1 Corinthians 13 is famously referred to as the “love chapter” in the Bible. In this passage, the apostle Paul takes the time to describe what true godly love is and how it’s carried out. In the context, Paul was sharing about the true purpose of the spiritual gifts, how they were not meant for show or for personal glory, but rather the edification of the church (1 Corinthians 14:12). Believers would benefit from visiting and revisiting this important passage today, considering the fact that as time passes, the love of many will grow cold.
But as with all scripture, God’s Word is not meant to be skimmed for general ideas but slowly chewed on to seek obedience. And more often than not, this happens with lists that pop up in the Bible. Perhaps our brains and flesh are naturally inclined to abbreviate packets of information. Perhaps it’s yet another result of our instant-gratification society and our minds are eager for new stimuli and can’t handle slow and methodical critical thinking anymore.
Regardless of the reason, a challenge for us this week is to take the 13th chapter of Corinthians and process each descriptor of love while asking ourselves the following:
- What does it mean? And
- What does obedience to this look like in my personal life?
The best way to to answer those questions is to simply look at the one who already did all of the above—Christ Jesus.
Earlier this year, I was challenged and encouraged by my therapist to consider this—take 1st Corinthians 13:4-7 and replace every instance of “love” and “it” with “Jesus.” This is not a test for grammatical prowess. This exercise asks us the question, how did Christ accomplish these things already?
- Was Christ patient and kind?
- Was Christ ever envious or boastful?
- Was Christ ever arrogant or rude?
As we read through the Gospels and the life of Christ, we see that he did not only obey these things but showed us the perfect model of love! When we recognize this love given to us and the model to imitate, then and only then, can we begin loving others correctly. It is only when we love God’s way do we realize there are many aspects in our lives we need to grow in. That is when we can replace love in 1 Corinthians 13 with our own names and ask ourselves, is this a true statement?
One of the key questions the church should ask itself after all of this is, “Have we loved?”
During this COVID-19 season, I’ve observed the testing of our spiritual foundations and beliefs. One of the key questions the church should ask itself after all of this is, “Have we loved?” Did we love the saints in the church and take care of their needs? Did we love our neighbors or avoid them because they didn’t meet our standards? Did we love the non-believer by sharing the greatest hope that anyone could offer, that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
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)
Out of all the attributes of love found in our passage, the one I personally wrestle with constantly is verse 5—”love does not insist on its own way.” One of the dangers of growing older is the false assumption that experience triumphs argument. Although it is generally true that with experience comes wisdom, this is not always the case, and it is a false assumption that the one with seniority has more credibility and expertise.
This verse is not just for those advanced in years. It’s a prudent reminder for all to reflect on their words of choice, tone, and approach to discussion. One doesn’t have to look far on the internet to see a constant spewing of people’s own views, a couple of ad hominem arguments here and there with no resolution to the cause. Emotions become more inflamed while misconceptions become further cemented. When we continue to insist on our own ways, we end up like the Pharisees, who put in all this effort to create a student of hell, twice as bad as they were, and forgetting the original goals, and worse yet, Christ.
If we truly want to persuade others to consider our viewpoints, then are our current methods effective? Do we really want others to be enlightened of our views or do we secretly enjoy arguing? Or just want to be right? Have I considered what godly love looks like in this situation or argument? What will I gain if I get what I desire? More importantly, what will I lose?
May we not lose our Christian testimony because of our lack of love during this season. More importantly, let us not lose focus on the only one who gives us true hope—Christ Jesus.