The Corinthian church was in trouble. Jealousy and envy had crowded into the hearts of many of the Christians. Why? Because those with spiritual gifts that seemed cooler boasted about what they could do. Those with spiritual gifts that seemed mundane felt left out.
So Paul wrote three chapters addressing the issue of being jealous about spiritual gifts. Chapter 12 explained the purpose of spiritual gifts and how God gives gifts to each Christian as He sees fit. Chapter 14 focuses on the gift of speaking in tongues and prophesying.
Chapter 13 almost seems out of place because it’s about love. But it’s exactly what the Corinthians needed to hear. Without love, spiritual gifts become a weapon to put others down instead of building them up. So Paul shows them the more excellent way of love.
First he shows how, without love, every gift and talent we have, no matter how great, is useless. All our good works are unprofitable without love. Even great faith is nothing without love.
1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1–3)
Then Paul went on to give what could be accurately called the greatest description of love ever written. He starts with two positive behaviors about love, and follows that with eight negative behaviors love avoids.
4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4–7)
If we want to walk in the more excellent way of love, these are behaviors that we will do or avoid doing. Love, in the Bible, is not primarily a feeling, as we often think of it today. Love is a behavior. It’s something we can choose to do, or not to do, no matter how we feel. That’s why Jesus can tell us to love our enemies. It’s not a matter of changing how we might feel, it’s about showing love and not showing hate.
The feelings of love will usually come later, tagging along like a dog with it’s tail between it’s legs—ashamed that they ever felt bad feelings in the first place.
Last time we got through love does “not behave itself unseemly.” Let’s continue our greatest description of love, starting with…