What is true love? A lot has been written about this human emotion, but few ever truly understand it. In 1 Corinthians 13, the apostle Paul sets forth the various characteristics of what Christian love entails (1 Cor. 13: 1-8).
The Negative Qualities of Love
1. Love envies not. It is not jealous. Love does not allow us to become filled with jealousy and bitter resentment toward others (Gen. 4:1-8). It causes us to demonstrate a generous spirit, and rejoice at the success and good fortune others enjoy.
2. Love vaunts not itself. Love does not brag or boast. Love does not seek the praise and applause of men (Matt. 6:14). It causes us to realize the importance of others, while limiting our self-esteem.
3. Love is not puffed up. It is not arrogant, proud, or conceited. Pride is a grave sin (Prov. 6:16-19; 16:5). This unbecoming attitude comes from either a haughty over-estimation of one’s own importance, or from a grave inferiority complex.
4. Love does not behave itself unseemly. Love does not act unbecomingly or rude. This general term has broad range of applications. Love does not act in a disgraceful, dishonorable or indecent way. It avoids anything that is unseemly. It behaves with courtesy, good will, and genuine respect of others (1 Pet. 3:8-12).
5. Love seeks not her own. Love is never selfish. Some people appear to be concerned only with themselves. However, love is the reverse of selfishness. God teaches us to first consider the needs of others (Phil. 2:1-8).
6. Love is not easily provoked. Love is not easily angered or quick to take the offense. Some of us are quick tempered. We become irritable over little things. However, where there is love, there is self-control (Eph. 4:26; Col. 3:8; Jam. 1:19-20). The flames of wrath are not easily kindled, nor do they keep burning long in a heart filled with love.
7. Love thinks no evil. Love does not take into account a wrong suffered or a record of wrongs. Paul uses a technical term in this passage. We must not keep a running account of offenses that we have suffered. Dwelling on such things always leads to bitterness and resentment. Love does not harbor a sense of injury (Prov. 17:9; 1 Pet. 4:8). When God forgives, he forgets. He said, “Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” We should have adapt the same attitude.
8. Love rejoices not in iniquity. Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness nor does it delight in evil. It is all too characteristic of human nature to take pleasure in the downfall of others. Love finds no pleasure in sin (Prov. 2:10-14). Love can never be indifferent to moral considerations. Christians should be grieved whenever sin is committed, and also understand that someone has been hurt.
The Positive Qualities of Love
1. Love suffers long. Love is patient and does not quickly become angry at the shortcomings and mistakes of others. In contrast with those who have an explosive temper, love operates with a long fuse. It has an infinite capacity for forbearance (1 Thess. 5:14; 2 Tim. 2:24-25).
2. Love is kind. Love demonstrates a good nature and expresses good-will. Love seeks out opportunities to help others (Matt. 25:34-40 f; Eph. 4:31-32).
3. Love rejoices in the truth. Love and truth go hand in hand. One cannot truly exist without the other. A love for truth is at the very heart of Christianity (Jn. 8:31-32; 2 Thess. 2:10-12). When the truth is victorious, love shares the gladness of its victory (3 Jn. 3-4).
4. Love bears all things. Love always protects. Love can face anything without complaining, grumbling or bitterness. They will bravely withstand the trials of life. Love enables us to endure all manner of adversity (2 Cor. 11:23-28 f; Jam. 1:24,12).
5. Love believes all things. Love trusts with limitless faith. Love looks for the good rather than the evil in others. Love is throws a mantle of kindness over the faults and shortcomings of others. It attempts to positively interpret the actions of other people. Love refuses to yield itself to unfounded suspicions. It causes us to give others the benefit of the doubt. Unless one is presented with conclusive evidence to the contrary, love believes the best about their fellow man (2 Cor. 7:16 ff; 2 Thess. 3:4; Phil. 1:21).
6. Love hopes all things. Love has limitless hope and is never pessimistic of others. Love never loses faith in others or in God. Hope looks forward, and refuses to accept failure (Lk. 13:6-9). In a crisis, it does not despair, but rather anticipates the ultimate triumph of God’s grace.
7. Love endures all things. Love always perseveres and there is no limit to its endurance. Love enables us to overcome the difficulties, persecutions, and temptations which ultimately befall us. Christianity provides us with the fortitude to overcome the adversities of life (Heb. 12:1-4). Love is patient in tribulation.
8. Love never fails. Love has no end. Few things in life will endure, but love is permanent. This beautiful chapter closes with the statement: “And now abides faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13). One day faith will become sight, hope will be realized, but love endures through it all (1 Cor. 2:9 f; 1 Jn. 3:1-2).
Conclusion: As we have seen, Christian love causes us to be patient with others, and not quickly retaliate against their shortcomings. Love results in active kindness. It causes us to shun evil attitudes such as resentment and envy. Love doesn’t allow us to become puffed up with pride; nor does it act in a boastful, rude, or unbecoming way. Instead, we treat others in a courteous and respectful manner. Love is not self-seeking. Selfishness is to be laid aside, and replaced with genuine consideration for the needs of others. Love doesn’t allow us to become easily angered. If we truly love others, we will not keep a running ledger of their mistakes. Love produces a genuine morality. Whereas the world takes pleasure in sin, he who practices biblical love delights in the truth. Love is steadfast: it bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things. True love will pass the test of time and distance from here to Timbuktu, and it will never die but only grow stronger (MF). Christian love is the summation of what godly conduct is all about. Without it we will not see God. If you have ever truly loved and been loved in this life you will understand what God expects of you. We must love God more than silver or gold, more than husband or wife, more than family or friends, more than all worldly pleasures, and even more than ourselves. (1 Jn 2:15,16 f; Mt 10:38). If you have that special someone you truly love, tell them and show them by your actions and never let them go. Even so, if you truly love God, keep His Commandments faithfully by your obedience to the gospel and doctrine of Christ (Jn 14:15 f; Rev 2:10; Mk 16:16; 2 Jn 9).