1 Corinthians 13:4-5
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Here we have a continuation of the 1 Corinthians 13 and the “attributes” of love that Paul enumerates. We often hear this passage quoted at weddings as we observe “how” love should conduct or manifest itself in practical ways. In the context of the marriage relationship, these points are great advice to anyone; however, I want to remind you that the context here is not romantic love. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul wrote about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He spoke about their manifestation; their purpose in edifying the church; and how the Holy Spirit determines what gifts and to whom they are distributed to the “common good”. He then stipulated that the diversity of gifts was supposed to have a unifying effect among believers in the Body of Christ.
I believe that it is within that context we need to see these “attributes” of love through the lens of spiritual gifts and roles within the Church. Consider the theme of this passage in these terms:
Love is patient: Am I patient with other believers who have different gifts than mine? Am I patient with those who are weaker in faith? Do I get frustrated with others who do not have the spiritual knowledge that I have attained? I’m sure you can think of more questions; but the point here is the context for how we demonstrate love through an attitude of patience and longsuffering with other believers.
Love is kind: How do I show kindness to other believers at church? Do I greet them? Do I show interest in their lives? Do I listen to them in order to find ways to show support and encouragement?
Love is not envious: Am I jealous of other people and their gifts of the Spirit? Do I covet gifts that others have because I am not content with the gift(s) distributed to me?
Love is not boastful: Do I boast in the spiritual gifts that the Spirit has given me? Do I show an attitude of superiority over other people and their gifts of the Spirit? Do I consider my spiritual gifts more important or valuable than the gifts exercised by other believers in the Church?
Love is not proud: See questions to 4 above…. Am I condescending towards others when operating within my spiritual giftings?
Love does not dishonor others: Wow! Think about this one…. Have we exercised our gifts in ways that disrespect other people? Make them feel lower or inferior? Are we sensitive to whether a person would be receptive to our exercising our gifts … or perceiving them as offensive?
Love is not self-seeking: How many of us self-evaluate our motives when operating in the Spirit … especially within the context of the Church? Are we trying to draw attention to ourselves and our spiritual piety?
Love is not easily angered: I’m not sure about the application of this one. It is hard for me to imagine someone exercising a spiritual gift in an angry manner. But I suppose that could the case in question. Do I get angry with others who do not accept my exercise of spiritual gifts? Do I get angry with those who believe the gifts of the Spirit were for the Apostolic Age and not for modern times? I think this attribute is connected closely with patience and longsuffering….
Love keeps no record of wrongs: Forgive and forget! The term used here is an accounting term. Do you keep an accounting of all the times you have been offended by other believers? Are you offended when other believers exercise their gifts? Do you feel slighted?
I believe the point Paul was trying to make here is that LOVE is the most excellent way to exercise your spiritual gifts. In other words, when operating in your spiritual gifting(s), is love for others your overriding motivation for doing so? When you exercise gifts of the Spirit, is your aim to edify the Church? Spiritual gifts are not for our personal benefit or enjoyment. God is not giving us His divine power for our own privilege or private edification. They are GIVEN to use for the common good … just as roles or positions of spiritual leadership were GIVEN by Jesus Himself to the Body of Christ for equipping us for works of service and the building of His Church for the purpose of unity of faith. (Cf. Ephesians 4:11-13) For any of us to exercise our gifts or roles without love for one another is “worthless” according to Paul. It will profit you and I nothing of eternal value … and it will certainly not facilitate unity within the Body of Christ. Do you have a gift or talent that you recognize in yourself? Do you share it? Do you share it for the benefit of others? Do you share it because you love other people … especially those of the household of faith? Consider this thought: God is love. So everything He does is done so in love. Should not we who God created in Christ Jesus (in His image) do good works in love as well?
While these attributes or qualities define how love should operate within any relational context; I hope that we will look at them in the specific context of spiritual gifts. Remember, your gifts and mine were determined by the Holy Spirit … distributed by the Holy Spirit … and given to us for the sole purpose of ministry to the Body of Christ and to a lost world. There is no other practical or valuable purpose for them being exercised except for the glory of God and His Kingdom. To think otherwise is … well … unloving as Paul would characterize it. To me this teaching goes hand in hand with what Paul wrote in Romans 12:1 – that we should offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – as this is our true and proper worship. Offering ourselves through our spiritual gifts for the benefit of the Church is a sacrificial act … and it can be a humble demonstration of our love for God and one another….
Well, I’m not sure if I have conveyed my thoughts very well. I hope, at least, that I have stirred your thoughts on this popular chapter of Scripture and challenged you with a different context in which to evaluate the sincere demonstration of your love for others. I pray we will all exercise our spiritual gifts for the common good; motivated by the excellence of love for the glory of God.