1 Corinthians 13:4

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast, it is not proud. (1 Corinthians 13:4, NIV)

1 Corinthians 13:4 is packed with 5 punches about what love is and is not:
• It is patient
• It is kind
• It does not envy
• It does not boast

I think of an electrical outlet power strip with every plug taken when I reflect on this verse!  The verse is amped with truth, and it’s as if Paul gives us just as much as we can handle before a power surge knocks us out!

Everything Paul says about love here; everything God has given him to say . . is nothing like what most of us grow up to believe love is.  Yet God, the source of love, the Creator of love, is the One who really knows what love is.  If anyone would know what love is, it’s God.  When it comes to defining love, He would know how.  When we want to know what love is, we should go to Him to hear what He has to say.

#1

Love is patient . .

God’s love is patient.

The world’s love isn’t.

The world’s love says, Catch up or get lost. The world’s love says, One more strike and you’re out.  The world’s love says, I have rights I demand before I can give out love. The world’s love says, I’m not waiting on you anymore.  The world’s love is filled with strained and broken relationships, and relationships that never even took place because they required too much patience.

Isn’t it a sign of our corrupted moral nature, how we can be so patient with issues of intellect, but so impatient with issues of the heart?

We’ll spend years learning how to bake a prize-winning cake or wood-carve masterfully or swim at a professional level.

We’ll spend months taking college courses or staying in a job we don’t like until we earn the education/experience needed for the career we want.

We’ll spend weeks hashing out an error on a bill or researching which Satellite company we should choose or which Plasma screen TV we should buy or which dress to wear to an important function.

But many times we won’t spend even an hour thinking about how to love someone besides ourselves.

I don’t mean how to show someone “love” so that they’ll want to repay us for our kindness, but how to really love someone besides ourselves.

We usually won’t take the time to think about how to better love people we really do love, much less people we’re in conflict with or those we don’t know well.

We are not patient with love.

It’s as if we want someone to come right off the factory conveyer belt, programmed with all the right words and behaviors, ready to fully love us the way we desire. We expect it of our parents, our children, our coworkers, our friends, customer service workers, and especially our spouses.

But what if God treated us that way. Would any of us have ‘made the cut’ to receive His love?

Scripture says no.

#2

.. love is kind.

We are not kind beings by nature.  Check out a daycare facility or nursing home, and you will probably come to this conclusion.  We do not naturally love each other. Love is to us, in fact, supernatural.  It didn’t used to be this way, back when we had perfect communion with God in the Garden of Eden, but it is now.

Our society builds its concept of love around power, lust, entertainment, popularity, and wealth.  It’s no wonder we have such poor understanding of love; yet we are not innocent in the matter.  In our own families, with our own friends, and with everyone around us (including those who work for or with us and strangers) we emulate poor models of love to be carried on to the next generation.

#3

It does not envy.

Hollywood makes its living on envy.

Back in the day, I used to be fascinated by looking at celebrity “look alike” outfits.  For ‘only’ a few hundred dollars, you could have a look that imitated a beautiful actress whose outfit was worth thousands.  Perhaps more important than who wins movie awards is what an actor or actress is wearing on the red carpet.

Women can easily be sucked into a vortex of obsession with fashion.  I used to love to look at outfit ensembles, complete with some ‘must-have’ accessories like a clutch purse or lip gloss. I would think, sadly, that if I could have that outfit, I could be the object of affection and men could lust over me now.

It goes both ways. Many women believe love is the ability to make a man lust for them.  And many men believe love is lusting after a woman.  It is no wonder that in a culture where envy is not just accepted, but publicized, where the mark of a woman is how envious she can make other women, that the concept of love without envy is as foreign as a MacDonald’s without hamburgers.

#4

It does not boast . .

Magazines are in the business of boasting.  Romance novels and porn sites boast they offer better romances that true love can create.  Sitcoms, blockbuster movies, epic video games, and best-selling books often boast that they can give more happiness that love-in-real-life ever could.

Most of our culture is about boasting.  We boast who has the biggest wedding ring, the most thoughtful husband, the best behaved children, the best remodeled home, even the sweetest puppy!

Humility isn’t just unwanted, it’s unknown.

Celebrities don’t teach it to us.  The secular world is clueless when it comes to humility. But sadly, so is much of the Christian world.  We think of the word with dread, and associate it with actions of self-denial and (gasp!) self-control.

#5

. . it is not proud.

This is the final shocking reel of verse 4.  For many of us, the reason we love is to feel pride!  We want to have someone to show off, brag about, or some gift that we can showcase.  We want to prove to others we are really important by who we boast loves us.  (Why, after all, do preteen girls hang posters of teenage boys and pass out their Valentines?  The boy in the photograph looks as if he is selectively in love with her–whoever owns the poster, holds the Valentine.)

Love becomes a commodity to barter with, a currency to exchange, a stock to broker.

Love becomes about what we get out of it, not what we give to it. Love that sacrifices without expectation that the inconvenience or gift can ever be repaid is nearly unheard of.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast, it is not proud. (1 Corinthians 13:4, NIV)

Love that is patient and kind; love without envy, boasting, or pride . . that love could only be God’s love.

There is no way we could be good enough or talented enough or even self-disciplined enough to get that kind of love in this life.

The only way we could have and experience that love is if God gave it to us as a gift.

He did, through His Son.

When we believe in Him, we can begin to learn about love: real love, true love, everlasting love. We can begin to recognize and practice a love we have never known before.

And then, rather than being electrocuted or short-circuited by the power of God’s love, we will be illuminated by His love, channeled through His love, and energized from His love to share that love with everyone around us.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast, it is not proud. (1 Corinthians 13:4, NIV)

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