“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;” 1 Corinthians 13.4-5
We live in a world that uses the word “love” so loosely. (I will use love for charity.) Sometimes I believe the true meaning of love is lost in its frequent misuse.
What is Paul trying to convey to the Corinthian believers here? Chapters 12 -14 of 1 Corinthians deal with spiritual gifts – their use and their misuse. Right in the middle of his conversation, Paul addresses love, and he goes ahead to define it for them and us. In these two short verses he gives us nine (9) characteristics of love.
Do you and I really understand these traits of love? Let’s see! “Love suffers long, and is kind.” Could we say that love puts up with a lot? Love is not suspended because of a simple irritation or disagreement. Love can absorb a lot and it does not retaliate. The flip side of love suffering long is that it is kind. How should we express kindness? I am sure everyone would have his or her own opinion about that. But kindness is the opposite of hatefulness.
“Love does not envy.” Do we all agree that envy is a toxic poison that can destroy anything in its path? Envy makes us jealous of what others have and we don’t have. That may then drive us to try to “keep up” with the person who has more “stuff” that we do. Love is not about “stuff” but it is about relationships.
Let’s combine these next three. “Love does not behave in a flagrant manner and it is not proud. Does not behave in a manner that draws attention to itself.” Paul is describing here some qualities of love that are not offensive to others around us – whether family, friends, or members of our church; and especially an unbelieving world.
In considering these last four, pay careful attention to the focus of love. “Love does not seek her own way, is not provoked easily, and does not think evil of others.” We quickly notice that is not selfish. Nor is it “thin-skinned.” And it does not allow itself to entertain evil thoughts about others.
I don’t know about you, but I have some work to do. Just my thoughts …