In part I we looked at why love is important. Agape love, the perfect love God wants us to have towards Him and towards one another is all important. If we do not have it, we are nothing. If we act without it, it is for nothing. But Paul doesn’t leave us hanging by saying, “You better have it, or else,” and not expand on what that kind of love is. He goes on to tell us what that love is like and what it’s not. Today we’ll look at the first part of his description of agape love.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, ESV
I’m going to start with the end of that first. Love bears all things. It endures all things. True agape love means continuing to endure even when it hurts. Watching a loved one destroy themselves through substance abuse is a good example of this. Do you continue to love them, realizing that the direction that person is on will lead them to a destructive end? Or do you write them off because it hurts too much? True agape love means you continue to love them and that you continue to care. You don’t cut them off. You don’t ignore them. You don’t block out all news about them. You hear it, you bear it, you suffer with it, but you don’t just do that. You also believe that person can recover and you hope that this does happen. You lift that person up in prayer fervently and you encourage other believers who know that person to do the same. Now it doesn’t mean you become a fool and believe every story and every lie from said person (especially the, “I can quit any time” one). But it does mean when you can help and it makes sense for you to help, you do so, even if you suspect that it won’t matter. I know how hard this is. I’ve lived it. Trying to love someone doing this to themselves is shredding. Sometimes the pain makes your chest hurt so bad you can’t breathe. But this is how great the love is that God is calling us to.
Let’s look at what else love is. Love is patient. You have someone who really drives you nuts? Love says you deal with that. This is a hard one for me. Sometimes my boys drive me up the wall. They’re right at that transition to teenagers. And I admit, sometimes I really lose my temper with them. But I must love them better and that means I must be patient – more patient. Love is kind. Kindness seems to be dying out in our culture. However, kindness should be one thing all Christians are known for having in abundance. It is said that one of the reasons the early Church was able to spread so fast was because the kindness believers showed to non-believers. It made us stand out. It made them want what we had. We need to be known for our kindness due to our love.
Love doesn’t envy. If someone else accomplishes something of value, you rejoice unconditionally, even if you were wanting that same thing. You don’t envy. Envy leads to coveting. Coveting potentially leads to sin. Love also isn’t resentful. Someone might have done something to us, but that doesn’t matter. We don’t hold a grudge. We let it go. Love doesn’t rejoice at wrongdoing. So even when someone who has harmed us has some harm befall them, we don’t rejoice. Wrongdoing is wrongdoing. We don’t rejoice at it. We do rejoice when the truth is upheld. Love isn’t arrogant. It isn’t rude. Even if someone has been incredibly mean and crude towards us, we refrain from being rude. That’s not love. That’s something else. It is sin.
And what about the last two I haven’t mentioned? Love doesn’t insist on its own way. And it’s not irritable when it doesn’t get it. How are you doing on those two? If you’re like me, there are probably recent cases going through your head where you’ve either insisted on your own way or you were upset when someone who should have known better didn’t do it your way. When I read what love isn’t and I hit those, I always cringe. They remind me how far I have to go to reflect the love Christ would want me to have towards others and especially towards Him.
As you consider what love is and what love isn’t based on the verses today, think about how you might apply them going forward. Also think about where you might need to acknowledge and apologize for situations in the past. This love is hard. If we’re truthful, it’s brutally hard. But this is the standard. This is what God says we must strive for. Settling for anything less is not an option. At least, not if we want to become the people He would have us be.