Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lessons from 1 Corinthians 13:Part 2

(See Part 1 here).

A friend once told me that 100% of all marriage counseling can be done from I Corinthians 13:4-8 and I completely agree with him. If we can catch hold of the truths of this passage and put them into practice in our own lives it will radically impact how we do everything in our daily lives. From I Corinthians 13:4-8, I’m going to be looking at the14 characteristics of true love. In this post I’ll concentrate on the first 5.

1. Love is patient
There is no “last straw” with love! In Matthew 18:22 the Lord says that if a brother offends you; you should forgive him 70 times 7 times. What does that mean? Well, an offense is a deliberate, wanton, malicious assault without ANY PROVOCATION. I doubt that any of us have been offended 490 times in our entire lifetime (given this definition); much less 490 times at the hands of one individual! The point is that we are to forgive all the time. If we are to forgive these deliberate offenses, how much more so the inadvertent offenses?

There is utmost patience with love. No offense, no attack, no sin, is to find a response that is not motivated by love. Proverbs 10:12 puts it like this, “Love covers a multitude of sins”. Love suffers long - it covers.

2. Love is kind
This is the positive side. First we see that love can take the negative, but it reacts by showing kindness. Think of the command that Christ gave in Luke 6 – “love your enemies”. Love those that seek your destruction. Love those that hate you. Love those that don't agree with you. Love the sinner. Love the saint. Love the homosexual. Love the heretic. Love without end! Love with agape - a love that would die for these people.

One of the most unnatural things for us to do is to react in kindness to those with whom we disagree. However, not doing so is to fall short of the mark that is laid out for us.

3. Love does not envy
When we see God blessing somebody...when we see someone getting an opportunity that we wanted; we should not envy them that. Instead we are to rejoice with them and for them. Envy leads to bitterness - the cancer of the soul. Bitterness leads to hatred.

4. Love does not boast
Proverbs 13:10 tells us that ”only be pride comes contention”. Love is humble. It does not act rashly nor is it brutish. It is never motivated by pride. In the first few verses of this text, the apostle Paul was following up on how he had finished the previous chapter. He was showing the Corinthians a “more excellent way” to true worship. He said that even if he had the gift of speaking fluently in every known tongue (some 70 languages at that time); and even if he were gifted in the higher language of the angels so that he could converse with them; and even if he could understand EVERY mystery in life - that is to say that he had all the knowledge that could be obtained; and even if he had a faith that could work miracles; and even if he parceled out all his possessions to the poor; and even if he “gave his body to be burned” (referring to the branding of slavery in order to redeem another); if he was motivated by anything other than love - it was all worth nothing! The hard, cold fact is that you and I are either motivated by love or by pride. If our motivation for anything, regardless of how noble, righteous, or selfless it may appear to be, is anything other than love…it is worthless.

5. Love is not arrogant or rude
Love is not rude or willingly offensive to ANYBODY! There are some people that just grate on my nerves. I tend to be very short with them. They ask me a question and I'll respond with as few words as possible and never even make eye contact with them. THIS IS NOT LOVE! It is not respectful. It is “unseemly” to use the word that the KJV uses here. Love is always respectful. It is ever ready, as the Apostle Paul so eloquently stated in I Corinthians 9:22, to be “made all things to all men that I might by all means save some.”

We've barely gotten through a third of the attributes of love given in this passage and I can already see where I consistently fall woefully short of the standard laid out here. In the next installment of this series I'll look briefly at four more attributes of love.

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