1 Corinthians 13:5

[Love] does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13:5, NIV)

If I were going to make an arbitrary list of what love is, I could not possibly make a list more contrary to our nature than the list God gives in 1 Corinthians.

Although pieces of 1 Corinthians 13 can be found in frames or Christian greeting cards . . and although the words are likely to be in cursive or italics . . and although we seem to somehow think 1 Corinthians 13 is romantically suited for our weddings . . if we are realistic about who we are as humans, we would be more likely to write the words in large, black capital letters with a hazard symbol framing them.


Somehow we get caught up in pink flowers and calligraphy and miss the terror of God’s Words!  Love is what?  Rather than placidly smile when we hear God’s ideas about love, we would be more honest to shrink back in horror.

It does not dishonor others . .

Most American jokes are founded on the principle of dishonoring someone.  Make fun of someone, laugh at someone else’s expense.  Most fame is achieved by pushing down hard on the masses or by breakneck competition to elevate yourself to greatness.

But dishonoring is more insidious than even jokes and ambitions.  We dishonor all the time with barely any knowledge (or guilt) of what we’re doing.  We speak bad of a spouse (or ex), child, in-law, sister, brother, friend, coworker, boss, celebrity, government leader, or rude sales clerk without batting an eye.

And it takes no effort for us to do things that dishonor others: like jerking our car out in the lane and squeezing it in, forcing the car behind us to brake . . telling a lie . . leaving a pile of store clothes on the bench in the dressing room . . gossiping about someone with the guise of caring about them . . throwing together a quick dinner for family instead of taking the time to make a nice meal to have more time for a computer game . . and on and on and on.  Not only do we dishonor habitually, but we are incredibly defensive about it.  Should someone ever accuse us of what we are actually doing, we can find a million excuses for our behavior (and dishonor our accuser with our retort).

it is not self-seeking . .

On many days, this would rule out 99-100% of what we do.  Love is not self-seeking, God says.  If we ever doubted before, we should know the moment we read these words that love can only come from God.

Human nature self-seeks.  Not occasionally.  Not even habitually.  But constantly.  We don’t know how to do anything else, nor do we want to know!  Anything secular has one core purpose: to self-seek.

Movies are our self-seek for entertainment.  Shopping our self-seek for possessions.  Careers our self-seek for achievement.  Relationships our self-seek for fulfillment.  Even when we buy things for others or do acts of service for them, so often our heart is self-seeking honor.  We want to be congratulated, appreciated, admired, looked up to.

Love, without Christ as its Author, is nothing more than a self-seeking venture.

Parents love so their children will make them proud, love them back, take care of them when they’re older, etc.

Friends love to promote their status, get attention, not feel so lonely, etc.

Workers pretend to love their bosses in hope of promotions, better hours, good reviews, etc.

Couples share romance only to the extent that they think they will receive something back from what they give.

. . it is not easily angered . .

Our society makes its living on anger.  Anger fuels most courts, hosts many talk shows, drives many cartoons, and is the star of many reality shows.  Anger is used to power adrenaline in suspense and horror movies.  People exercise, go to counseling, and take medication to try to get rid of anger.  Some people even think revenge is a healthy or necessary way to get rid of anger!

Somehow, in our society, you often become more important if you are an angry person.  People pay more attention to you.  You get more respect.  You may even get your own television show.  But in God’s view, there is no reward for being easily angry but rather it is a sign that you do not truly love (and, according to Proverbs, that you are not wise).

. . it keeps no record of wrongs.

This explanation destroys the concept that you can be bitter and loving.  1 Corinthians 13 leaves no room for question: you cannot love and keep a scorecard of what someone has done wrong.

Before we get up in arms about the impossibility this definition of love seems to bring, let’s reflect on God’s love.  If He kept a record of wrongs against us after He Himself paid for our sins—if He held even one or two sins back from forgiveness—would any of us make it into Heaven?

The only way we can be saved is because God does not desire to keep a record of wrongs!  Because He is just, He has to punish sin.  But because He doesn’t want to keep a record of our wrongs, He Himself bore the punishment for our sins.  If He treated us even remotely like we treat our family, friends, in-laws, coworkers, bosses, and, worst of all, spouses, we would have no hope of any invitation into Heaven.  God would drop His covenant with us the way we drop our covenant with a husband or wife in divorce court.

But since God isn’t like us, He chooses to keep no record of wrongs.  Actually, since Christ paid for all our sins, only if we reject Him can we re-reveal the record of our wrongs!  God has given us the gift of wiping our slate clean—again and again.  Do we even try to do that for others?

[Love] does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13:5, NIV)

No longer should we read 1 Corinthians 13 with sentimental complacency or passive approval.  We should rather read with deliberate reverence, an awe for God’s love, and a longing to reflect His love to everyone around us.

Personally, right now, what will you and I do to reflect the image of love we see in this verse?  Who specifically will we reach with a truth from this verse?  If you know God through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice of love, then you can imitate the qualities you see in this verse.  You and I can begin to honor others, love selflessly, practice temperance, and throw away the scorecards of past wounds.  And we can do this through the love of Jesus Christ.

[Love] does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13:5, NIV)

Published in: on May 23, 2013 at 9:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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