After considering some invaluable feedback, I’ve felt led to dig a little deeper into the love we are to emanate. If you remember, in part 2, we discussed that we could view 1 Corinthians 13 as a measuring rod we are currently struggling to measure up to. It’s also possible to look to Scripture to see what life looks like when we follow hard after Jesus.
When Paul talks about what love is (1 Cor 13), it’s because he had just finished talking to the Corinthian church about how they may show outward signs of relationship with God, but they are not showing the love that Messiah said his followers would be known by (John 13:35). While it’s possible Paul was pulling ideas that were unrelated to the Corinthians and injecting them into his message to the Corinthians, this seems counterintuitive if his purpose was to send them a letter dealing with things he had heard about them (1 Cor 5:1). Admittedly, this passage doesn’t need to connect to chapter 13 (as it is referencing something different); still, the tone of the text is the same in both instances. When Paul says, “If I speak in the tongues of men or angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1), we could conclude that members of the Corinth congregation had been seen speaking in the tongues of both men and angels. It could’ve also been noticed that they didn’t interact with those around them in a loving way. When he says, “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all the mysteries and knowledge, and if I have faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing,” (1 Cor 13:2), my argument is that these things have been seen in the church in Corinth.
And then this is the hard part, when he says, “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing,” (1 Cor 13:3), he’s saying that it has been noticed of the Corinthian church that all of these things were true. This is that measuring rod we were talking about in part 2. Even if we give everything we have to the poor (and this is mentioned as the desirable option), if we turn around and loathe our neighbor, we have failed. If we encounter hardship for the convictions we have in Christ and the actions we take for the kingdom, our response to the hardship must be to act in love. At this point, we have to make sure that our definition of love is on point, and this is precisely why the next thing Paul does is describe what love is.
We read in the very next verse, “Love is patient, love is kind,” (1 Cor 13:4). It’s worth noting that patience and kindness are also listed as fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22). Patience and kindness are the passive and the active ways we are to respond to trial, so it’s probably worth digging a little deeper to try to understand what the Bible is saying here.
It’s going to take a couple of steps to get to the next point, but the first connection I want to make here is that, while we’re searching out 1 Cor 13 to find our definition of love, there is another place in the Bible that tells us something fundamental about love: 1 John 4:8 says, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” So, while we’re looking at what 1 Cor 13 has to say about love, we must keep in mind that all of these descriptors are also directly describing at least a part of God, as well. This is going to be important. 1 John was written by John (as you could probably guess by its title), but we can surmise that Paul also pointed toward God being love, though he did it in his usual roundabout way.
In Romans 2:4, we read, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” As I mentioned earlier, these are the two ways we’re supposed to respond to trial, but now we see that, in Paul’s mind, this is the way that God responds to us. Now, I’m not saying that humanity is a trial to God, but, well, maybe we are (Ex 32:9). Going back to John for a second, he recorded in his gospel that Jesus said, “whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” (John 14:9).
Where am I going with this?
In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul writes to the church in Corinth, “And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ” (NLT). So, we can see that patience and kindness are the two affirmative traits of love given in 1 Cor 13 (and the rest are things that love isn’t). In addition, Paul records that patience and kindness are the traits that show that God loves us, we can see that Paul also was showing us that God is love by his imploring us to imitate him as he is imitating Jesus (just as Jesus was showing us what the Father looked like). A little earlier in 1 Cor 13, in verse 2, we read, “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” We are literally ‘nothing’ if we are not embodying love.
Why? Because when we are the embodiment of love, we truly imitate Paul->Jesus->the Father. Furthermore, if we can make the connection that God’s love is shown by his patience and his kindness, we can also connect patience and kindness to agape love.
Finally, if we’re supposed to emulate God, and patience and kindness are the two affirmative traits of love given, it’s not a stretch to say that these are pretty important, and we should probably take care to listen. This is where we want to get back to seeing love as our measuring rod.
A person’s wisdom makes him slow to anger,
and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
-Proverbs 19:11 (NET)
Proverbs 19:11 tells us patience (slow to anger) shows our wisdom and that overlooking offense brings us glory. So, I don’t think it’s a stretch to connect overlooking offense with this topic as well. This verse, just like much of the book of Proverbs, is pointing us toward how we’re supposed to act; but, more than that, it’s pointing us toward the loving patience and kindness that we’re supposed to show as followers of Messiah. Jesus, in one of his final teachings to his disciples, taught that we are to love one another just as he showed his love for us. Not only that, he said that the world around us would be able to know that we are his followers because of the patience and kindness we’re showing, or in other words, the agape love that we’re showing.
Here’s where we try to lasso in some application.
Can the world around you tell that you’re a follower of Messiah? And not just because you have a t-shirt that says it; can the world around you see how patient and kind you are to those who treat you poorly?
Can the world around you tell that you’re a follower of Messiah? And not just because you have a t-shirt that says it; can the world around you see how patient and kind you are to those who treat you poorly? Can the world around you see how patient and kind you are when you’re facing uncomfortable situations? Can the world around you see how patient and kind you are when disagreeing with someone? Can the world around you see how patient and kind you are when your politics don’t align?
I have to admit, I’m not always the best example of Paul/Jesus/the Father’s love. I’m working on it, but it’s a daily growth process. It can be challenging to remind yourself of your Christian duty, but if we don’t go out of our way to find ways to remind ourselves, we are failing our Messiah.
But there is hope.
We have a road map. We have a measuring rod.
The question is: Will we use them?
Today, try to find ways to show that patience and kindness. Find ways to love those around you.
 Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 1 Co 13:4–7.
 Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, ed. Ned B. Stonehouse et al., Revised Edition., The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014), 705.
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