From Time to Eternity: A 3-Part Series on the Timelessness of Love (
Part 2: (1 Cor. 13:4-7)
Caring for the needs of others is at times almost instinctual where in other instances it goes against the very grain of who we are as humans. When a newborn baby wakes up in the night crying to be fed, a parent’s natural instinct is to wake up and care for that child. It is what parents do; they care for the needs of their children.
Contrast this reaction with that toward the person who gets on your nerves on a daily basis. That one person, whether their behavior is intentional, just seems to get under your skin. What about the stranger you just met? Will you show concern for his or her needs? Will you show that person love? As we saw in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, a life which lacks love lacks everything; and we will find in verses 4-7 that a life of love is lived for the best of others.
Verse 4 begins: “Love suffers long.” This speaks of the patience of love. Love keeps on loving. Love suffers long because love is more concerned about others than self. If I care for your good instead of focusing on my rights, I will be patient with you because I want what is best for you. That is why love suffers long, because it is focused on its object rather than on self.
Love is also kind. Another way to say this is that love is gracious. We all make mistakes. Love recognizes that while you may have made a mistake, I also have made and will continue to make mistakes. Therefore, as I have received and want to receive loving grace and kindness, I extend kindness to you.
Love does not envy. The Greek word we translate here as envy could also be translated as jealous. We are told love is not jealous, but Scripture repeatedly refers to God as a jealous God. In the giving of the Ten Commandments, God describes Himself as a jealous God, punishing those who worship idols. So how is God jealous, but we are told not to be? The difference is found in motivation. God is jealous for you to know Him, because knowing Him is the best thing for you. Human jealousy is selfish, not caring for the best of others. God is jealous for you because He loves you and wants the best for you.
The last phrase of verse 4 is: “Love does not parade itself, is not puffed up.” Love is not proud, thinking more of self than it should, throwing a personal parade. Love rejoices when others sit at the seat of honor. Love rejoices when others are blessed.
Paul’s description of love continues in verse 5: “Love does not behave rudely.” Another way to say this is that love is tactful. Love knows the right thing to say at the right time. I have said some very difficult things to people I love to have them thank me for speaking up. If you truly possess the love of God for someone, you will know the right thing to say at the right time.
The next phase of verse 5 sums up the main thrust of this passage: “[Love] does not seek its own.” A life of love is lived for the best of others. Whether they are friends, enemies or complete strangers, love seeks the best for others, putting self aside. Is there someone in your life who irritates you when he or she is around? You know what I mean—that inner ping that goes off when you hear a particular voice or someone says that person’s name. That inner turmoil we feel is due to a lack of love in our own hearts.
Paul’s next classifier of love is that love is not provoked. To be provoked is to be irritated or agitated. If this state of mind and being is a consistent part of your life, you are lacking in love. This is not something I say lightly, because life is messy; we get hurt, as well as hurt others, which is all the more reason why love is so important.
Paul continues: “thinks no evil.” This does not mean love is gullible. This is a mathematical term meaning “love keeps no count.” Love does not keep a list of wrongs to be brought out at every argument. That type of behavior is self-centered and contrary to love. Love keeps a short list. Love forgives and looks for a way to make things right.
Verse 6 speaks of the joy of love: “[Love] does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in truth.” There is much joy in love, but it must be centered around truth and righteousness. Sin robs you of joy. Because love is a part of the nature of God, love cannot rejoice in sin. Love embraces that which is true, even when the truth is difficult and demands change. Love leads us to experience the righteousness and joy of God.
Finally verse 7: “[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Love puts up with the failures of others and seeks their good. It bears up under the weight of the situation and continues on despite adversity. Wherever there is love, you will find hope. To endure is to remain under the load. The greatest load many of us carry is the load of our own pride—a needless load of which love seeks to set us free. Love is sacrificial, living in hope for the best of others.
As we look at Paul’s description of love, we see the way God loves us. God’s love motivates us to love others in the same manner. As God loves us and has given His best for us, namely Jesus, our lives are to be lived for the best of others.