1 Corinthians 13:4-7
“I give to you, and you give to me, true love, true love.” At least, that’s what the song says. But do we? There are as many definitions of love as there are people. Fortunately, we have the definitive explanation in God’s treatise on love as found in 1 Corinthians thirteen. Whole books have been written on this brief passage, but I am going to be audacious enough to try to be nearly as succinct as the Scripture.
“Charity suffereth long, and is kind…"
Long after others have, or even perhaps should have, stopped loving, true love goes right on. And did you catch the word “suffereth”? You can, indeed, love till it hurts. And the word “kind” reminds of the how the Psalmist speaks of “loving-kindness.” The two go together. Protest, if you will; but I would contend that were there is little or no kindness, there is little or no love.
“…charity envieth not…"
Proverbs tells us that envy is “the rottenness of the bones.” It is also the rottenness of a relationship, and it reduces love to a useless powder. It is easily morphed into bitterness, scorn, and finally, belittling.
“…charity vaunteth not itself, is not easily puffed up…"
The word “vaunt” means to boast or brag (cf. Judges 7:2). Genuine love does not need to be constantly acknowledged and praised. It is never “full of itself.” Nor does it assume an air of superiority. Love does not say of itself, “See how much and well how well I love”; “No one loves as I do.”
“…[D]oth not behave itself unseemly…”
By “unseemly,” I mean inappropriate or rude. Love will always choose the courteous response, if given a choice, whether it has been to a “finishing school” or not. Bad manners are at least as much a sign of a lack of love as they are a lack of training.
“…seeketh not her own…”
Love is not fixated on having its own rights, realizing its own debt of love as affirmed in the law (Romans 13:8). Instead, it manifests itself by great unselfishness, for love is deeper than human justice.
“…is not easily provoked…”
Notice it does not say love cannot be provoked; only that it is not easy to do. As Shakespeare said, “The course of true love never did run smooth,” but neither does it look for ways to purposely make it bumpy, especially by provocation.
“thinketh no evil…”
Love always assumes the best, and does not hold grudges. It may inadvertently hurt, but it will not be planned and deliberately thought through.
“Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in truth…”
Love is never pleased when moral weakness or wrong-doing is suspected, but, instead, is gratified when the suspicians are proven to be untrue.
“Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”
This verse summarizes all that has come before. In the end, love is able to bear, believe, hope, and endure all things. The two middle qualities (belief and hope) make the first and last possible. In order to bear the unbearable or endure the unendurable, one must believe and hope in the impossible. That is love.
“But you haven’t said anything about emotions and feelings,” I hear you say. Every concept discussed in these four versed involves choice, not feeling. They are the foundation, the part of love that gives meaning and legitimacy to any emotion involved. But I am not suggesting that emotion has no place in love. Can I say it this way? Emotion is the whipped cream; but love is the sundae. The sundae is even better with the whipped cream (Mmmm!). But without the sundae, the whipped cream is just sugary fluff?
Now, before you ask yourself, “Does someone really love me,” I would suggest you ask, “Do I really love anyone?”