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  • Jim Odens

Love in Action (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant ⁵or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; ⁶it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. ⁷Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. —1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Love—it is a more excellent way of living than even the exercise of the most spectacular and valuable abilities the Holy Spirit grants to God’s people (1 Corinthians 12:28-31). Love makes an accomplishment worthwhile, a person somebody, a venture truly profitable (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

Therefore, it's vital to have a good grasp of what love is. For this, consider the perfect, exemplary love of God, who is love. His love teaches us that genuine love moves to proactively, graciously, and sacrificially act for the good of another.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 describes what such love looks like in practice. It does so by relating what love will and won’t do—all for the good of those who are loved.

One important detail to note: every depiction of love found here was originally written as an active verb, not as a state of being. It's helpful for us to consider the implications by rephrasing the statements of our text.

  1. Love practices forbearance—taking a long time before getting heated about something, just like God does. (Psalm 103:8)

  2. Love demonstrates kindness—just like God does. (Titus 3:4-5)

  3. Love refuses to envy—neither coveting what others have nor begrudging that they have what I don’t.

  4. Love refuses to praise oneself.

  5. Love refuses to puff oneself up—whether against God by ignoring His will, or against others in thinking we are better than they are.

  6. Love refuses to act dishonorably—being courteous and considerate toward everyone.

  7. Love refuses to seek its own advancement—readily giving up what one is entitled to for the sake of others.

  8. Love refuses to be provoked—resisting the urge to be easily annoyed or exasperated.

  9. Love refuses to hold a grudge—not keeping account of wrongs that have been suffered.

  10. Love refuses to take pleasure in unrighteousness—will not laugh at off-color jokes, be intrigued by gossip, or be glad when human revenge is exercised.

  11. Love rejoices with the truth—delighting in God’s Word and joyfully practicing honesty, truthfulness, and faithful obedience to the Lord.

  12. Love always bears up in difficulties—just like Jesus did for the sake of those He loved.

  13. Love always trusts—trusts the Lord completely, and is open and accepting of others, rather than being suspicious and cynical.

  14. Love always hopes—clinging to the certainty that God’s promises will be fulfilled, no matter how dark the situation may be.

  15. Love always endures—rather than running away from hard experiences in life. (Romans 8:35-39)

Are you feeling like a failure at loving? Believe me, I understand. That feeling should lead us to is the cross of Jesus, where forgiveness can be found. Then, after going there, come back to 1 Corinthians 13 and remember that this was written not to condemn, but to guide us in the exercise of love—the very thing the Holy Spirit enables us to do.


For Reflection

  1. What promise(s) can you cling to today as you trust, hope, and endure in love?

  2. After reflecting on the kindness of God toward yourself, think of two ways to show kindness in love to the people you will see today.

  3. What opportunity will you have today to practice loving forbearance?


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