One young boy had this to say about love: “It gives me a headache to think about that stuff. I’m just a kid. I don’t need that kind of trouble.” Regina thoughtfully said, “I’m not rushing into love. I’m finding fourth grade hard enough.” Manuel summed it all up when he said, “I think you’re supposed to get shot with an arrow or something, but the rest of it isn’t supposed to be painful.”
We can add a lot of descriptions when we try to define what love is, but if we are going to get a handle on God’s design and our desire for love, we need to hear how He describes life-giving love. The “love chapter” in 1 Corinthians is one of those places where God helps us understand what love looks like.
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up.” (1 Corinthians 13:4, NKJV)
As we read God’s description of love through the pen of Paul, one thing becomes clear. Life-giving love puts others before self.
1. Love extends mercy to those who don’t meet our expectations.
Paul tells us that love is “patient” (makrothumei). Suppose a pet continues to chew on your favorite piece of furniture. Instead of getting rid of the pet, you try to find other remedies. That’s patience. Patience means that we seek the best for those who don’t meet our expectations. Life-giving love extends mercy to those who don’t meet our expectations.
2. Love makes helping others graciously and generously a priority, regardless how they treat us.
“Kind” (chrēsteuetai) is a picture of God’s grace toward those who call upon Him in distress. It describes God’s attitude toward sinners through Christ. Love seeks to show grace toward others, even though they stand at enmity toward us. It means that we seek to bless them with the blessings of Christ’s touch through our personal conduct.
3. Love does not chase personal desires at the expense of others.
The picture of “envy” (zēloi) describes a person who is so intent for themselves that they step on others to get it. This is the person who loves to promote themselves at every turn. Their supreme ambition is their own glory. Life-giving love is different. It demands that we stop looking to get more for ourselves and examine how that we might bless others.
4. Love prioritizes building up others, not oneself.
When Paul used “boasting” (perpereuetai), he was painting a picture of a one-man band marching down the street, hoping that all eyes fell on him. That’s not what love for others looks like. Life-giving love is more concerned about “others” than “self.”
5. Love prioritizes what’s best for others rather than only thinking about self.
“Arrogant” (phusioutai) is the picture of being puffed up like a “blow-fish.” Love focuses on what is best for others rather than what is best for “me.” When pride is a dominating ethic in our lives, then we know that God’s love is not. In a world of narcissistic Christianity, we would do well to hear God’s mandate of love for us.
How can we love like that?
Stop. Take a breath. And pray:
“Father, nourish my soul today with Your love so that I can love others the way that You have loved me.”