Loving doesn’t always equate with pleasing. Love anyway!

Let's explore what godly love really means.

Love never fails. It may feel like you’ve fallen flat on your face sometimes, but true, godly love never fails. It perseveres through trials of all sorts. It speaks truth even when it hurts, but it does so with grace and a heart for the best interest of the other person.

The worldly view of loving someone is often equated with pleasing them. Not offending them. Not asking anything of them. Its a love of convenience; of unruffled feathers.

But that is not the way God loves and it isn’t how he calls us to love as his disciples. Godly love involves both truth and grace. And because of that, it won’t always mean the giver or the recipient will experience the act of giving and/or receiving godly loving as pleasant.

The classic words penned by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 are often read sentimentally. But if we will slow down and dig into the Scripture we will see he is calling us to something far more than a warm fuzzy feeling. He is calling us to love in self-sacrificing ways for the benefit of those we love.

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.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.1 Corinthians 12:4-8a

1 Corinthians 13_4-8NIV

Love is Patient

Patient in this context means exercising understanding and patience toward people.  It could also be translated as longsuffering or enduring patiently as opposed to hastily getting angry and being quick to punish.  One of my dictionaries also pointed out that it is a quality of a person who is able to avenge himself yet refrains from doing so.[1]

Love is kind

The word translated as kind carries with it a willingness to help or assist.  To be kind is to serve others and help them.

Love does not envy or boast

Envy means feeling discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, or possessions. In love, we rejoice when others do well.

When we boast, we speak with exaggeration and excessive pride, especially about ourselves. Godly love is humble. 

Love is not proud

The word proud in our language has both a positive and negative connotation.  Here the Greek is more like saying, “Love is not puffed up or arrogant.”

Love does not dishonor others

When we exercise godly agape love, we don’t behave in an ugly, indecent, unseemly or unbecoming manner.[2]

Love is not self-seeking

Worldly love is always striving for what is best for self.  Godly love is always striving for what is best for others.

Love is not easily angered

Now, please notice, this does not say that love never gets angry.  Anger is an appropriate response to a violation, but agape is not easily provoked to anger or indignation over little things.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

This is a trickier phrase to translate.  In the original it literally means to think no evil, but the words also can mean to take no account of the evil that is done to one.  The gist of this concept is not having one’s mind occupied with counting up the wrong that has been done to you.  That sounds to me like love doesn’t hold a grudge.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth.

The word for evil is a Greek word for injustice, what is out of harmony with what is right and true.”[3] Agape rejoices when the appearance of something agrees with the reality of it.  In other words, love has integrity.  It is not happy when there is injustice and unrighteousness but rejoices when right and truth prevail.

Love Always…

Now the next few are also a little bit tricky, but it helps to recognize Paul grouped the three together for a reason.

All three actions have to do with handling difficult situations or people.  It helps to understand these if we can see the interconnectedness of these qualities. Also, remember the ultimate focus and source of these qualities is God, not necessarily the object of our agape love.

Love always protects.  This phrase can be translated several different ways, each capturing a little of the original meaning.

Look at some various translations and see what I mean:

  • “Love quietly covers all things”[4];
  • “Love bears up under anything and everything that comes;”[5]
  • “love bears all things.”[6]
  • The literal translation is “all things covers quietly.”[7]

Now at first glance that may sound like love covers up wrongdoing, but since earlier in this passage (and elsewhere in Scripture) we are taught love is not happy when there is injustice but rejoices in integrity, we know that a cover-up of evil can’t be the meaning here.  It is more subtle than that.

It is more along the lines of love doesn’t drag someone’s faults out into the open and harp on them.  Agape addresses sin but deals with the sin in a manner which provides dignity and grace to the sinner while the sin is being dealt with.

Love always trusts, a word that can also be translated “has faith” or “believes”.  So you will see this phrase translated variously as:

  • “Love believes all things,”[8] or
  • “love is ever ready to believe the best of every person.”[9]

Obviously Paul is not saying that agape believes anything or is gullible because we’ve already seen how important truth is in the exercise of agape. I think it is more like, agape believes that in God all things are possible (see Matthew 19:26).

There is no situation or person beyond the ability of God to bring about change, healing and wholeness.  We can trust in all situations that our sovereign God is able to accomplish His will and purposes.

Love always hopes, or expects with desire[10].  Agape is living and loving expectantly.  It is expecting the desired outcome regardless of (or even in spite of) the circumstances.

Agape places its hope not in the circumstances but in God’s ability to bring to pass that which He has said He will accomplish and what is best for us and His kingdom purposes.

Love always perseveres.  Earlier, when we covered “love is patient” I pointed out the focus there was the kind of patience one exercises toward people. In this phrase, the concept of persevering has to do with the patience in the face of hard times.

Agape can persevere in the face of extraordinarily difficult circumstances because agape’s source of security and strength is God not the circumstances.

Now, it would be easy for this concept to get twisted with regard to how one exercises agape when the difficult circumstance one faces is an abusive relationship.  I want to clarify this concept by connecting it to something we discovered about agape earlier.

When we say that apape love endures difficult circumstances, I want to be clear I’m not saying that if one finds themselves in an abusive situation, agape calls for you to just take the abuse and endure it.

No! Remember all the other aspects of what agape does and is.  Abuse is out of harmony with the character and will of God.  As someone who has been in an abusive relationship, I know firsthand how much perseverance it takes to get out of that circumstance.

I strongly encourage you, if you or someone you know is in an abusive situation, please seek out the support and counsel of knowledgeable and capable people who can guide you with wisdom about how to handle and resolve that situation.

If someone tells you that this verse (or any other verse) means you should just endure it, seek wiser counsel!

So remember, agape can persevere in the face of extraordinarily difficult circumstances because agape’s source of security and strength is God not the circumstances.

Finally, love never fails.

The word translated as fails means love is never in vain. God’s kind of love never falls away or falls back in the face of opposition.[11]  Love stands its ground and the effort is never in vain or without effect. We may not see or experience the fruit of our loving action, but we can be assured that God will bring about a result.

That is who God is and how he acts out his love for YOU!  It is pretty awesome and amazing isn’t it?

Godly love is not just a sentimental Hallmark concept!

God’s nature and character are fully and completely expressed in this agape love that we’ve just described in detail.  When God acts, He acts out of who He is and that action is expressed through agape love.

And that love has tremendous power to change lives and circumstances! This is the love he commands us to show our neighbors.

Sources:

[1] (Complete Word Study Dictionary, New Testament, Zodhiates; p. 939)

[2] Complete Word Study Dictionary, New Testament, Zodhiates; p.284

[3] Complete Word Study Dictionary, New Testament, Zodhiates; p.84-85

[4] The Interlinear Bible, Green.

[5] Amplified Bible

[6] NRSV

[7] The Interlinear Bible, Green.

[8] NRSV

[9] Amplified Bible

[10] Complete Word Study Dictionary, New Testament, Zodhiates; p.570

[11] Complete Word Study Dictionary, New Testament, Zodhiates; p.551-552

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