1 Corinthians 13 is well known as “the love chapter”. Most everyone has heard it because it is traditionally read aloud at weddings. But in the context of this writing, Paul was still talking to the church at Corinth about unity and love within the church. He was teaching them about spiritual gifts and the roles and offices of leadership in the church when he told them he was going to show them a “a more excellent way”. From the previous chapters we read, they were behaving selfishly and not treating each other well and Paul was about to break it down for them. From here on out we read about all the grandiose things we could possibly do that look spiritual, followed by all kinds of negative comparison statements if I don’t have love behind what I’m doing because it doesn’t matter how angelic I sound, or how generous I look if my heart is missing the motive of love. And none of it even matters if I’m just doing these things to look good. The rest of the chapter tells us what love is, and what love is not. What I really pull out of this is that love is intended to drive the selfishness out of us all by teaching us to sacrificially put the greater good of others ahead of our own selfish wants and desires. This is not to say that we become people pleasers and do what other people want us to do in a co-dependent sort of way. There is no place for selfishness anywhere in love. Not by the giver, and not to be expected by the receiver. Love thrives and everyone wins when we all push our selfishness away and sacrifice for the greater good of others. That is why Paul went down the list of not only what love is, but what love is not.

Here is a list of whatlove does not do:

  • Does not envy (not jealous of success, favor or giftings)
  • Is not boastful (not prideful or rude)• Is not conceited (not full of self or our own opinions)
  • Does not act improperly (not inappropriate, hurtful, abusive, or controlling) Is not selfish (does not expect others to accommodate or give)
  • Is not easily provoked (not quick to get angry or offended)
  • Does not keep a record of wrongs (forgives offenses as they come and does not continuously bring up past mistakes)
  • Finds no joy in unrighteousness (does not expect others to tolerate our wrongdoing)

Here is a list of what love is:

  • Patient (fruit of the Spirit)
  • Kind (fruit of the Spirit)
  • Rejoices in the truth (transparent and open, not secretive, or intentionally deceptive)
  • Bears all things (Goes through the hard things with people)
  • Believes all things (Believes in the other person’s best intentions and motives)
  • Hopes all things (Hopes for the best in others in spite of past failures)
  • Endures all things (Suffers through hard times with an expectation of better things to come)

We all battle selfishness naturally, but as I read through these lists, I could see where our past wounds and hurts add to our natural selfishness and play such a strong role in our unloving behaviors and responses. When we have been hurt, (and we all have been hurt) we tend to carry those hurts into our other relationships, but we don’t always realize what we are doing. If we don’t address those past hurts, we might inadvertently punish innocent people for the wrongdoings of those who have previously hurt us and find ourselves tempted to either try to control others under a masked attempt to prevent them from hurting us, or negatively prejudge their motives and intentions out of our own desperate attempts to protect ourselves emotionally. Sometimes we prejudge other people’s motives because we ourselves have done wrong, so we automatically assume everyone else has or will do the same. Either way, by nature, we make unfair assumptions and are suspicious of the intent and motives of others before finding out the facts. We have all been deceived and hurt before and nobody wants to be the fool. But according to scripture, love demands that we hope for the best and believe in the best intentions of others first. This is not to say that we naively believe everyone and everything. It means that we choose to believe the best first, but if they lie to us or prove to have a track record or pattern of deception, we don’t ignore the facts. In other words, we are supposed to give the benefit of the doubt first and allow them to prove themselves righteously before we make assumptions or pre-judgments of what they might do or might have done. This is vulnerable. This leaves us wide open for hurt and devastation, but this is what makes love so powerful. If we are not completely open and vulnerable, we will never experience the beauty of love, no matter how real it is. When Jesus died for the world, it was the most vulnerable expression of love that could possibly be given because he did it while being mocked, abused, hated, and scorned. Love is sacrificial and He didn’t protect himself from the anguish and the hurt so that we could experience the fullness of all His love. If we could really grasp the power of this kind of love it would truly change us forever. Paul ends this chapter reminding us that out of everything we will ever experience, faith and hope are necessary while we are here on this imperfect earth, but it will not be necessary in heaven so the most important thing and the only thing that will actually last for all eternity is love.

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