1 Corinthians 13 is so familiar to so many that it has become a cliche. But if we really want to love others as Christ loves, we must take its message seriously. Paul's audience was the church, so his recipe for love applies most specifically to Christians within the church. This week, Kyle walked us through each part of Paul's definition of love, to help us diagnose our own areas for improvement in letting our lives be shaped by love.
Love is patient and kind
These first two traits go together. Love is slow to anger, longsuffering, and it takes the long view of a person or situation. Such patience necessarily implies active kindness and mercy. Love is caring and compassionate, especially when things get difficult. This patient kindness mirrors God's love -- frequently, the Bible tells us that God abounds in "lovingkindness." Such lovingkindness is more than just putting up with one another. God doesn't merely "tolerate" us; He overflows in mercy, in patience, and in affection for us. So should our love for one another abound in patient kindness.
Love is not a bully
The next several descriptors that Paul uses build on one another to a similar theme: love does not bully. Love is not envious -- it does not steal others' glory; it is not resentful; it does not grow bitter over others' successes. And since it is not envious, it has no reason to be boastful. Love stays grounded in humility and remembers those who have helped in the past. And this lack of boasting leads naturally to a lack of arrogance. When we love, we do not put ourselves over others, believing the rules don't apply to us. And when we are not arrogant, then we are also not rude. Love is gracious. It is not cruel, disrespectful, sarcastic, harsh, or brutish. Here, we must be especially mindful of our words.
All these traits build into the others. When we love, we do not envy or boast and we are not rude or arrogant, so it follows that we will also not insist on our own way. Love considers others' opinions. It does not bully others into getting its way.
Love is not a prison
When we love others, we should create a space of freedom for ourselves and others. If we make others to feel that they must constantly walk on eggshells or else risk our anger, we are not acting in a loving manner; instead, we are keeping the other person in a kind of prison of our own whims. Love is not irritable, easily provoked, or touchy. It doesn't keep score or harbor resentment. It doesn't rejoice when bad things happen, but instead, rejoices in the truth!
Love believes the best
And rejoicing in the truth also involves bringing sin and evil to light. Love doesn't let someone remain in their sin and darkness. Instead, love restores and celebrates light, freedom, and goodness. But it does not bring out the truth in order to punish or hurt. Love is protective. It bears all things, covering and sheltering the loved one. It comes to the rescue; it doesn't come to spread gossip. Instead, love always acts out of hope. Love gives the benefit of the doubt. It envisions what people could be and never gives up. This hopeful belief is not about keeping a false peace, but about dealing with wrongs and pushing through no matter what.
Love takes courage
Loving and being loved in the way of Christ takes vulnerability and courage. It is no easy, feel-good, puppies-and-butterflies path. Sometimes it can be hard to see the point of love. But the end goal is unity among believers -- and it is this loving unity that will show the world Christ's love.
But take heart! Though Christ-like love can be difficult, these principles work themselves out in small, practical ways. Each of us can seek God and ask Him what small change we can make today, and those little changes will add up to a life of love. God is for us; let's be for each other.