells us that love is patient, He means we are to give others room to grow and time to accomplish the work that God is doing in them. When someone is abrupt with us, or when someone treats us wrongly, we are called be patient because we cannot have everything our way all the time, every time. We cannot allow ourselves to become angry when others fail to live up to the expectations that we set for them. Because God is patient with us, and God loves us, then, we are to show patience with others. We need not become angry, but be content, for this is love. Love never gives up.
When God tells us that love is kind, He means we are to look for the best in other people. We are to spend our energy and time encouraging and building up one other, and not tearing others down. You see, God takes the circumstances of our lives and uses them in a constructive way for personal growth and for better use toward one another. God is not treating us as an object to be manipulated or controlled because He has given us free will. We should do the same with one another. Therefore, we need to always be seeking the healing of relationships, and be cautious in our judgments toward others. Love cares more about others that it does about self.
When God tells us that love does not envy, He means we need to be happy for who we are and what we are. When we hear that a friend receives a promotion before we do, or gets something we wanted, we are to be happy for them. If we have a sibling who excels, we should be happy with them. If our neighbor has a brand-new car, we should be happy for him, and be thankful for the old wreck that we may drive. In other words, we are to be happy for someone else who has something we don’t have, even if we don’t like it. We must not become possessive or become control freaks, especially where it concerns others and our relationships with them. Being possessive and attempting to control others will cause the destruction of a church very quickly. At the very least, this will compromise its effectiveness. Love is letting go of our desires and wills for a greater love we cannot receive on our own–grace. Love does not desire that which it does not have.
When God tells us that love does not boast, He means we are not to go around bragging about our accomplishments and abilities. We are not to go around showing off our possessions. By so doing, we are condescending to those who do not have such things. We are not to be so full of our accomplishments that we fail to see what others have accomplished. Because God loves us so much, we should have no need to impress one other. We must allow God to impress us with His greatness because He is God and we are not. We can so relax and enjoy who we are in Christ that we do not have to be in control or be the life of the party to feel secure. Love is the security we have in Christ that needs nothing else for fulfillment. Love does not strut around.
When God tells us that love is not proud, He means we must be willing to be in relationships with all kinds of people especially those outside our perceived background and/or race. We must not let our fears hold us back from one of life’s most precious gifts–friendship. Not being proud means that when we make a mistake we can own up to it, and we can admit that we are wrong. Because God loves us, He is on our side, and wants us to grow and mature in His love. We do not have to have an inflated ego about the perceived importance of ourselves. We need to seek others first and their well-being, and not our arrogance and egocentric mentality. Love lifts up God and not us. Love does not parade itself.
When God tells us that love is not rude, He means that we treat others with the respect and dignity that we would like in return. Because God loves us, He sent His Son to cover us and protect us from His wrath. Therefore, when we make everyday mistakes or even the big mistakes, lightening bolts do not zap us. Because we are loved by Christ, we are not consumed by God’s wrath, as we deserve. So, in return, we should not go around with pride and commencement judging or zapping others with evil looks and condescending comments, thinking that we are “high and mighty,” and better than everyone else. Never think of yourself is as the capstone or the most important piece of the puzzle, because you are not. We should be grateful that God chooses to use us. Our goal is to work together and not be little dictators. Love cannot be in the same room with pride or apathy. Love does not force itself.
When God tells us that love is not self-seeking, He means that we place others first and not ourselves. That we are to be considerate, appreciative, not critical, and dignified as good manners would dictate to one another. Because God loves us so much, He did not have a self-seeking attitude. If He had, He would never have sent His Son on our behalf. Every Christian must respect the rights and dignity of other people and never force our will and thoughtless behaviors onto others. We need to be happy when others around us experience success and growth, and never be jealous. Love is the seeking of His truth and finding a way to bring it to others. Love does not have a “me first” attitude.
When God tells us that love is not easily angered, He means just that. We are to be very slow to get angry, and we are not to let little things cause us to “fly off the handle.” Because God loves us so much, He did not allow His anger to wipe us out of existence when we so much deserved it. Instead, He allowed His drama of redemption to unfold throughout history, climaxing with Christ. We need to try to understand other people, and place ourselves in each other’s shoes respectfully. We need to listen and not allow our hostile feelings to get the best of us. Since God is patiently working in us, we should reciprocate with the understanding of the debt we owe to God and the unfathomable love and concern He has for us. Love put us in other’s shoes. Love is not touchy and resentful and does not “fly off the handle.”
When God tells us that love keeps no record of wrongs, He means we don’t go around with a list writing down the faults of one another. Rather we are to look for the positive things that happen in our relationships and to affirm others. We should not go around with a negative attitude, but, rather, with one that is positive, enthusiastic and equipping to God’s people. Because God loves us so much, He does not keep a scorecard of our sins as long as we honestly repent of them. We do not need to reflect and gossip about the flaws of other people in order to elevate ourselves. God refuses to do that to us. Love lets things such as resentment and anger go, so they do not build up. Love does not keep a scorecard.
When God tells us that love does not delight in evil, He means we should not enjoy it when bad things happen to others. We not only do not need to enjoy doing bad things to each other, but we must refuse to allow evil to happen. We should feel badly when we see others being hurt. Compassion is one of God’s great characteristics, and we should strive to our fullest to model it to one other. Because God loves us so much, He is deeply grieved when we do not follow His example and His will. We are not to put others down, in order to make us feel good about ourselves. Love is hurt even when an enemy is down. Love does not delight in evil.
When God tells us that love rejoices in truth, He means when we see injustice corrected, and people treating others with respect, kindness, and honesty, we should feel wonderful. Because God loves us so much, we should live our life so that it reflects a God of truth and justice. Thus, we should find delight when we see justice being played out in others. As Christians, we should get excited when justice prevails, and we should be mad enough to do something when injustice occurs, and we see the rights of others being violated. We should realize how much God rejoices when we personally stand up to the pressures of life and prevail with integrity and truth. God’s Word is His love and truth. When we get into it and live it, we are showing Christ the Love He deserves. Love takes pleasure in truth.
When God tells us that love always protects, He means we should feel protected and in return protect those around us. This does not mean we become security guards, rather it means our actions and attitudes should be such that they project protection and not destruction. Because God loves us so much, He does not forsake us even though others may do so. People will always disappoint us, and we will always be disappointing to those around us, but God will never disappoint us. Love perseveres, and is an easier route than running off and abandoning relationships to which we have a commitment. We should realize how much God is grieved when we fail to walk the life of His path and when we do not trust His protection. Love is always on the lookout for the best interests and protection of others where gossip and strife cannot function. Love has staying power.
When God tells us that love always hopes, then we should be assured He will give us a future. We should be assured that when things are going bad they will always get better, that there is hope because our circumstances will always change. We should never lose hope. Because God loves us so much, He always has hope for us. God is patiently working in us, and when we understand what God has truly done for us, then we should have as much hope as we could ever need. Love will see the potential in other people, what they can accomplish and become, and not hold them back out of our jealously. Love always is enduring and points to the future.
When God tells us that love always perseveres, He means us to hang in there and keep going strong. Because God loves us so much, He will stand with us, and even carry us through our difficulties and upsets. Even when we feel we have reached rock bottom and have no hope, when we are filled with despair, God is carrying us because He loves us. This love will destroy rumors and gossip and cause us to believe the best about one another until proven otherwise by facts. Love carries us to the ultimate hope and points us to the cross and the eternity to come. What we do and learn here on earth will echo for eternity. Love refuses to quit.
God’s love must be our model for life. It must flow into us from Christ, and in return flow out from us to those around us. God’s love is the ultimate power for the Christian. We are to be fueled and empowered by love through all situations. Christian love is the turning of our backs to self-concerns, and facing forward to our neighbors. It is the surrender of our will to His. Because, if love does not take us beyond our self-interests, then what we have is lust and not love! Then as the passage says, we are just noise that has no reason or purpose. Out of true love, God the Father gave us His Son, and the Son gave us His life in replacement for ours. The Son sent the Spirit to save us, and we should be literally overwhelmed–consumed with extreme joy and gratitude by what God has done for us.
© 2002 R. J. Krejcir Into Thy Word Ministries