4Love is patient, love is kind. It’s not jealous or boastful. It’s not self-important. 5It doesn’t behave indecently, nor does it seek its own way. It doesn’t get provoked. It doesn’t plan evil. 6It doesn’t rejoice in injustice, but it rejoices with the genuine. 7It endures all things, believes all things, hopes all things, is patient through everything. — 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
We’re continuing to look at the characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians 13, and learning just how hard it can be. We can’t just use any old definition of love. There are some amazing ideas out there about what love really is. Indulgence, indiscipline, sexual promiscuity, jealousy, divorce, and other kinds of conflict often are blamed on love.
But Biblical love is different. We finished last time with the statement that love doesn’t seek its own way. Since love calls on us to seek the interests of others, in a love based community, everyone is always cared for by someone (see Philippians 2:4).
Now we find that love doesn’t easily get provoked. This one is a tough one for me and I believe for many other Christians. It is so easy to be provoked to anger by children, spouses, fellow church members, unbelievers who say nasty things about us. But consider the last time you were provoked and ask this question: â€œDid my getting angry help resolve the situation and make things better?â€ If I am honest, I must say that my answer is no. Getting provoked just made things worse.
Many of these characteristics of love are hard to live up to, and we can start to feel that we are giving everything away. But what exactly am I giving away if I follow this principle, if I decide to remain calm under provocation? I’m giving up the privilege of making the situation worse than it is and making my life harder than it has to be. Perhaps â€œnot being provokedâ€ is a better idea than I thought.
Love doesn’t plan evil. Now there’s a tough one. This gets us when we’re planning that means of getting back at someone who has hurt us. It’s related to not getting provoked. That’s the starting point. This one relates to staying provoked. Love looks for reconciliation, not revenge.
Love doesn’t rejoice in injustice, but looks for what is true, right, or genuine. God doesn’t see things the way we do, and we should seek to come closer to God’s view, looking at what really is, not what is on the surface. In church this will involve not choosing leaders based on how socially acceptable they are, or how spiritual they appear to be, but rather on their genuine experience with God, as best as we can tell. Looking on the surface is a problem at home, at work, and at church. Rejoicing in injustice also means that we don’t accept something that is wrong just because it is favorable to us. We do our best to see justice done under every circumstance.
Finally, no matter what happens, love can handle it. Guided by love we keep our faith and our hope as we endure whatever comes patiently. Love doesn’t easily get knocked off track. Love doesn’t give up hope.
That’s a challenging set of principles for life. Love is the royal law, the foundation of God’s kingdom. If we make it the foundation of our churches and communities, imagine what life could be like.
Tomorrow we’ll continue looking at the relationship between love and our gifts and talents.