In 1 John 4:16 we read, “God is love.” In verse 17 we read, “we are as He is in this world.” This means necessarily that we are to be love as well. But what does love look like? What does it really look like to “Live in Love”?
In 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Paul gives us a list of 13 actions that define love.
Love is patient
First we must note that love is patient. It specifically refers to interpersonal relationships, which means that those who claim to be loving must be slow to become angry at others. It means that when someone treats you wrongly you do not lash out at them. This is what is meant when the King James Version translates patience as “longsuffering.” Do you suffer long, or do you blow up immediately?
love is kind
Second, we must note that love is kind. This word is a foundational part of any good relationship. No one wants to be around someone who is unkind. However, kindness in Scripture is more than just being nice; any unbeliever can be nice. Jesus literally says in Matthew 11:30, “My yoke is kind.” The point being that He doesn’t demand people change themselves before He will love them; this is the epitome of kindness and Biblical love. In addition, Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:3, “the Lord is kind.” It is in God’s very nature for Him to be kind. It’s why He sent Christ to earth, and it is why all He asks of us is faith. How kind are you to the people you know–especially those in your church? Or perhaps a better question: Do you accept and love people the way they are, or do you demand that they change first?
Love does not envy
Third, we see that love does not envy. It is not a loving thing to do when a person says, “I wish I was in that position,” or “I wish I had that gift,” or “I wish I could preach like him.” None of these statements either give the glory to God or cause love to go forth toward the person envied. Instead, they selfishly fix your focus on yourself, and they seek to draw others’ focus to yourself as well. Do you envy other peoples’ positions and callings, or do you thank God that they are where they are, and that you are where you are?
is not boastful, is not conceited
Fourth, we see that love is not boastful or conceited. This one is pretty self-explanatory. Just like the prior is not a good thing, so also to say, “Look at me and my gifts,” or “Look at me and my position,” or “Look at me and all my selfless service,” is to completely fail in love. If the prior gets upset at what others do have that you lack; this one gets too happy about the fact that you have what others don’t.
To add to it, where boasting is absent, envy should also be absent. If you’re not constantly praising your graces, then people will have a harder time finding things to be envious of. As a church we must all work together to love rightly. Do you boast or act conceited toward others?
does not act improperly
Fifth, we see that love does not act improperly. This means that love has a proper form. To put it in the simplest way possible, the form love is meant to take is defined throughout our text today. In addition, it’s truest form is evidenced by Jesus in 1 John 3:16, “This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers.” To not act patiently, kindly, selflessly, etc. is to act improperly, and is not loving. Is your love proper or improper?
is not selfish
Sixth, we see that love is not selfish. This means that we must put others ahead of ourselves as members of Christ’s body. If we always get what we want and force others to deal with things our way (“or the highway”), then we are absolutely not being loving. Paul says that love is not selfish. This means that where selfishness exists, love cannot. Do you insist on your own way, or do you sacrifice your opinions and desires for the sake of the body of Christ?
is not provoked
Seventh, we see that love is not provoked. This means that if something pushes you to anger, you are not being loving. However, if something that could push you to anger instead drives you to love and to selflessly sacrifice for the “offender,” then you are being loving. Too often love is suffocated because we are too easily provoked. This one is directly opposed to the first definition of love. Do you get easily provoked, or are you patient with others?
and does not keep a record of wrongs
Eighth, we see that love does not keep a record of wrongs. This means that love forgives and forgets. Love doesn’t say, “You did x, y, and z against me last month,” in order to try to win a fight. Instead, love exclaims, “Your sins were covered by Jesus’ blood. I don’t need to rehash them now.” Do you keep a record of peoples’ wrongs against you? If so, you are failing to love both Biblically and Christologically. Forgive and forget–Psalm 103 style!
Love finds no joy in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth
Ninth, we see that love doesn’t get joy from sin. This means that sin should cause sadness. If sin does not give birth to sorrow, then love has not been kindled in that heart. This is proof that all sin is at its heart is nothing less than a lack of love. If you’re gathering joy from sinful living, then you are neither loving God nor your fellow man. Do you love God? Do you love people? Or do you love sin?
Paul explains that instead of loving sin, those who are defined by love are to rejoice in the truth. The Word of God is the truth. In God’s Word it states that the truth is how we grow in holiness (John 17:17). In order to be loving, we must rejoice in the truth found in God’s Word. Therefore, do you love the Word of God? If you don’t, you can’t rightly love God, and you can’t rightly love people. Where do you find your joy? In sin? Or in truth?
It bears all things
Tenth, we read that love bears all things. Along with the following three traits, the word all is extremely important. For love to be perfect, it must continue to bear all things. In a sense, this word sums up the first 9 traits. It especially goes back to patience and not being provoked. The word actually comes from a root that refers to the roof of a house. It literally speaks of covering. When others fail to love rightly, the truly loving person continues to cover the failures of others and let them run off him, like off a roof. Do you cover all things, or do you bring them into the open? Are you loving, or do you fail to love?
believes all things
Eleventh, we read that love believes all things. We have to remember that this primarily speaks of believing things as relates to people. In addition, it is closely tied to the three most closely surrounding it. To truly bear all things, you must believe the best about the person in question. A person cannot hope all things without believing all things. And it is the belief that ultimately leads to endurance. Do you think the worst of your fellow Christian? Does the word “divisive” or “heretic” or “false teacher” flow too easily off your lips or keyboard? If so, start living up to the calling Christ has called you to and believe the best about your fellow Christians.
hopes all things
Twelfth, we read that love hopes all things. This means that the belief you have about someone leads you to pray and desire that what you believe about them might really be true. It does not mean that you pray for them to be revealed as fakes so that you can be vindicated. It means you are on your knees in prayer, hoping and praying that the person you are bearing with, who you believe to be saved, might endure to the end and thus really be saved. Do you pray for damnation upon those you disagree with? Or do you actively hope that God brings everyone you know to salvation on the last day? One is loving; the other is definitely not!
endures all things
Finally, we read that love endures all things. There is nothing that can destroy love. It will continue. No matter how much your patience and kindness are tested; no matter how much sin a person falls into, no matter how badly they treat you–even if just perceived as bad–love will endure. The truly loving person will love others–and thus by connection, himself–straight into eternity (not in an earning salvation way, but in a “when did I get here?” way). Does your love have the characteristic of endurance?
Regardless of the quality of our love which will ALWAYS fall short. There is Someone who was the epitome of this passage during His 33 years on earth. And if we believe in Him, His perfect love is credited to us as if we were just as loving as Jesus. It doesn’t excuse our failures as no big deal, but it does challenge us when we fail to love like Christ, to confess our failure, to get up, and to keep on loving.
Trust Him today!
I love you.
Soli Deo Gloria