Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 ESV
It is virtually impossible to read these verses without considering Paul’s description of the fruit of the Spirit found in his letter to the Galatian churches:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. – Galatians 5:22-26 ESV
It is important to keep in mind that Paul’s discussion of love found in chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians follows his discussion regarding the spiritual gifts. Those gifts, given by the Spirit of God, would most certainly reflect the fruit that He produces, and love would be included. To operate under the influence of the Spirit, utilizing a gift given by the Spirit, but without love, would be impossible. God is love and the same can be said of the Spirit of God. When we live by or under the influence of the Spirit, our lives will exhibit His loving nature. And Paul lets us know exactly what that love looks like.
It is patient – it puts up with a lot, including the offenses of others. It doesn’t seek to get even or enact revenge.
It is kind – it acts benevolently. In other words, it reveals itself in tangible expressions of kindness and goodness to others. Even to those who hurt us.
It isn’t envious – the actual Greek word means to “be heated or to boil with envy.” God’s kind of love rejoices with others, rather than getting jealous of what they have.
It doesn’t boast – It is impossible to love like God and grand stand at the same time. When godly love is in operation, it is other-focused, not self-promoting.
It isn’t arrogant – God’s love requires humility, not pride. It doesn’t have an inflated sense of its own self-worth.
It isn’t rude – you can’t say you love someone and treat them in a disrespectful or unseemly way.
It doesn’t insist on getting it’s on way – we can know we are loving like God does when we aren’t out for our own good. Love is selfless and sacrificial.
It isn’t irritable – when the Spirit’s love is operating in us and through us, we won’t be easily provoked. We will have a resilience and resistance to the words and actions of others.
It isn’t resentful – God’s kind of love doesn’t keep score, making a list of all the wrongs done to it. And it most certainly doesn’t seek to get even.
It doesn’t rejoice at wrong doing – when we love like God does, we won’t find pleasure in the sins of others. And we won’t love sinning ourselves.
It rejoices with the truth – godly love finds pleasure when others do what is right. It allows us to rejoice alongside them, rather than being jealous of them.
It bears all things – Spirit-empowered love is able to put up with all kinds of people and circumstances.
It believes all things – When are loving like God does, it allows us to maintain our faith in the midst of all kinds of situations and when surrounded by all kinds of people.
It hopes all things –godly love doesn’t become hopeless or defeated by what happens to us or what people do to us.
It endures all things –no matter what those we are loving might do or say. It patiently, persistently maintains its faith in the face of difficulties and difficult people.
It never ends – the kind of love Paul is describing is everlasting, not short-lived. There will never some a time when godly love becomes exhausted or non-essential.
But when it comes to the spiritual gifts, they have a shelf-life. They will not always be needed. When Christ returns and establishes His Kingdom on earth, there will be no more need for prophecies, tongues, or the gift of knowledge. All will be fulfilled. God’s plan will be complete. But love will prevail and persist, because God is love. So godly love should have preeminence in our lives. And if we are truly operating under the control of the Spirit of God, we will exhibit the characteristics of love. Our spirituality will be marked by love, not envy, deceit, or provocation. Godly love unites and never divides. It is always flowing out and never turning in on itself. When all is said and done, the kind of love Paul is describing is the love of God flowing through us to others.
The apostle John gives us a much-needed reminder of just how vital love is and the wonder of God’s love for us that should motivate our love for others.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 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. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. – 1 John 4:7-12 ESV