1 Corinthians 13
Paul was writing to the Corinthians because unfortunately, the diversity among them had dissolved into discord and rivalry. Members of the church had divided into contentious groups. Instead of being enriched by their differences their community had become fragmented. (1 Corinthians 1 v 10). Some took one side and some another.
Paul’s ‘love chapter’ was not written to celebrate the fact that they were unified in love or complimenting them that they already had it. It comes in the middle of 2 chapters talking about the gifts of the spirit as an intervention to instruct them on how to put right what was not yet happening. They had missed the point. They had the wrong motive for having the gifts. They wanted gifts for the sake of having gifts instead of for the good of other people. Paul is trying to draw the attention back to love.
The word used in this chapter for love is ‘Agape’ love which is more of a “doing” than a “feeling” word. It requires action. It requires us to make a decision. It requires us to demonstrate our love in some practical fashion. Agape love is feeding the hungry—giving a drink to the thirsty—welcoming the stranger—clothing the naked—visiting the sick and the person in prison. It is always wants the best for people, no matter what.
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.”
Paul does want the Corinthians to desire the gifts but he goes to great lengths to put that gift into perspective. In Corinthians 14 v 11-13 he says that speaking in unintelligible tongues does not benefit the church unless it is interpreted.
“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 do not have love, I am nothing.”
If someone has the gift of prophecy but does so for their own glory or without doing it for the good of others it is useless.
The world is exploding with information and knowledge. Yet many of our most basic problems are not being solved, because the world is looking for more and more knowledge, when it is love that the world needs.
We may have faith but do we love Jesus enough? Christianity should be about experiencing the love Jesus has for us and learning how to love others like He loves us.
“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.”
We can think we are generous. We may give things/time/money to the poor and needy. But what’s our motive? If we don’t do it out of love there is no point.
Matthew 6:1-4 talks about the fact that if someone is giving to be honoured by men they already have their reward.
“Though I give my body over to hardship”
It is reported that many Christians in the early church developed a martyr complex, wanting to die for the faith so they could become famous like the martyrs before them. Many deeds can look sacrificial on the surface but are really the products of pride.
Selfless love is patient, kind, not proud or boastful, not rude, not self - seeking, not provoked to anger, does not keep a record of wrong, does not rejoice in righteousness but in the truth.The Greek word used for ‘patient’ is ‘long – tempered’. It means we should not be quick to retaliate. We should bear with others’ imperfections, faults, and differences. We should give them time to change, room to make mistakes.
The Greek word used for ‘kind’ comes from their word ‘useful’. A kind person seeks out needs and looks for opportunities to meet those needs without repayment. He is forgiving when wronged. He has an ability to soothe hurt feelings, to calm an upset person, to help quietly in practical ways. Luke 6:33-36 talks about the fact that it is no good at all just being kind to those who are kind to you. Anyone can do that!
Being ‘jealous’ means to ‘eagerly desire’. This can be positive if we desire good things but can be really destructive when it is on account of greed, selfishness or covetousness. Envy killed Abel and enslaved Joseph.
Being proud or boastful is the other side of the coin. It is trying to make others jealous of what we have. The person who boasts tries to impress others of his great accomplishments in order to make himself look good. But love is not trying to build up ourselves; love is trying to build up the other person. Love is humble. Love doesn’t need to have the limelight or attention to be satisfied with what he is doing, or to be satisfied with the result.
‘Behaving rudely’ in Greek is literally ‘acting inappropriately’. Love does not seek to cause problems, and it does not belittle others. It does not needlessly offend. The ill-mannered person is communicating that “it’s all about me.” The loving person chooses appropriate actions and responses that help other people.
‘Self-seeking’ is the root of many problems of the human race. It is the opposite of love which is self-sacrificing. In Romans 12:10 and Philippians 2:4 Paul communicates the importance of putting the interest of others before ourselves.
Love is not touchy.
Love does not have a short temper. Some people make everyone around them walk on eggshells. They’re easily offended. They use their temper to intimidate. That’s not love.
Love will put away the hurts of the past instead of clinging to them. It doesn’t try to gain the upper hand by reminding the other person of past wrongs.
Love is never glad when others go wrong. If someone falls into sin, love doesn’t gloat, it grieves If someone repents, love rejoices.
However, it does not compromise the truth or take a soft view of sin. It doesn’t allow another person to go on sinning but will sensitively confront and correct because it cares deeply and knows that sin destroys. Love rejoices when it hears of spiritual victories.
Love protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres
Love doesn’t broadcast the problems of others.
Love defends the character of the other person as much as possible within the limits of truth.
Love won’t lie about weaknesses, but neither will it deliberately expose and emphasize them.
Love chooses to believe the best of others.
Love believes the other person is innocent until proven guilty, not guilty until proven innocent. Charles Spurgeon once said” “I know some persons who habitually believe everything that is bad, but they are not the children of love… I wish the chatterers would take a turn at exaggerating other people’s virtues, and go from house to house trumping up pretty stories of their acquaintances.”
Love has confidence in the future, not pessimism. It believes the best is yet to come.
Love keeps on protecting, hoping, persevering. It trusts in God and does not give up.
Love never fails. It will outlive all the gifts. Paul addresses the over-emphasis the Corinthian Christians had on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He shows that gifts are important and should be eagerly sought but without love they are nothing. When we can fully see Jesus (not as in a poorly reflected image), the gifts will pass away, but love will not.
Paul isn’t trying to make them choose, he is saying all the gifts are good, but he wants to point out that without love as the motive and goal, the gifts are meaningless distractions.
If you lose Love, you lose everything.
Author: Thelma Cameron
May God bless and enrich your life
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