Love is a finicky word. It is viewed as a feeling, action, choice, and a word used to describe things and people we greatly like. We especially use Love in a romantic way. How can we have love for others?
As a student pastor, I hear this word used quite often between teens describing their feelings towards each other. Often, after having only dated for a few days.
It is easy to view love as something only between me your significant other, kids, or family. Love is viewed as something affectionate. But can it be more than that?
Relationships are a part of life and healthy relationships fuel that. I am not talking about romantic ones but friendships.
Healthy friendships can help us in all areas of life and ultimately are vital to our spiritual growth and the spread of the Gospel. But just as healthy friendships build us up, unhealthy relationships can destroy people, work, and churches. Some negative characteristics can include lying, cheating, gossiping, negative talking, bullying, hateful words, jealousy, pridefulness, selfishness, holding grudges, frequent anger, rude, irritable, enjoys doing wrong, hates knowing what is true, quick to judge, is constantly suspicious, constantly negative, does not give the benefit of doubt, and gives up easily just to name a few.
- negative talking,
- hateful words,
- holding grudges,
- frequent anger,
- enjoys doing wrong,
- hates knowing what is true,
- quick to judge,
- is constantly suspicious,
- constantly negative,
- does not give the benefit of the doubt,
- gives up easily just to name a few.
Working with students 6th-12th grade, I hear stories all of the time of friendships going south because of one of those reasons listed above. Adults are especially prone to drama and broken friendships as negative qualities rip people apart. Churches are often a casualty and can cause church splits, loss of members, stagnant churches, and people not coming to Christ. In short, NO BUENO.
The opposite of these negative characteristics on this list is, Love.
In First Corinthians chapter 13 we get a great description and practical advice for what love is and what love does. In order to understand the passage better, we need to understand the context.
The Apostle Paul wrote this book to the church at Corinth. This church was going through lots of turmoil. Paul systematically addressed questions and problems that were pulling the church apart. As he approached chapter 13, he spent time talking about building the body of Christ and how we are all a vital part of the church (the body of Christ). Chapters 12 and 13 focused on the giftings of the Spirit and the importance of Unity.
1 Corinthians 13 is known as the “Love Chapter.” And it is frequently used by couples at weddings (I have it engraved on my wedding band). While this is a great passage on love for couples, it is a great passage for unity and love for quality relationships and building the church.
So what does this passage say and how can we apply it to friendships?
A Definition of Love
First, here is a definition of love that Paul uses.
Love – Agape – From the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology
“Self-giving love that is not merited.” This love is not earned. But rather given. This is based on grace.
Agape love is an action and a choice.
Love is derived from the essence of God.
1 John 4:10 English Standard Version (ESV) In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Starting in verse 4:
1 Corinthians 13:4-9a (CSB)
4 Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, 5 is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs. 6 Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends.
Let us break this down.
Being able to take junk from others without retaliating
Love does not get upset easily.
Love is giving.
This speaks of being “useful, serving, gracious” John Macarthur.
Does not envy or get jealous
Love is not self-centered
Love does not desire evil to come to someone else but wants the best for others.
Envy leads to resenting each other.
Love does not get caught in a comparison trap.
We need to be GLAD for someone else to succeed.
Does not boast
Love does not build yourself up in front of others.
Love is not like a person who purposely makes others jealous. Love does not brag but is humble about accomplishments as gifts from God.
Is not arrogant
Love is not prideful.
Love is not full of yourself.
People who are rude do not care about the people around them
Love cares about people who are around us.
Love is not careless, or thoughtless. But thinks of others when going about normal life.
We need to be about others, and not ourselves. (Philippians 2:3-4)
Self less not Selfish
Love is not quick to anger.
Love is slow to anger and slow to be annoyed.
Does not keep a record of wrongs
Love forgives others (Matthew 18:21-35)
Our example of forgiveness is Christ. We forgive because he first forgave us of insurmountable debt. (Ephesians 4:32)
True forgiveness means that we do not keep track of the many times someone has sinned against us and holding that against the other person. This destroys friendships. This does not mean that we have a blind eye to what they do but that we forgive and move on, not to bring it back up again.
Finds NO joy in sin/evil/unrighteousness
Love finds no joy in sin.
Do we delight in the sin of others or in our sin?
Love finds joy in living right before other people.
Rejoices in Truth
God’s Word is Truth
God’s Word reveals the truth that changes hearts and lives.
Truth points out the errors in evil and points to goodness and justice.
Truth provides the foundation for reconciliation.
Bears all things
Bears all means to cover, support, or protect someone
Love looks to support each other
Believes all things
Love is not suspicious of other people
Love opts for what is more favorable
Love views friends as innocent until proven guilty rather than jumping to conclusions.
Fosters trust instead of mistrust
Gives the benefit of the doubt
Hopes all things
Love looks to the future and hope for what could be
Endures All Things
Love continues no matter the cost
Love never stops loving
Love Never Ends
Love is rooted in essence to God
God IS Love
God Never Fails
Therefore Love NEVER FAILS
Love found in Christ loves unconditionally
This type of love is found in the example of Christ. While at its core love is impossible for us to live, we can love like this because of the power of the Holy Spirit.
I have found that as we pursue Christ through prayer and Bible reading, we will find out love for God grow. In our pursuit of God, we quickly discover through the Gospel of God’s unconditional love for us. A love that we do not deserve. But in spite of all of our sin (Romans 3:23 – All have sinned, James 2:10 – All are guilty of breaking God’s law). God chose to love us and send Jesus to pay the penalty for our sins.
As our pursuit for God grows so does our love for other people. 1 John goes as far and says that love comes from God as God is Love and to hate someone is to not be of God (I am paraphrasing several verses).
Love for each other starts with God and pours out towards others.
Understanding and applying these verses and principles into our lives can transform our relationship to each person to whom we come in contact.
Which of these principles is the hardest for you to do?
How does pursuing Christ change the way we interact with others?
I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.