How Love Behaves
(According to I Corinthians 13)
by Al Maxey
"God is love" (I John 4:8, 16). "Love is from God" (I John 4:7). "His love is perfected in us" (I John 4:12). "Perfect love casts out fear" (I John 4:18). "The one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.....He has given us of His Spirit" (I John 4:16, 13). "The fruit of the Spirit is love....." (Gal. 5:22). "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another!" (John 13:34-35). "And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also" (I John 4:21). "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death" (I John 3:14).
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets" (Matt. 22:37-40). "Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, 'You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,' and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the Law" (Rom. 13:8-10).
These passages should make it abundantly clear that love is essential. Essential not only to happiness, harmony, unity, and productiveness, but essential to salvation itself. "He who does not love abides in death!" (I John 3:14). John further states that the one who does not love his brother does not know God, does not possess the Spirit of God, and is a murderer and a liar! "Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" (I John 3:15).
"Hatred stirs up dissension (strife), but love covers over all wrongs" (Prov. 10:12). "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity" (times of stress, troubles)" (Prov. 17:17).
The Lord knew only too well that "an offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city" (Prov. 18:19)---some translations say, "harder to be won." Therefore, the need for love of one another! But how does this love behave itself; how does it act; how does it manifest itself in our daily attitudes and actions? The question is answered all through the Scriptures, but perhaps nowhere as impressively as in I Corinthians 13 --- "The Love Chapter." Notice the ways in which Paul describes love behaving:
#1 -- It is the great motivator (vs. 1-3) --- Nothing we do, no matter how noble and good, is of any profit if it is not done in love! It may well be the spiritual fruit of love that Jesus is speaking of in Matt. 7:15-23 (and the lack thereof).
#2 -- It is patient (vs. 4) --- This is the Greek word makrothumeo which means "to be even-tempered; long-suffering; to exercise patience toward; to bear long with." The apostle Paul writes, "And we urge you, brethren.....be patient with all men.....seeking after that which is good for one another" (I Thess. 5:14-15). This word is also listed as one of the evidences of a Spirit-filled servant of God (II Cor. 6:6); as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22); as an evidence of walking worthily (Eph. 4:2); as an evidence of having been chosen by God (Col. 3:12); and as a condition for inheriting the promises of God (Heb. 6:12).
#3 -- It is kind (vs. 4) --- Chresteuomai is the Greek word Paul uses here. It means "to be kind; goodness and graciousness of heart; a gentle spirit." One commentator translates this phrase: "Love is mellow." It is listed as one of the evidences of a Spirit-filled servant of God (II Cor. 6:6); as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22); and as an evidence of having been chosen by God (Col. 3:12). "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you" (Eph. 4:32). See also Luke 6:27-38 (especially vs. 35).
#4 -- It is not jealous (vs. 4) --- This is the Greek word zeloo. It means "to be jealous, envious, spiteful." It comes from a root word which signifies "to boil over." "You are envious and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel" (James 4:2). "Let us behave properly.....not in strife and jealousy" (Rom. 13:13). It is a work of the flesh, not a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:20; I Cor. 3:3). It is earthly and demonic and leads to chaos (James 3:14-16).
#5 -- It does not brag (vs. 4) --- Paul here uses the Greek word perpereuomai, which means "to be a braggart; to boast; to elevate one's self or one's own accomplishments." One Greek Lexicon refers to such a one as a self-serving "windbag!" Love does not act in such a way as to call attention to itself or its deeds; love acts for love's sake, not for personal glory or reward! See: Matt. 6:1-4.
#6 -- It is not arrogant (vs. 4) --- This is the Greek word phusioo, which means "to be inflated; puffed up." It is used in the New Covenant writings to refer to those puffed up with pride. One is not to "think more highly of himself than he ought to think" (Rom. 12:3). Such puffing up is caused by a mind set on the flesh, rather than on Christ (Col. 2:18). Remember: Puffing himself up is what a bull-frog does just before he croaks!! An inflated ego can be disastrous, not only to yourself, but also to others. "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up" (I Cor. 8:1).
#7 -- It does not act unbecomingly (vs. 5) --- Aschemoneo is the Greek word employed here. It means "to behave in an unbecoming manner; unseemly behavior; to behave disgracefully, dishonorably." It is living or behaving in such a way as to bring shame upon Christ, His church, or yourself. For such ones "the black darkness has been reserved forever" (Jude 13).
#8 -- It does not seek its own (vs. 5) --- The NIV renders this phrase: "It is not self-seeking." Love does not pursue its own self interests, it is more concerned with the needs of others. "Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification" (Rom. 15:2).
#9 -- It is not easily provoked (vs. 5) --- This is the Greek word paroxuno, which means "to stir up, irritate, rouse to anger; to incite one to fits of anger and sharp contention." "Enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions" are all works of the flesh (Gal. 5:20), and "those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (vs. 21). "A quick-tempered man does foolish things" (Prov. 14:29). "A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger pacifies contention" (Prov. 15:18). "A man's wisdom makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense" (Prov. 19:11). "Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared" (Prov. 22:24-25). "A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back" (Prov. 29:11). "An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man commits many sins" (Prov. 29:22).
#10 -- It keeps no record of wrongs (vs. 5) --- Paul used the Greek word logizomai here, which means "to count, calculate; to enumerate or set down as a matter of record; to list; to keep an accounting of." This could refer to either (a) wrongs one has suffered---as the NASB translates it, or (b) wrongs that another has committed. Genuine love does not keep a list of wrongs suffered or of the weaknesses, shortcomings, and failings of others. "A worthless man digs up evil" (Prov. 16:27), but "he who covers over an offense promotes love" (Prov. 17:9).
#11 -- It does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rather rejoices with the truth (vs. 6) --- Condemnation lies in store for those who refuse to live according to Truth, and who take some perverse delight in acts of unrighteousness (II Thess. 2:12). "Love does not seek to make itself distinctive by tracking down and pointing out what is wrong; it gladly sinks its own identity to rejoice with others at what is right" (C.K. Barrett, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 304).
#12 -- It bears all things (vs. 7) --- This is the Greek word stego, which means "to cover; to contain within (the noun form of this verb is "roof"); to protect, or preserve by covering; to keep off, or bear up against, something which threatens" (W.E.Vine, An Expository Dictionary of NT Words). The NIV translates this: "It always protects." "There is no limit to love's forbearance" (NAB, St. Joseph edition). "Love covers the faults of others rather than delighting in them" (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 10, p. 268). The Living Bible renders this phrase: "If you love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost." Love stands by the weak, and protects them, and strengthens them in spite of their weaknesses, and seeks to build them up (Rom. 15:1-2). As one commentator put it, "Love provides a place for others to fail and try again." A man who loves his wife does not broadcast her flaws and failings to the world, nor does he constantly remind her of them, rather he contains them within his love, and directs his heart toward her positive qualities. This is how the children of God should behave toward one another! "Men, you are brethren, why do you injure one another?!" (Acts 7:26).
#13 -- It believes all things (vs. 7) --- Paul uses the Greek word pisteuo here, which means "to believe; to have faith or confidence in; to trust" (W.E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words). When it appears in the form of an adjective, it is often translated "trustworthy." The NIV translates this phrase: "Always trusts." "There is no limit to love's trust" (NAB, St. Joseph edition). "Love refuses to yield to suspicions of doubt. The flesh is ready to believe all things about a brother and a fellow man in an evil sense. Love does the opposite, it is confident to the last" (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul's First & Second Epistles to the Corinthians, p. 560). Martin Luther says that love will prompt one to do the following for a brother: "Excuse him, speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything." "It is ever ready to believe the best of every person, and will credit no evil of any but on the most positive evidence; it gladly receives whatever may tend to the advantage of any person whose character may have suffered from the verbal abuse of another" (Adam Clarke's Commentary, Vol. 6, p. 270).
#14 -- It hopes all things (vs. 7) --- This is the Greek word elpizo, which means "to hope; favorable & confident expectation; it is not infrequently translated by the verb 'to trust'" (W.E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words). "To repose hope and confidence in; to trust" (The Analytical Greek Lexicon). Love leads us to the point where we cast off pessimism and confidently expect only the best from one another; love trusts the other person to do his best and to do what is right. When we are devoted to one another in love, this "hope" leads us into rejoicing (Rom. 12:12). We "abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 15:13). This "hope" in one another must be "firmly grounded" (II Cor. 1:7).
#15 -- It endures all things (vs. 7) --- Paul uses the Greek word hupomeno, which means "patient endurance; to bear up under some load; to persevere courageously." "To remain instead of fleeing; to stand one's ground, hold out, endure in trouble, affliction & persecution" (Arndt & Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the NT and Other Early Christian Literature, p. 845). "And you will be hated by all on account of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved" (Matt. 10:22). "Most people's love will grow cold, but the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved" (Matt. 24:12-13). Those who are devoted to one another in brotherly love, persevere in the face of tribulation (Rom. 12:12). "Bear fruit with patient endurance" (Luke 8:15). "You will be hated.....but by your endurance you will gain your souls" (Luke 21:17, 19). "Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus.....For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart" (Heb. 12:1-3). (See also: Rom. 5:3-5; James 1:2-4; 5:11; II Peter 1:5-11). "The man 'endures' who, under a great siege of trials, bears up and does not lose heart and courage" (R.C. Trench). "Love bears up under all persecutions and mal-treatment from open enemies and professed friends; bearing these adversities with an even mind, and trusting in God" (Adam Clarke's Commentary, Vol. 6, p. 270).
#16 -- It never fails (vs. 8) --- This is the Greek word pipto, which means "to fall; to fail; to fall into ruins; to become null and void; to collapse into extinction." When our faith and our relationships are built on the solid foundation of love, they will never collapse! (See Matt. 7:24-27). "A house divided against itself falls" (Luke 11:17). "Love is the perfect bond of unity" (Col. 3:14); where love is, there can never be failure.....but where love is not, there can never be success!
Love is the greatest force in the universe (I Cor. 13:13). Indeed, "God IS love!!" (I John 4:8, 16). To be "born of God" and to "know God," we must love one another, for "love is from God" (I John 4:7). Before God will abide in us, we must abide in love (I John 4:16). To profess love for God, without showing love for one another, marks us as a liar (I John 4:20).
Love is critical; our salvation depends on it! Without love, we will never see God. Thus, Paul commands, "Pursue love" (I Cor. 14:1). This is the Greek word dioko, which means "to pursue after with a persecuting fervor or zeal; to rapidly & eagerly follow after."
Love is the fulfillment of all the Law. If there is any commandment, it is summed up by love for one another and love for God. It is by love that the world will know that we are truly the disciples of Christ. "The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him" (I John 2:9-10). "Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth" (I John 3:18). Therefore:
"We pursue love
when we set our hearts earnestly
to practice love"