By Adrienne CristThe "love is" verses are probably the most remembered Bible verses in our modern day. Just as we learned about the Shema for the Jews, the Love is verses have probably been memorized not by practice, but by exposure. Believers of Christ and non-believers are subject to the hearing of what the love of God to looks like.
“What’s love got to do with it? What’s love but a secondhand emotion?” What a peculiar lyric! Maybe Tina Turner was a bit of a philosopher? Is love truly a secondhand emotion? And what does love to have to do with our lives. Now I will apologize if you have a hard time getting this song out of your minds later, I tried to edit this out, I really did but it kept making its way back into this Devotion!
Are we born with love that naturally flows from us? Do babies automatically love? No. They learn how to love because their parents, show them love. Specifically, their mothers since they spend the most time caring for them. Love is a cause and effect situation. We love Him because He first loved us. We are God’s children; we love because He first loved us. The unbelieving world rejects this simple message. Yet, the verses of 1 Corinthians 13 are heralded at weddings and on Valentine’s Day cards repeatedly.
While the love verses are important for romantic love to grow and sustain, that’s not what they were primarily written for. The instructions regarding what love is and what love is not, or “The Character of love”, is placed in the middle of his teaching about the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Our Women’s Ministry Team will be teaching more in depth about the gifts of the Holy Spirit next year.
The placement of Paul’s teaching in this letter makes me think of a sandwich; the operation of the gifts is the bread, which we all love and is easy to bite into and digests quickly, and this chapter is like the meat. It takes time to breakdown and to digest. But (and if you’re a vegan you may disagree with this analogy) the meat is the most nourishing.
The gifts, like the bread in a sandwich is just a holder for the meat. And so, the gifts are the manifestation of the love of God that is poured out upon us. It’s the nourishment from the love of God that our souls need to digest. And if we do digest it properly, it is very filling, and we will want to feed others. John 6:35 Jesus answered, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never hunger, and whoever believes in Me will never thirst.
2 And if we are to feed others with God’s love than it’s important for us to understand what that love looks, acts, and sounds like. Love is what is necessary when we are the hands and feet of God. Paul is giving us the Characteristics of love… Let’s look at the word Character: In the Greek … a stamping tool Something that leaves a distinctive mark. This definition is very complex in relation to love, isn’t it? Because when God loves us, and we receive His love, it changes us. He leaves a mark on us. We act differently because we have been changed. Love is the stamp, the mark, the intrinsic quality, the Character of God. This is one of the effects of becoming a new creation in Christ. Our character changed.
The word turned into a term for a token, feature, or trait. Like a characteristic. Again, this involves something that is intrinsic to a person. Qualities that are intrinsic are resistant to changing. Modern day usage evolved into mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual. We use terms like “They have good character “. We can trust that person because they have been proven to be dependable or reliable, honest. Character implies that we can expect certain behaviors that will come forth from an individual consistently. Whether good or bad. Let’s get back to the secondhand emotion idea ……. Here’s the problem, our nature is broken. All of us are broken and some people exhibit this more than others. And before we go pointing any fingers, WE can sometimes be the one in the room exhibiting this more than other.
So first we will look at the bad news, and then the good. Cain was the firstborn son of this earth. Jesus is the firstborn of Heaven. Looking at these two opposing figures. Keep in mind that Cain is not Satan. Cain is the firstborn into our sin nature. The very first picture we have of brotherhood in the Bible is a broken relationship. Not only do we see unloving behavior, but we see the ultimate form of hatred, murder. Man was not off to a good start in the love your brother command.
Several thousands of years later John writes: “For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.” I John 3:11-12 NKJV
3 Love is the opposite of evil. Love is God’s light. We need love to shine light into the darkness. Light exposes darkness. But the world says, “that’s not very loving” and it is the most loving thing that we can do, because it will save them from the wrath that is to come. However, just as we need instructions on how the gifts are to operate, we need them on from what motivation they are operating on. What is the fuel?
If they are truly manifestations of the Spirit, then the fuel is oil. The oil that is in the lamps that are the light of the World. It burns clean. What we don’t want is the lumps of coal. They start hot, put out a bunch of smoke and then they simmer and when you touch them, they will burn you. They put out heat, but no light. That’s what hatred and bitterness does. It smolders. Cain is an example for all of mankind of “what not to do”
He represents the love is nots. “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” I John 3:14-15 NKJV The works of our dominant hand, our right hand, is our flesh. Our nature wants to rule and reign, the flesh instinctively uses the right hand. But love, that’s the second hand. It may feel awkward. We need help to use that hand. And if we keep using that hand and practicing with that hand, it will be come stronger. We want it to become the first hand. We want love to be the firsthand emotion.
Jesus’s firsthand was Agape Love. The love of God enrobed in flesh. Jesus’s mission was to show us how love operates. Jesus is the character of love. This is one of the reasons why The Chosen series is so popular. In this series we see a loving and tender Jesus. We have become very visual as a modern people and this portrayal has given us a 3D image into the Character of Love.
So…With Jesus and Cain, and the concepts of firsthand and second hand in mind let’s finally look at the Love passages. 1Corinthians 13 1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a ringing gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have absolute faith so as to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and exult in the surrender of my body, a but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 We can possess the gifts of the Holy Spirit and even operate in them, but they will profit us nothing if they are not done in love. Why was Cain’s offering rejected? Genesis 4 Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, while Cain was a tiller of the soil. 3So in the course of time, Cain brought some of the fruit of the soil as an offering to the LORD, 4while Abel brought the best portions of the firstborn of his flock. It was not that God likes BBQ better than veggies. It was that Abel brought the best portion of the firstborn. He brought God His best, Abel was acknowledging God and His love. Abel brought SOME of the fruit. Maybe He was careless? Maybe he held back the best fruit for himself? And the LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5but He had no regard for Cain and his offering. Cain did not bring his offering in love, and so he gained nothing. Our text in 1 Cor says we can give everything we own to the poor and exhaust all or energies, but if we do not love God, and love people in our efforts we will gain nothing. It will be rejected. So, Cain became very angry, and his countenance fell. 6“Why are you angry,” said the LORD to Cain, “and why has your countenance fallen? 7If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you refuse to do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires you, but you must master it.” Unfortunately, Cain did not repent. He chose to stay in rebellion and the sin that desired Cain won. There is evil in this world, and it can masquerade as sheep. Jesus did not pick a fight with the Romans, they are like the world, no, he picked a fight with the religious rulers. The people who looked good, and smelled good, but were dead inside. Now only the Lord truly knows men’s hearts. But if we see deeds that are sinful and unrepentant sin which is evil, then we are hearing gongs and cymbals, we are reading or listening to meaningless nothings and we are witnessing “good deeds” which will profit nothing. Because the motivation behind the things we are witnessing is not love, but flesh. And often they may result in sour grapes later. We live in an evil world. There are pretenders and predators all around us. All around us, even the church. Paul is speaking to the church, about people in the church. People who have incredible powers of communication, seem to have sound doctrine, who serve and serve
5 and appear to be incredible saints. But do not be deceived. God sees, and currently we are beginning to see that He is exposing. But the same applies to us. If we have areas of unrepentant sin in our lives, then we too are gongs and cymbals
. “You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!” 2 Timothy 3:1-5 NLT
It is with these situations that we are faced with a dilemma. We need wisdom to know how to handle difficult people and difficult situations. We have spent some time discussing some of this at the end of Nicole’s study. What we also need is discernment. 1Corinthians 2:11- 16 The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11For who among men knows the thoughts of man except his own spirit within him? So too, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12We have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13And this is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words’ 14The natural man does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God. For they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15The spiritual man judges all things, but he himself is not subject to anyone’s judgment. 16“For who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. Is this situation personal, professional, in the world, with our spouse, family or friends? Do they know God? Each situation calls for a different type of love to be applied. The Spirit can give us discernment when to extend mercy, when to give grace, when to let the chips fall where they may.
Jesus had discernment as to when to let those chips fall, we see multiple examples of him fleeing. In Nazareth, in Jerusalem. When the people or crowds became too hostile, he fled. He told the disciples to shake the dust off their feet when the message was not being received.
So 6 too we need discernment as to when to cut ties. We have the mind of Christ. We have been given the ability to see situations through spiritual goggles. Put them on. . Mercy and grace is love. Mercy is withholding the judgment or punishment someone may deserve, especially when it is harsh. Mercy is displayed in meekness. We all have people in our lives that we can influence with emotional power. Mercy and Grace neutralizes the emotional sting that we might inflict upon another. Love is what keeps us from wounding each other. But in the natural world there are consequences. If you withhold all consequences then you are a doormat. Forgiveness, mercy and grace can run parallel to circumstances and we will see that in the following passage.
Let’s turn back to our text. The following attributes, whether they are the love is or the love is nots are a combination of our actions and attitudes, and our actions always reveal our attitudes. 4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no account of wrongs. 6Love takes no pleasure in evil but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love is patient patience with the disciples, like Pastor George pointed out yesterday, it took them a long time to recognize that He was the Messiah, Jesus was patient with the crowds. They thronged after Him and after he fed them, he pointed out to them that they were just chasing Him for food. That is when he told them that He had bread that would feed them eternally, the scripture I quoted earlier. He was patient with Judas. Many times, He alluded to his betrayal. He knew that Judas was stealing money and yet Jesus was patient. Each time that Jesus called out that someone would betray Him, Judas was given an opportunity to repent. Because even though the betrayal would lead to his death, He was reaching out to Judas in love. He is the good Shepherd, He carry’s us on His shoulders. He listens to us, and He corrects us. Patience does not equal withholding of consequences. It means giving people more chances to repent. Jesus has forbearance with the world, it’s been 2000 years and He is still waiting till the last soul comes to repentance. But when the time is here, the consequences begin.
Love is kind. He healed the sick, fed the people, comforted the broken hearted. Jesus was kind to women at a time when they were ignored or discarded. He was kind to the woman caught in adultery, He saw her as vulnerable and chastened the accusers. Jesus is kind to the broken, the abused and the lowly. But he spoke truth to the proud. So, we can be patient and kind, but we can also speak the truth in love at the appropriate moment.
7 Love is not jealous or boastful or proud He is humble content The only one Jesus could be jealous of is God. Philippians 2:3- 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: 6Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, a 7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross. Jesus always submitted to the Father.
He was not rude, He showed kindness and grace to the Woman at the well. He instructed the disciples that if they were met with contempt or Hostility upon sharing the Good News, they were to shake the dust off their feet and leave. Not yell and express their disgust or disdain, because God will do the judging. “Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.” Romans 13 :10
It is not easily angered or irritable. Love does not go into a fit of rage and exact justice. Cain is the example of envy, pride, and rage. Cain was the first son of the Earth. Jesus was the first son of Heaven. Cain flew into a hateful rage and killed his brother. He was warned to watch out for evil, to resist it, so that it would not control him. Jesus showed us how to be the heavenly son. Jesus displayed great meekness in the face of Satan, the Sanhedrin, the mocking crowds. He had great control of His power. We too are not powerless. Jesus knew His boundaries
8 ““The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.””
He knew where His authority began and ended. We are to be aware of ours too. The scriptures says be angry and do not sin. This is righteous anger. This is the anger that is tempered by wisdom. It forces you to go to the Lord for wisdom and self control.
“Where there is strife jealousy anger unholy rivalry hatred grudges it can only mean one thing: The absence of Gods presence.” - Unknown
Keep yourself in God’s presence through the Holy Spirit. When you are wronged approach the situation by giving the benefit of the doubt first, especially if you do not know 100%, This keeps a situation from getting out of control and your response will be tempered with love. We want love to be our first hand emotion, not our second hand emotion when responding to offenses. And love keeps no record of doing wrong??? But I do. As far as the East is from the west is how far he has removed our transgressions from us. On the cross He asks God to forgive the Jews who nailed Him there. He will not hold them accountable for His death, it had to happen, but they will be accountable for their unbelief. God has not given us the ability to forget, but He does give us the strength to forgive. We may never forget the transgression but if we forgive, we are not to keep that in the ledger.
When people do evil things, we cannot forget. That’s self-preservation, that’s keeping others safe from dangerous people. However, we are not to stew and ruminate and re-count the transgressions.
“Love prospers when a fault is forgiven but dwelling on it separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9 NLT
It does not rejoice about injustice (evil) but rejoices when the truth wins out. Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Jesus speaks truth- honesty is loving. When there is sin to be addressed it can be done in a loving manner. From the moment Nicole asked me to teach this study I have been tested. I have had 3 great tests in this. Each test has taught me to respond better than the last. The third test came just this weekend. I could have easily flown off the handle on the last one. But by God’s grace I was able to respond firmly but lovingly. Sometimes we must just address the truth of the matter. When truth wins out, it makes a way for repentance and reconciliation to God. That is worth rejoicing over.
9 8Love never fails. Love never fails… People fail us. I fail, you fail yourself. Jesus never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away Ultimately, even the things done in the name of Christ will fail, will cease, will vanish away. Because this world will vanish in the end and be made new. The gifts are not the important thing, but the manner in which they are expressed is. Love is the method of communication. It brings more comfort than prophecy, speaks louder than words, and it brings understanding to the mind that cannot be explained by knowledge.
. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. 11When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
We do not understand everything, every motivation of people, every motivation in our own hearts. We grasp at straws when we are hurt or suffering, or when we hurt others. We cannot understand evil, because we only know in part. We cannot fully understand love, because we know in part. Just this morning my husbands uncle came over to re-hash a discussion about dinosaurs, in the bible, as I was reviewing this study. The timing was perfect, albeit a bit annoying. Because these things are unimportant, they are vanity in light of the knowledge we will obtain when we see him face to face. All things will be made known.
13And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Faith, Hope and Love Faith is bolstered by looking back Hope is encouraged by looking forward 10 But Love is for the present, therefore it is of most importance because it affects others. It fulfills the second half of the great commandment; to love others. 1 Corinthians 16:14 Puts all this so succinctly: Do everything in Love