Excerpt from NIV Application Commentary: 1 Corinthians [eBook] by Craig Blomberg.
Jesus, Love Incarnate
It has often been observed that one could substitute the word "Jesus" for "love" throughout [1 Corinthians 13:4–7. That would look like this:
Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind. He does not envy, he does not boast, he is not proud. He does not dishonor others, he is not self-seeking, he is not easily angered, he keeps no record of wrongs. Jesus does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.]
Indeed, as the only sinless person in human history, [Jesus] provides the perfect model for helping us to understand what patience, kindness, lack of envy, and so on, are. In so doing, we also guard against misinterpreting these attributes. If Jesus was all-loving, but could clear the temple in righteous indignation (Mark 11:15–18) or unleash a torrential invective against the hypocrisy of the conservative religious leaders of his day (Matt. 23), then our concept of love must leave room for similar actions.
When I turn off suffering for the sake of my pleasure, I turn it off too soon. -Lewis Smedes
Lewis Smedes outlines this approach in his excellent study of [1 Corinthians 13]. Among other insights, he notes that God has limits to his patience, and so must we, but "when I turn off suffering for the sake of my pleasure, I turn it off too soon" [Lewis B. Smedes, Love Within Limits]. Neither does patience include the toleration of evil. Kindness is both intelligent and tough; "without wisdom and honesty," it "easily becomes mere pity, bound to hurt more people than it helps." [Ibid.]
Agape transcends jealousy without destroying it; it is right, for example, to be upset when someone runs off with your spouse! "Love does not move us to seek justice for ourselves," but it should "drive us to move heaven and earth to seek justice for others." [Ibid.]
Agape does not disguise or unleash anger; it does not remove irritants from our lives or reduce irritability by forbidding anger. Rather it meets our deepest needs, enabling us to respond differently to enraging circumstances, reduces the potential for frustration, gives us the power to communicate anger appropriately, and increases our gratitude for the way God has worked in our lives.
1 Cor. 13:13 on a German church: "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
Our Need for Christ-like Love
Kindness is both intelligent and tough…
In an age in which demanding one's rights is considered a virtue, we must read again and again that love "is not self-seeking" (v. 5). At the same time, when we understand love's limits, we will avoid co-dependency. The most loving thing to do for the repeatedly abusive, perennially alcoholic husband is not to cover-up for him or to believe his empty promises of reform, but to insist that he seek professional help and to refuse to carry on with "business as usual" if he does not. [See especially Margaret J. Rinck, Can Christians Love Too Much?]
Did You Know Love Directs Our History?
So long as we live between Christ's first and second comings, between the inauguration and the consummation of God's kingdom or reign, we should maintain a realistic optimism about our potential, through the Spirit, to love our neighbors and create good in our world.
We can believe that history is going somewhere, whether or not the pundits who constantly revise their interpretations of prophecy to fit current events are right that this is the final generation. We can believe that the bleak events of our contemporary world — warfare, famine, ecological disaster or anti-Christian hostility — have their God-ordained limits. We can cautiously hope, pray, and work for the implementing of God's standards in society, realizing that sometimes we will fail and other times we will succeed…
We look forward to the ultimate triumph, after Christ's return, of the power of God in the love of Christ.
Learn more about NIV Application Commentary: 1 Corinthians eBook
Question for Discussion: What is a common way we are tempted to "delight in evil"?
And what is one way we can "delight in truth" instead?
- Adam Forrest, Zondervan
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