“…is love sweet love.” Sweet love won’t do it. Try agape. The Corinthian charismatics needed plenty. Rival factions vied for control. They couldn’t stop arguing, even going to court. Love feasts turned sour. Gifts without fruit means flying with one wing—and crashing.
Paul addressed these pastoral issues (I Corinthians 1-6), then answered their inquiries (7-16). They asked about spiritual gifts. He answered abuse with proper use. Love undergirds everything.
“And now I will show you a way that surpasses all others.” They had the gifts, but they were toys for toddlers, not tools for builders. People watching them said, “I don’t know what you’ve got, but I hope I don’t catch it.” Paul is not contrasting fruit with gifts. He is saying, “Love is the only way the gifts operate.” Agape: Selfless love, other-directed, demonstrated at the cross. Three part to I Corinthians 13:
- LOVE IS NEEDED (1-3).
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (I Cor. 13:1). Knowing all mysteries and knowledge would come in handy. Not without love. How about mountain-moving faith? Miracles? People willing to die for the faith. It profits me nothing without love.
- LOVE IS A VERB (4-7).
Love is patient. These are verbs, fifteen of them; not one adjective. Love is an action, not a feeling. Measure your love by the level of your willingness to suffer: “Love is longsuffering” (KJV). Better to suffer than cause it. That’s what Jesus did, so you can too!
Love is kind. Jesus put a face on God, a kind face. “God is kind to the ungrateful and wicked” (Luke 6:35). How would I treat those who cursed me? I’d say, “No rain for you today.” The Holy Spirit can make us kind even with people who don’t return it.
Love does not envy. Eight negatives follow the two positives. Love wants others to outdo us. How Christ-like! Not mine by nature—mine by grace.
It does not boast, it is not proud. Humble people are easy to be around. Humility enhances unity. We need a big heart, not a big head. That is the mind of Christ—and you have it.
It is not rude. How easily unedited words can bruise. Let’s watch our manners. Jesus is not rude.
It is not self-seeking. When we play the victim, it is all about us. Dying reverses that and makes others more important.
It is not easily angered. A friend said, “Just so you know, Paul, it is almost impossible to offend me.” I want to live like that. When going from 1 to 7 in two seconds, I understood the phrase “not easily angered.” I want to be sssssssssslow—just like Jesus.
It keeps no record of wrongs. Paul had a scorecard and a good score. When he threw it away, he found living by grace satisfying. Want to toss your scorecard?
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Let’s rejoice with every advancement of others, not guard ourselves with defensiveness.
Love always protects. You feel safe around true lovers. Always trusts. It’s a good feeling to be trusted. You can put the best construction on others. Always hopes. People who give us hope enable us to get through storms. Always perseveres. Love makes us fight for people. Love never fails. If you don’t know what to do, love will tell you. It’s failure-proof.
- LOVE IS ETERNAL (8-13).
Gifts are temporary. Love travels with us to the new earth.