As Valentines Day draws near, the tradition of giving flowers, candy, or a card is probably on your mind. But what is love, really? Is it a box of chocolates, a special meal with a sweetheart, or something more? What did Jesus teach us about love?
When we read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, we come to understand that LOVE has specific characteristics, which are demonstrated by godly deeds (thoughts, words, actions).
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, 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.”
The first thing noted in this verse is that love is patient. Love, under provocation or strain, is steadfast and tolerant. With patience, we can hold our composure with fortitude and assist or even yield to others in love.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2 (NIV)
Love is kind. Kind is a verb in the Greek translation. Since verbs show action, our kindness to others should be active. Kindness is mild, affable, gentle, and demonstrates an ability to speak calming words.
“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” Luke 6:35 (NIV)
“He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you. But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8 (NASB)
Love does not envy. Envy is a feeling of discontent and ill will because of another’s advantage. We should rejoice with those who have been given special blessings, special possessions, or a financial advantage. When we envy another’s good fortune, we put self into the equation and love is not focused on self.
“But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” James 3:14-16 (NIV)
Boastful and prideful bragging of accomplishments is not edifying to God or others. In truth, God gave us our talents and equips us to do the work He has prepared for us. When we boast and brag, we forget God’s provision and rob Him of His just glory and praise. When we brag to others, we risk causing them discomfort and could lead them to question their position in life. We are to lift up others and never make them feel less valuable to God.
“This is what the Lord says: ‘Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches.’” Jeremiah 9:23 (NIV)
True love does not dishonor another. Are you acting in an unbecoming manner or speaking so that another is put down. Do your words make others see individuals in a different light? We would all benefit by speaking words of praise, honoring others in an effort to improve their standing in the eyes of the Body of Christ.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)
Love is not self-seeking. When we put ourselves ahead of others, we are going against God’s example of love. Jesus put aside His own position and comfort to die a painful death on our behalf. He put us first.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” Philippians 2:3 (NIV)
“Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.” Romans 14:19 (NKJV)
Love is not easily angered. If we are easily provoked or irritated we should examine our heart. Anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires (James 1:20). Wisdom would have us examine and hear an entire matter before reaching a just conclusion. Angry words stir up emotions and will put others in a defensive mode of self-protection. If it is necessary to confront someone’s behavior/sin, be sure you examine your own heart first and then speak your words in love.
“Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.” Ecclesiastes 7:9 (NIV)
Love keeps no record of wrongs. This speaks of forgiveness. When another has wronged us, God expects us to grant them forgiveness, even if they have not recognized their wrongdoing. God does not forget our sins but He chooses to remember them no more (unless it is to teach us something). He casts them as far as the east is from the west. If a loved one continues to sin against you but sincerely repents, you are expected to grant them forgiveness. Never keep a record of wrongs as grudges are not loving. Allow God time to convict them of their wrongdoing for He will hold them accountable.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)
“A person’s wisdom yields patience; It is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” Proverbs 19:11 (NIV)
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8 (NIV)
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. We should not cheer or celebrate when somebody does wrong. Compassion ought to have us on our knees praying that God’s truth would bring them to their senses. Psalm 5:4 says, “You are not a God who delights in wickedness.” God is love and delights in what is true and just!
Love protects. There are so many Scriptures that speak of God’s protection. In this verse, the Greek meaning of protection speaks of a covering. It suggests a silent and secret hiding away. It is a covering that keeps something threatening off.
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NIV)
“Who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:5 (NIV)
Love always trusts. We might have trouble trusting other people but we can trust God to work in and through others. Is your confidence in God or others?
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5 (NIV)
Love always hopes. Satan tries hard to rob us of our hope. But God has already won the battle and for Him, nothing is impossible! We can only see part of the picture and He sees the past, present, and future. When we feel a person or situation is beyond hope we are selling God short. He is all-powerful. True, we do have a free will to sin or repent but never in the Bible is it written to give up on a person and their salvation. Remember Saul’s conversion!
“Many are saying of me, ‘God will not deliver him.’ But You, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.” Psalm 3:2-3 (NIV)
“The Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.” Psalm 147:11 (NIV)
Love always perseveres. This means we must endure under pressure. We are to bear things bravely, calmly, and with great patience. Why? Because LOVE never fails!