I woke up this morning exegeting the love chapter, and I was anxious to get to the text to find out if I was getting it right.
My thought was that many of the things that Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13 actually go against the grain of conventional wisdom about love. Our songs and poems celebrate something different than what he described.
less about passion, more about maturity
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways (11).
The love we have celebrated this month is driven by youthful passion. The love Paul urges upon the believers in Corinth has put away the passions of youth and is able to make deliberate decisions about how it performs.
Our world is upside down when it thinks about love. It talks about “adult movies” and films for “mature audiences” when in fact the those things feed on the most childish passion driven things in our nature. Paul tells us that true love is not passion driven.
The context of 1 Corinthians 13 is spiritual gifts – notably how the Corinthians were abusing those gifts by forcing them down each others’ throats. He was trying to get the Corinthians to act more loving with regard to their ministry. He wanted them to be more mature, less passion driven.
less about doing, more about being
Another surprising lesson we find here is that love describes a person’s heart not his hands. It is demonstrated by works, but cannot be reduced to works. In fact, you can do all those works that the world recognizes as spiritual, and yet still not have love, and all those works will be useless.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing (1-3).
Love is a reflection of who we have become because God’s Holy Spirit has changed our character. It cannot be quantified by how much time or money you choose to spend on the beloved. There is nothing wrong with spending time or money, or even giving of ourselves sacrificially for the ones we love. But those are acts of love. They demonstrate love, but they do not define it.
less about possession, more about surrender
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 (4-6).
Our culture continues to play with the concept of love as a dominating force. It is something that you fall into and out of. It is the result of an enemy’s weapon (cupid’s arrow) and now someone owns you. You are forced to want them against your better judgment. The passion rules now, and if it ever lessens, you will break free and be yourself again.
The truth about love is that we choose to love. We willfully surrender the selfish part of our nature, and we do so not under compulsion, but out of joy. We realize that our true happiness is never going to come from owning things or people. It will only come from choosing to surrender self and becoming the answer to someone else’s needs and desires.
One of the most ridiculous things people have ever said about love is that it means never having to say you are sorry. What a crock of bull feathers! Love means constantly apologizing, changing, adjusting because you do not want to hurt or keep hurting your beloved. It is a lifetime of saying “I’m sorry, I did not want to hurt you.” It willfully surrenders the self with its envy, boasting, rudeness, and its getting its own way.
LORD, help us to demonstrate true love to a world lost in selfishness and immaturity.