A short message on the practical application of ideal love as described by 1 COR 13. Love is of God (A); it’s His way to approach a situation (B). His Word encourages us to love: “let us not love in Word…but in deed & in truth”. And 1 COR 14:1 instructs us to “follow” love, in other words have as our ambition, a goal, to love. (C) How do we, in the middle of the demands of life, manifest God’s ideal love when we don’t live in an ideal world???
A WORLD STARVED FOR LOVE. People search for love. Falling in love is like tripping on a banana peel. But most of us need to learn how to love. We need God’s Spirit to indwell us in a way that love becomes a natural fruit of our life. (D) In this post, God’s ideal love is what the Greeks called Agape. The English language is rather unhelpful because it uses the word “love” for different things, for which the Greek language was more precise. 1 COR 13 is not talking about eros (Greek for sexual love), storge (Greek for family love) nor phile (the love of friends). By the way, Philos means friend, and philadelphia meant brotherly love. But the beautiful language of 1 COR 13 is speaking about God’s agape (spiritual) love. This love is practical.(E) And love was the song of Messiah’s heart! The Holy Spirit is called the comforter because He comforts. Love itself is a comforting concept…it means that positive change is possible for all.
In 1 COR 13, we learn that love is superior to great knowledge & understanding. It is superior to great faith. It is supreme in its position, & is a power. With God we have a power called love! Love includes the courage to love life & to rejoice in it. Love is the power to participate in the dance of life which God offers us. It is encouraging to read that “His love is perfected in us…”(F) The opposite is when parents do not bring up a child right in “the admonition of the Lord” by stifling love in the family setting.
1 COR 13 tells us many things that this ideal is and isn’t. It is patient, kind & longsuffering. It is not arrogant, angry, proud, rude, jealous or puffed up. Love does not seek its own; it is not selfish. It is not easily provoked (wearing its feelings on its shoulder, so to speak), but rather bears all things. It believes the best in people—gives them the benefit of the doubt, & is full of trust. It is never glad when things go bad. It finds no joy in injustice, but seeks truth & justice. It hopes & endures all things. Love never fails, (and it covers a multitude of sin—PRV 10:12).
LONGSUFFERING. Suffering is a natural part of life, & in some places it is the norm. It takes no skill to have pain, tribulations, & undesired things in our lives. Longsuffering is the creative & assertive art of living with suffering without becoming a helpless doormat. Christ exhibited it on the cross saying, “Don’t cry for me.” On the flip side, wisdom teaches us just where the limits are to suffering. So we see God putting limits at various times.(G) If we break down longsuffering into acts…we see that it avoids arguments (PRV 15:18), has a controlled spirit (PRV 16:32), overlooks/forebears being mistreated (PRV 19:11 & EPH 4:2), and has great understanding (PRV 14:29), as well as being slow to anger.
KINDNESS. God is kind to all (H) and His lovingkindness is repeatedly referred to. It is hard to be kind today…be kind to a child and be mistaken for a child molester. Be kind to the other sex, & have it mistaken for a sneaky seduction. Be kind to another race, & have it mistaken for being patronizing. And often kindness is mistaken for weakness. So kindness is risky—it takes the power of love to be kind. Kindness is the willingness with joy to improve someone else’s life. Kindness comes from a servant’s heart. Kindness is really a strength. Love is kind. Kindness is one of the powers given us by love.
LOVE IS NOT BOASTFUL, GRASPING FOR POWER & ARROGANT. Some people feel a need to look good with their image (perhaps because of a shaky ego), such as they need special clothing, a boat or to name drop. They grab power, because they fear if they don’t, it won’t come naturally. So they use people as stepping stones to walk higher. The root of their arrogance is pride, and pride comes with vanity. Their pride will refuse to allow God to be God. These kind of people live in their fears & reptilian mind where it is important to establish a pecking order. Humility is the antidote to such reptilian brain fears & unrealistic views. How beautiful is His Word: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (I) Rather than parade itself in pride, love boasts in the Lord.(J)
LOVE THINKS NO EVIL, does not rejoice in iniquity (1 COR 13:6), BUT THINKS ON NOBLE THINGS.(K) This is part of how good overcomes evil.(L) Love rejoices with the truth. It’s goal is ultimate truth! The truth itself is powerful. As you know the truth will set you free.(M) Father, open & heal our hearts. May your Holy Spirit fill us with ideal love. Help us to love others & to love the truth. We love Your teachings & wisdom. We do not want to hold back the power of Your love flowing through us into a love-starved world. In Christ we pray, Amen.
(A) 1 JN 4:7 (B) cf. ROM 15:1-7 (C) 1 JN 3:18 (D) cf. GAL 6:22 (E) 1 JN 3:17, 18 (F) 1 JN 4:12 (G) cf. ROM 1:24-25 and GEN 6:3 (H) MT 5:45 (I) MICAH 6:8 (J) 1 COR 1:31, JER 9:24, PS 44:8…we see this in the story of the Pharisee & tax collector praying at LK 18:10-14. (L) ROM 12:21 (M) JN 8:32