Every local church and ministry needs to remember that it is by this great qualification—love—that God assesses all our giftedness and service. It is no exaggeration to say that without these characteristics, a church will drift away from its mission and may even disintegrate. So while we can be known for any number of things, let us be known always as people who seriously, humbly, and realistically ask the Spirit of God to make our hearts and minds so full of love that it will overflow into the church and the world.
Though 1 Corinthians 13 is largely regarded as a cozy part of the Bible, a closer look reveals that these “feel-good” verses confront us, humble us, and begin to show us that the things we think matter most are not what matter most to God.
The church in Corinth faced circumstances from within that threatened its existence. So, in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul showed the church “a still more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31)—that is, the way of love, of agapē, rooted in the very character of God and revealed in the life of Jesus Christ. It is only by growing in Christlike love that the Corinthians could grow in Christian maturity and effectively handle such difficult situations.
Paul describes the beauty of God’s love with fifteen characteristics, like the facets of a diamond. His emphasis here is not so much upon what love is as what love does. Love behaves itself in a certain way. It is not only felt but acted on. And these actions and attitudes are to be habitual in the lives of those who love as God does.
Each facet of this Christlike love is worth taking a moment to meditate on. In a previous article, we considered the first eight. In this article, we consider the latter seven.
Love Keeps No Record of Wrong
Think of how the Lord Jesus has treated us:
Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin. (Rom. 4:7–8)
The Lord will not count forgiven sin! When we enter His presence, He’s not going to run the video and show it to us all over again. And when we try to play it back ourselves, the Lord essentially says, “I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”
One of the great skills in life is learning what to forget. When people come to confess sin to us, we need to remember the grace God has shown us in response to the enormity of our offenses. Surely, then, we ought to forgive and do our best to forget the offenses done against us. When love invades a life, harboring a record of wrongs received ceases. Love knows there are greater truths worth remembering.
Love Does Not Rejoice in Evil
Human nature is intrigued by evil. To a certain extent, people seem even to enjoy witnessing evil, especially in others. The covers of newspapers and magazines are filled with adultery, indecency, cheating, lies, corruption, and filth because men and women have an appetite for it. But such hunger is inconsistent with godly love.
One of the primary ways Christians fall into the trap of delighting in the murky and sordid is in gossip—often even under the cover of prayer. When we gossip in this way, we violate agapē love by gloating over the sins and shortcomings of others.
Paul says that when the transforming love of Christ marks a fellowship, it’s going to make us the kind of people who do not rejoice when evil is exalted but turn their attention to better things: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8). The challenge is clear: we ought to gauge our reading, viewing, speaking, and listening habits by this measure.
Love Rejoices with the Truth
J. B. Phillips gives us a wonderful paraphrase of verse 6b: love, he says, “is glad with all good men when truth prevails.” Love cannot rejoice when truth is denied. Love and righteousness cannot be separated. There is no love that is indifferent to moral considerations.
This is one of the ways cultural ideas of love fall short.