What is the way love should be? What does real love look like? I know of a no more complete or more challenging definition of love than the one found in 1 Corinthians 13.
If you are reading the KJV, you might be a bit caught off guard by the use of “charity” instead of “love” here. Why did the translators choose that word instead of just saying, “love”?
I think perhaps the reason was this: when we hear the word “love,” we tend to think of feelings. But when we hear the word, “charity,” we tend to think of doing something for someone.
That’s a good thing to keep in mind as we talk about love. Love is more than a feeling. Love is first and foremost an action. That’s something that I hope you will see clearly as we work through this great description of love.
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)
There are fifteen descriptions of the way love should be in these verses. That’s a long sermon! I started thinking about how to deal with all those descriptions—nobody could remember every point of a fifteen point sermon—not even the preacher!
So I wrote them down on a piece of paper and started looking at them and drawing lines all over the page. The more I looked something happened.
Do you know what it means to render something down—like when you are cooking? You render the chicken fat down. Or, after carving the turkey, you take the rest of it and boil it in water to render it down to just the bone.
Well, that’s what happened here. As I looked at these fifteen descriptions, they rendered down to three ways that our love should be like: Our love should be patient, humble, and kind.
Now that is more memorable! We can remember that: patient, humble, and kind. Let’s work through the passage and I’ll show you how all fifteen descriptions of love rendered down to just three ways that our love should be: patient, humble, and kind.
1) OUR LOVE SHOULD BE PATIENT
In verse 4, “Charity suffereth long” (makrothymeō) means to be long-tempered. It’s the word for patience. A patient person doesn’t get angry easily. In fact, in verse five, Paul says that love is “not easily provoked” (paroxynō). Love has a long fuse. It doesn’t fly off the handle.
Is love ever angry? Yes. There are times when love is angry, such as the anger of a parent when a child has done some seriously wrong. But love is not easily provoked or angered.
Then in verse 7, we see that love “Beareth all things.” This has the sense of putting up with the sins and foibles of other people. All those annoying things that others do—a patient love puts up with it. Even the sins of other people—like the bad language from coworkers—a patient love bears it.
Also in verse 7, we see that love “hopeth.” Biblical hope is a firm confidence in the plans, purposes, and promises of God. For instance, believers have confidence that Jesus’s death and resurrection is sufficient to save us from an eternity of Hell.
When it comes to loving others, Biblical hope means that we will be confident of God’s purposes and plans for others.
For example, a loving parent who has a wayward son patiently holds out hope that he will return. Or a loving and patient wife will not give up hope that her unsaved husband will be saved. Love will always hold out hope for someone until there are no more days left to hope.
Finally, we see the patient love “endureth.” Love perseveres through thick and thin.
These five qualities of love—longsuffering, enduring, hoping, bearing with people, and not being easily provoked—are marks of love being patient. Our love should be patient.
The late Baptist preacher Adrian Rogers told about a time that he needed to catch a flight to Nashville for a meeting.
At the airport he waited and waited. Goes and talks to the lady at the desk—“It’s going to be late.” So he tells himself, “Adrian, practice patience.”
He waited a while longer. Then he went back to the desk, and the lady says—“It’s going to be later still.” Okay, so he says to himself, “Adrian, practice patience.” Still no plane.
He goes back to the lady at the desk, who says, “We don’t know when it’s coming.” “Adrian,” he tells himself, “practice patience.” (I like how he was preaching to himself the whole time—we need to preach God’s word to ourselves more often rather than letting Satan and our sinful nature dominate our mental conversations).
After a time, he goes back again to the lady and she tells him that the flight has been canceled. He says, “Adrian, practice patience.”
He said that the Holy Spirit seemed to prompt him at that moment and remind him, “You be kind to that lady; it’s not her fault at all. She doesn’t run this airline. She’s just working behind that desk. She has no control over that situation.”
So Adrian says to her, “Thank you, ma’am. God bless you. That’s fine. That’s wonderful. Praise the Lord.” Love is patient with people. Patience is being loving to people. (Adrian Rogers, “How to Be Sure You Are Sure,” in Adrian Rogers Sermon Archive)
Think about this right now. Who or what is it that tries your patience and causes you to be unloving? With most of us, we already know exactly the person or situations that tries our patience. We snap at them and we pout about them.
Think about the situation ahead of time. Prepare for it. How can we turn that around and show love in that situation instead? Not just grit our teeth and endure it—that’s just bare-bones patience. How can we demonstrate an active, loving patience to them?
Our love should be patient and…
2) OUR LOVE SHOULD BE HUMBLE
In verse 4, we read three descriptions of love: “charity envieth not, charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.” (1 Corinthians 13:4).
And in verse 5, we see two more descriptions of love: “Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own.”
Each of these five phrases points to love being humble. Let’s start with the second one. The word, “vaunteth” (perpereuetai) means to “heap praise on oneself” (BDAG) or to brag. Likewise, being “puffed up” (physioutai) means to be arrogant or prideful.
How does being prideful make one unloving? Why is humility a key part of love? Because love, by its nature, thinks more about the other person than it does about itself.
A scene from a movie shows how pride makes us unloving:
A boyfriend and girlfriend have a date at a fancy restaurant. He is a successful lawyer; she is a reporter. As he comes in late and sits down, he cheerfully says, “I have some news.”
She sadly replies, “Me too.”
“Okay, but me first…I’ve just been named partner.” He chuckles victoriously.
Then she says, “I think I have cancer.”
His response: “This couldn’t wait until tomorrow?”
Stunned, she says to him, “I thought you loved me.”
His response, “I do…. Love is the most overused word in the English language…It’s what we say when we want something…when we need something.”
At that point, he breaks up with her, saying, “It was good. Actually, it was great. But now it’s over.”
As he gets up to leave, she says, “You understand that I might die.” She is in disbelief that he could be so uncaring.
He says, “I’m sorry about that,” and walks away. (God’s Not Dead)
Why was he unloving to her? Because her comment wrecked the opportunity he had to boast! He could not shine and so he left. To love someone, really love someone, we have to stop thinking so much of ourselves! We have to give up the desire to have people make much of us and focus on making much of other people. We have to be humble.
Love is also humble because it does not “behave itself unseemly” (verse 5). The word “unseemly” (aschēmonei) means to behave unbecomingly, shamefully, disgracefully or rudely. In fact, you could just say, “love is not rude.”
In the scene from the movie, the boyfriend was rude showed up late, and when he said, “Me first,” instead of allowing the woman to go first.
We have a very rude culture. People swear even in the presence of children, play their music too loud, and so on.
They simply don’t care about the feelings or sensitivities of others.There are times not to care about what other people think. But a loving person always behaves in ways that are polite and sensitive to others.
A rude, impolite Christian is wrecking their witness to Christ. A humble Christian, on the other hand, is showing people Christ.
Love is also humble in that it “seeketh not her own” (verse 5). A person who is self-seeking is consumed with having their own way. They will only use their gifts, skills, and talents if it helps themselves in some way.
Love does not seek its own. Instead, it seeks the good of a neighbor or even an enemy! Love is not consumed with self-interest, but the interests of others.
Paul says in Philippians:
3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness [humility] of mind let each esteem [count] other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things [interests], but every man also on the things [interests] of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)
Our love should be humble, focused on the needs of others, and not only on our own needs.
In the summer of 2013, U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Myles Kerr was running in a 5K race when he came upon a 9-year-old who was also running in the race. The boy, Boden Fuchs, had become separated from the runners in his age group. He was struggling to run; in fact, Kerr said,
“He was walking when I ran by him. I looked at him and said, ‘Hey, little guy, you alright?’
And he said, ‘Will you run with me?’”
At that point, Kerr had a choice to make. If he ran with Boden, his finishing time would be lousy. A good average finishing time for a 5K is around 20 to 25 minutes. There would be no way to get close to that time if he ran with Boden.
But because love is patient and love is humble, Kerr decided to show love and ran with Boden. Along the way, Kerr kept encouraging the boy to keep going. And together, they finished the race—in 35 minutes. (https://abcnews.go.com/US/michigan-marine-finishes-5k-race-boy-fell/story?id=19828801)
Lance Corporal Kerr had to be humble in order to be loving. He did not seek his own interests. He did not puff himself up and run quickly by the boy to show how much faster he was. He did not rudely shout insults to Boden as he passed.
Instead, Kerr showed a humble love.
Most of us would show this sort of love to a kid if we were in the same situation. But what about your spouse? Your coworker? Your fellow Christian? Your enemy? Do you show them humble love?
Maybe you’re thinking, “This sort of love is too much. I can’t show this humble love…I would end up being a door mat! It would be too much of a sacrifice!”
The Lord Jesus didn’t think that dying on a cross was too much of a sacrifice for loving you. His love was humble. And we’re supposed one like Him.
5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:5–8)
Is there someone that you have a hard time loving? Look to Jesus for the humble example and the humble strength to love—really love them.
Start by praying for them and praying that God would change your heart toward them. Choose to show humble love to them because you know that Jesus did the same for you.
Our love should be patient. Our love should be humble.
3) OUR LOVE SHOULD BE KIND
Go back to verse 4, where we see that love is “kind.” To be “kind” (chrēsteuetai) means “to provide something beneficial for someone” (Louw-Nida). Think of the person who goes and gets a cup of coffee and sets it on a coworker’s desk. What does the coworker say? “Thanks, that was kind of you.” Kindness is acting in love toward someone.
Some of the other descriptions of love that Paul gives us in verses 4-7 could be considered acts (both mental and physical) of kindness.
First, we see that “charity envieth not” (zēloō). Envy is to have negative feelings over another’s achievements or success. It’s to be jealous of the other person.
There’s a wonderful example of love not envying in 1 Samuel 20. Jonathan was the son of King Saul, and in line to be the next king.
David was a young shepherd with no claim to the throne except that the Lord had chosen him to be the next king! Saul was intensely jealous of David and tried to kill him again and again.
But Jonathan, the Bible says, “loved [David] as he loved his own soul” (1 Samuel 20:17). Jonathan did everything he could to protect David from Saul (he showed kindness), even though Jonathan knew that David would become king instead of him! How many of us would do that? Give up our rights to show kindness and love to someone else?
If a person envies another, they will not show kindness—they will be thinking and hoping for bad things to happen to them!
Love being kind also means that we “thinketh no evil” (verse 5). The Greek word for “thinketh” (logizetai) is an accounting type of word. It means to count or tally. The idea that comes across is that we don’t keep a record of wrongs against someone. We don’t keep a list of how they have wronged us.
What happens when we keep a list of how people have offended us? We don’t show kindness! Do something for that person? No way! A few months ago, they offended me!
You have to throw away the record of wrongs that you have against a person so you can show kindness. Otherwise, you just sit there, thinking evil things about them!
Look at verse 7, where it says that love “believeth all things.” This is another way that love is kind. You believe good about others. Love gives people the benefit of the doubt.
Does this mean that a loving person is supposed to be gullible? Always trusting others, no matter what? No. The Bible tells us to be discerning. But a loving believer will think the best of another person until the evidence proves otherwise.
Avoid jumping to conclusions. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media make it easy to jump to conclusions or judgment.
The news media makes it easy for us to jump to judgment about someone because they only tell the news about someone that they think their audience wants to hear. Show kindness to others by seeking out the other side of the story.
What if that person does turn out to be guilty of doing something wrong? Showing a love that is kind means that we…“Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth” (verse 6).
Have you ever rejoiced over someone falling into sin? Be honest now…maybe it was your favorite Democrat that you love to hate! Obviously, if we are rejoicing when our enemy falls we will not show kindness to them.
Have you ever refused to rejoice in truth because it was coming from someone that you hate?
A loving Christian will show kindness by saying to their enemy, “You know, you’re right” when they are right. They will give credit where credit is due. They will rejoice in truth, no matter who says it.
So being kind is really just love in action. It’s rejoicing in the truth when others tell it, and not rejoicing in their sin. It’s refusing to envy others so that you act for their benefit.
It is avoiding a rush to judgment when someone says something bad about another. It’s looking out for another person’s needs and attempting to meet them.
In 2012, in Plano, Texas, a cop pulled Hayden Carlo over for having expired stickers on his car. Carlo…
…told the officer he had no excuse for the expired sticker. [He said] “…there’s no explanation for why I haven’t done it, except I don’t have the money…it was either feed my kids or get my registration done.”
The officer wrote a citation and handed it to the 25-year-old. Carlo says when he took it, he could not believe what he saw. “I opened it up and there’s a 100 dollar bill. I broke down in my car. What else could I do?”
“…He helped me out when I needed it and I appreciate that. I’ll never forget that man,” Carlo says. “It definitely restored my faith in God.” (http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2012/12/11/plano-police-officer-wraps-100-bill-in-traffic-ticket/)
That story makes me think of what Jesus did for us the cross. On the one hand, God wrote the citation for our sin. It says, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
On the other hand, the Son of God paid the citation in His own blood. That’s ultimate kindness!
Do you understand that the citation for your personal sin carries the penalty of death?
Do you realize that Jesus shown you kindness by paying that penalty Himself?
Have you received that kindness?
Imagine if Carlo had taken the citation and the money and thrown it out the window. Imagine if he said to the police officer, “I don’t believe in you or in traffic citations!”
Would that have changed his guilt in the eyes of the law?
Would the citation have disappeared?
Denying Jesus and denying the penalty of sin doesn’t change your guilt in the eyes of God. The payment has been made. Why don’t you just go ahead and receive it?
Don’t neglect God’s loving-kindness one more day!