Last time I talked about what difference Jesus makes. He not only saves us from ourselves, He answers the deepest longings within us. We’re all looking for love and when we encounter Jesus we find a love that changes everything. But how do we know we’re loving others like Jesus does without projecting our own broken relational issues on them?
Fortunately for us, Paul has already described what this love looks like. I will break down this overly familiar passage and, hopefully, give it a fresh perspective.
Here’s a version of the passage we hear at weddings:
4 Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. 5 Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. 6 Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. 7 Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up. (1 Cor.13:4-7 TPT)
Love is large. While this word is added to the original Greek, it belongs here. God’s love is always abundant, inclusive, and boundless. There’s no smallness or pettiness with God’s love.
Incredibly patient. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. Love never loses its cool or forces its expectations on others. It always lives with expectancy, waiting for the proper time for everything.
Gentle and consistently kind. It’s the kindness of God that leads to repentance (Rom.2:4). Love is always gentle with others. It does not bully or force itself on others.
Refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to others. In other words, love is other-centered. It rejoices in other’s blessing. Conversely, this kind of jealousy reveals how self-centered we really are.
Does not brag…or inflate its own importance. Love does not need to self-promote or bring attention to itself in order to feel affirmed. Bragging is usually a sign of insecurity, and there’s no insecurity in love!
Does not traffic in shame or disrespect. Love does not manipulate people with shame in order to influence them. It doesn’t think of oneself as better or more important than others. It sees all people, no matter who they are, as equally valuable and loved by God.
Nor selfishly seeks its own honor. Love doesn’t need to take credit for its acts of self-giving. It prefers to bless others in secret. And by not seeking it’s own glory, love always glorifies God (reveals His goodness).
Not easily irritated or quick to take offense. In Aramaic, it literally means, “Does not stare at evil.” Love does not fly off the handle or take everything personal, which is a sign of self-centered behavior. It always forgives and is unoffendable, always seeking to understand more than the words spoken or the actions taken against it.
Joyfully celebrates honesty….finds no delight in what is wrong. Love encourages people to be vulnerable and honest so that true intimacy in communication can take place. This allows relationships to be healed and strengthened. It fights against injustice wherever it’s found, always seeking the welfare of others.
A safe place of shelter. The more familiar phrase, “bears all things” (Greek: στέγω – stegō) literally means that love is like a roof that protects us. It covers our shortcomings, never exposing them to humiliate us, rather it provides a safe place where we’re free to open up our hearts so we can become who we really are.
Never stops believing the best for others. Love never focuses on what people are not, but sees who they really are, apart from the wounds and baggage that hides their true brilliance and value. God is the “Great I Am“; and He has come to set us free for all our “I am not’s!”
Never takes failure as defeat. Love works all things together for our good (Rom.8: 28). Failure is only seen as an opportunity to grow in what we’re lacking in our experience in Christ. Love is never defeated because….
Love never gives up! Love stays in the room, it fights for understanding and connection. Love is a the solid rock on which we stand because God is love.
Beloved, this is exactly how God loves you. And whatever you think love is, if it’s any different than this, it’s not love. But the thing about these attributes of love is that they locate us.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll assess our idea of love with these and realize just how far short we fall. We may be good at a few of them, but fail in others. This love is how we know we’re following Jesus instead of walking in our own strength.
The only way possible for you and me to ever begin to love like this is to first receive God’s love for us, continually walk in that love and let Him heal us, so that we can let that same love pour out of us unto others. Only God can heal our deepest wounds that are even hidden from us. This is how we obey Jesus. And, as I said in my last post, this is sorely what the world needs now.
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (John 15:9-12 NIV*)