But Have Not Love (13:1-3)
Lots of good things can be done without love. Even the things that Paul just referenced as “higher gifts (I Cor 12:31)” can be done without love – teaching, deep spiritual understanding, and sacrificial giving. Again, we are reminded that God is not impressed with mere outward performance. Unfortunately, much to our defensiveness, others can often see through and fail to be satisfied with our just doing/saying the right thing.
Based on Paul’s words, not even the degree or extravagance of our actions can verify that our actions are rooted in love. What more could we do than is listed in verses 1-3? One (not the only) good indicator of love is that it does not need a particular response in order to be satisfied. Love enjoys being a blessing. Appreciation, affection, and recognition are nice, but they are the icing not the cake. It is this lack of “neediness” that allows genuine love to resist the tendency to become codependent. If love “needs” a particular response it will go further than wisdom permits to obtain its desire and then grow resentful or self-abasing.
Reflection: How have you tended to measure or verify genuine love? What criteria would you use? How have you learned to meet your own standard and grown unduly dependant upon others meeting that same standard? How has that distorted view of love caused you to extend beyond the limits of wisdom? When and with whom does your view of love fight against wisdom? Remember, when Jesus came He was full of truth and grace (John 1:14), so whatever tension we experience between love and wisdom reveals an error in our definitions.
Marriage Communication Tool
The following communication tool uses I Corinthians 13, a Kleenex box, and a bit of intentionality to create playful and encouraging marital enrichment exercise. BCH_kleenexbox_ABC for the PDF instructions published by the Association of Biblical Counselors (www.christiancounseling.com).
When I Was a Child (13:11)
Paul moves from “love never ends” to a discussion of eternity. This discussion is rooted in humility (we only know in part, prophecy in part, and see in a mirror dimly). One implication we can draw from this is that love knows its limits. As Paul said earlier “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up (I Cor 8:1).” When we love well we do not assume we know. We ask questions. Even when we think we know, we assume we only see in a mirror dimly.
Children speak before they think, and usually it’s cute what they think they know. When adults speak before they listen well, it is usually quite hurtful and offensive. We honor one another (a partial synonym for love) by allowing them to put their thoughts into their own words and seeking to understand what they meant by what they said. When we get offended because we assume what we felt when someone spoke is what they meant we are childishly “high jacking” their words.
Application: Understanding is not the same thing as agreeing. When we forget this communication becomes very juvenile. Adults who love one another begin cutting one another off, telling each other what the other person is thinking, and resorting to increasingly immature tactics to get their point across or hurting the other person. When we “put childish things away” and remember that understanding and agreeing are different things, we can listen well. By honoring with our ears first (using our mind to understand and showing a patient body language) we can fairly represent what the other person says. Only when we represent the other person fairly will they believe we are disagreeing with what they actually said (if we still disagree with them). Remember, love is patient and kind… it is not rude… irritable, or resentful.
Praying I Corinthians 13
(BCH_1Cor_13_handout for Printable PDF Handout)
There is great value in praying Scripture. We are more assured that our prayers are in the will of God. We are learning, reinforcing, and applying Scripture as we pray. What follows is a guide to help you pray I Corinthians 13:4-8.
I know that it is not natural for me to love in the way you call me to love. It is only by your grace and strength that I will ever succeed. But I also know that relational joy and peace are only found in emulating You. Show what I need to pray and how I need to grow.
Love is patient [list the things that most naturally annoy you and ask for God to help you see them as He views them] and kind [list your characteristic harsh phrases, repent, and meditate on reasonable loving responses]; love does not envy or boast [list the people you are competing with as you envy and boast, forsake this false standard of worth and righteousness, and ask God for ways to be a blessing instead]; it is not arrogant [remember that anything we boast over is a gift from God that we did not earn and allow your arrogance to become gratitude] or rude [ask God to give you ways to serve those you demeaned by your words and actions, thereby correcting your view of them and yourself]. It does not insist on its own way [list times/things about which you are compulsive or demanding, ask God to show you how they have become your identity or idols, repent, and look for opportunities to lovingly surrender them]; it is not irritable or resentful [ask God to remind you of times when you have confused your preferences with His law, pray for the courage to go back and humbly acknowledge your distortion]; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing [repent for times when you thought sin was cute, funny, or entertaining], but rejoices with the truth [pray God would excite you about His Word, integrity, and faithfulness]. Love bears all things [pray for perseverance in the midst of your current struggles], believes all things [pray for the courage to give the “benefit of the doubt” when it feels risky], hopes all things [pray for steadfastness in those areas or with those people you want to give up on], endures all things [pray for the willingness to continue loving wisely when you cannot change someone]. Love never ends [commit to God to pray through this passage regularly as you seek to love like He loves; thank God that He does perfectly everything you just struggled to pray].