Most, if not all, people spend their lives asking the question, “What is love?” What does it look like? What should it feel like? Should it feel like anything? Is love even real?
I believe that if we genuinely evaluated ourselves we would agree that love certainly exists. Cynicism blinds, hatred hardens, and hurt creates a callous but deep down we all know love is real.
With this in mind, I think that we get so caught up in figuring out what love is that we forget to ask “What is love not?”
This evening I’d like to dive into that question. We hinted at it last week in Part III but I Corinthians 13 and Paul begin digging deeper into this question of what love isn’t. In case you were wanting to know what love is before we dive in, here are the links to the previous parts of the series: Part I Part II
For context’s sake, let’s take a look at the verses we’ve covered so far:
“Love is patient, love is kind.
Love does not envy…”
I Corinthians 13:4a
It genuinely doesn’t seem like much but as you can see, it’s taken a full three weeks to unpack each characteristic. This kind of love isn’t in agreement with what the world prescribes. It’s counter-cultural in the fact that Jesus embodied this message and Paul preached it in times that were very much similar to ours. People of that day hated both men because of it, too!
Love, at its deepest roots, has always been motivated by our selfishness. We are naturally sinful people in need of Jesus’ kind of love. When we are transformed by this, we are then commanded to embody that very kind of action!
I’ve said it in posts previous but I’ll take a moment to remind those who may have forgotten or clarified for those who may be new:
Paul is writing this letter to Christians who are being persecuted and killed for their faith. He is calling them to love like Christ loves by being patient, kind, and content when others were persecuting them.
Sounds terrible, doesn’t it? Who would want to be patient with someone who hates me? Who would want to be kind to someone who is trying to kill me? Who would want to live with rags instead of riches? No one really wants to but Paul says there are more important things to pursue after.
Paul goes on to add two more imperative distinctives to what a godly love should isn’t:
“…is not boastful, is not conceited,” (13:4b)
The reason I pair those two together is simply because they are subsidiaries of the same character trait: pride.
Pride is a trait that every single one of us has no matter your personality. We all deal with this in some way, shape, or form and we can see itself manifest in this particular area most often.
The culture we live in today says that “love” is all about finding what you can, getting it all, and then trashing it if it doesn’t make you happy. Culture’s idea of love is very self-centered. Jesus, on the other hand, calls christian men and women to go against the grain of what the culture says on this topic.
In doing so, we must be humble and selfless. Have you ever met someone who spent the majority of their time bragging? What about someone who thought they were the best thing invented since sliced bread?
I’m sure we can all identify at least one person and if not, it probably means you are that person. 🙂
Seriously though, we’ve all run across this type of person and we’ve all been this kind of person at some point in our life. The truth of the matter is that boasting and bragging do not exhibit a selfless nature. They don’t put anyone else over yourself. This kind of self-centered love only exists to magnify one’s own existence.
If we’re honest, it’s downright ugly.
So, how do we change this kind of attitude? How do we deal with it when other people are exhibiting this kind of behavior?
1.) Only the Lord can change the deepest parts of your soul. You certainly have to be willing but you can’t do this alone. Take some time to pray to the Lord if this is something He’s convicting you on. He very much wants to make you like Himself so I guarantee this won’t be a prayer He says “no” to.
2.) In order to deal with this kind of behavior, it’s going to take a lot of patience and selfless love. Wisdom won’t hurt either. Keep in mind that you and this person are equals. Neither of you is above or below the other person. Our sin gives us equal ground to stand upon before God. Remember that you need Jesus just as much as the other.
3.) Practically speaking? I would say that becoming like this takes a lot of prayer and hard work. While we can’t do it on our own, we have a responsibility to discipline ourselves to act like this. Even when we don’t feel like it!
I would reckon that this is the most difficult aspect of becoming like Jesus. It goes against the grain of who we are and it doesn’t always feel good. That’s ok. There is always forgiveness found at the cross and God is always willing to make you more like Him.
Here are 3 quick takeaways from today:
1.) You can’t do it on your own. You need Jesus.
2.) If you’re feeling convicted, trust that God wants to work this in you. Go to Him and ask Him for help and then trust Him to do what He says He will do.
3.) If you’re dealing with this from someone else, spend time in prayer asking for wisdom. Even spend time praying for that person! Then, lovingly and selflessly approach the other person and confront them on it. Our responsibility as Christians is to lovingly help a brother or sister when we notice that they are living in sin. In other words, we’re supposed to judge our christian homies. Not out of arrogance but of love and compassion.
I’ve been learning quite a bit about this subject as I write on it. I’ve realized many different areas in my life where I struggle with this but I know that God is faithful. He can be trusted! Look to the Lord for your strength this week and practice what you’re learning.
If you’ll do that, I’ll practice what I’m preachin’. 😉
Have a great week and I’ll see you all tomorrow!