How would you define love?
I probably do not have to tell you that the Bible’s definition of love is quite different from the world’s definition. The world tries to reduce love to nothing more than sentimentality or sensuality. But the love of God we find in Scripture is so much deeper than an emotion or the fleeting feelings found in a particular moment. Yes, the love of God produces emotion in us, but this love that our faith is built upon is a selfless, self-giving, sacrificial love called “agape” love.
This love that Christ Himself demonstrated on the cross is a love we are to pursue (1 Corinthians 14:1), put on (Colossians 3:14), and increase and abound in (I Thessalonians 3:12; Philippians 1:9). We are to be sincere in this love (2 Corinthians 8:8), unified in this love (Philippians 2:2), and fervent in this love (1 Peter 4:8). We are also to motivate one another in this kind of love (Hebrews 10:24).
The Apostle Paul defines and celebrates this love in 1 Corinthians 13. You are probably most familiar with this passage being read at wedding celebrations. While a marriage ceremony is a fitting time to preach from 1 Corinthians 13 concerning God’s love displayed between one man and one woman, we limit Paul’s words if we only consider them in light of marital love.
Paul originally penned these words to the church in Corinth—a church strong in resources, talents, gifts, and abilities, yet struggling with love. Self-centeredness and selfishness permeated the church as they abused and misused their spiritual gifts. And so, in between defining spiritual gifts in chapter twelve and explaining the proper use of these gifts in chapter fourteen, Paul paused to emphasize what is of the most basic importance and the most excellent way – love.
Of course, no one gives us a more perfect picture of the love Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 than Christ. Let’s examine this passage in light of Jesus’ love displayed on the cross.
Love is patient. When Jesus went to the cross, He showed He would not give up on us.
Love is kind. It was the kindness of God that led Him to offer His only Son for us.
Love does not envy or boast. Jesus did not boast about all that He had or greedily try to cling to His position in glory. Instead, He gave it up for us and came down to earth.
Love is not arrogant or rude. Jesus never drew attention to Himself. When all others around him were rude, Jesus never was. He welcomed the children and told them they were not inconveniences or interruptions. He spoke to the woman at the well with the tarnished reputation. He healed those who were untouchable.
Love does not insist on its own way. In the garden hours before His death, Jesus said to God, “Father, not My will, but Your will be done.”
Love is not irritable or resentful. Jesus has done away with the record of our wrongdoings. God has cast them from His presence, and the blood of Christ has wiped them away.
Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Jesus said the truth will set us free. And when He went to the cross, He set us free.
Love bears all things. When Jesus stretched out His arms on the cross, He covered us.
Love believes all things. Jesus trusted the Father when He could not see all that was going on.
Love hopes all things. When we are at our wit’s end, Christ never gives up on us.
And love endures all things. Paul says that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
I encourage you to read through 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 on your own and replace every instance of the word “love” with the name of Jesus. Because Scripture tells us that God is love and Jesus is God, this is a fitting and powerful swap.
I also believe it would be highly beneficial for you to examine your own life as you consider Christ’s example. How are you doing at loving others? Are you patient? Are you kind? How irritable or resentful are you? Go through each point prayerfully. Jesus has loved us with His selfless, self-giving, sacrificial love. We must ask Him to help us love others in the same way.