The word “love” might bring to mind a familiar phrase:
Love is patient, love is kind …
On one popular TV trivia show, the contestants couldn’t name the book of the Bible where these verses are written, but they recognized the words.
Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres …
Many have heard these verses recited in wedding ceremonies or seen them written on Valentine’s Day cards. And they are found in 1 Corinthians 13, often called the “love chapter” of the Bible.
Love never fails …
At a certain point, some might say 1 Corinthians 13 has been quoted too much, which can cause words to lose their meaning. People might think, “Yeah, yeah, ok. ‘Faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.’ I know. I’ve heard it all before.”
Others have heard someone say, “I love you,” but a happy ending didn’t follow. For some, the word “love” has been exhausted. That’s because if we read or speak beautiful words about love again and again, but do not do it with intention or understanding, then the words begin to sound like empty statements.
A better way to say that is, “If I speak in the languages of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1, NIV).
In fact, 1 Corinthians 13 teaches that people must connect to love, specifically the love of God, in order to live meaningful lives.
CONNECTING TO THE SOURCE
Valentine’s Day brings good news because–whether single, married, divorced, separated, or any other sort of status–people can connect to the best kind of love, God’s love. And Valentine’s Day recognizes a holiday of taking time to show affection, to bring a little more meaning into everyday actions.
Instead of mentioning romance in 1 Corinthians 13, the great love chapter teaches about the love of God: agape love, everlasting love, unconditional love, unselfish love. God’s love is wide open. His love is available to any people who will yield their hearts and lives to Him.
On one popular reality TV show, a single man meets several single women. As he gets to know them a little better, he eliminates the women he is not interested in. Sounds cruel, right? It is. But it’s all done in the name of “love”–and entertainment.
As the women on the show are publicly rejected, one by one, they feel awful. One woman expressed her hopelessness, saying, “If I could have opened myself up to him, I think, if he saw the real me, he would definitely reconsider.”
Another thought if she were more beautiful or charming, then he would have chosen her.
“I tried, and it just wasn’t enough,” she said. In romance, many times, heartbreak comes before lasting love.
But God does not line people up, inspect them, and then reject the ones He doesn’t like because that is not what real love does. Sometimes cultural expressions and ideas about love are so cheap that it’s almost impossible to fathom, in contrast, the wonderful extent of God’s love.
The Bible confirms this, saying, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
God knows people very well, and He loves us. He knows the strengths and weaknesses, the secret sins and personal joys. God desires to save us from ourselves. His love gives us a second chance, and really, more chances than we deserve.
Billy Graham says, “No matter what sin you have committed, no matter how dirty, shameful or terrible it may be, God loves you. You may be at the very gate of hell itself, but God loves you with an everlasting love.”
GOD IS … WHAT?
The Bible teaches that God is love.
In the language of mathematics, that means God = love. In the language of teenagers, it means that God is, like, totally all about love. In a philosophical sense, God is so wrapped up in love that He is one with love itself.
Unlike a lovesick admirer, God does not simply profess His love in words. God proves His love in action. The Bible says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Jesus Christ’s sacrifice represents the ultimate act of love because it shows God’s grace. Christ is not just a good person who did good things for people and then was willing to die for His actions. Christ died in order to bring people closer to God.
Billy Graham says, “The fact that God is love does not mean that everything is sweet, beautiful and happy and that God’s love could not possibly allow punishment for sin. God’s holiness demands that all sin be punished, but God’s love provided a plan of redemption and salvation for sinful people. God’s love provided the cross of Jesus Christ by which we can have forgiveness and cleansing.”
Besides, what good is it to die for someone if the act accomplishes nothing? Or if the motives are impure? The Bible says, “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3).
In speaking of love, 1 Corinthians 13 challenges people to do everything out of love, specifically the kind of love that God has shown through Jesus. Love is the motive. That means loving friends, enemies, neighbors, co-workers, spouses, children, parents, and even strangers with the merciful and selfless love that comes from God.
What a great challenge! There should be a holiday that celebrates love. Oh, and there is. But while Valentine’s Day focuses, for the most part, on romantic love, people can be sure that there’s so much more to that dreaded four-letter word. There’s a lifetime of days to connect to God, the Source of love, who teaches us, by example, to love with patience, faith, generosity, wisdom, and grace.
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
If I speak in the languages of men and of angels,
but have not love,
I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I have the gift of prophecy
and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge,
and if I have a faith that can move mountains,
but have not love, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor
and surrender my body to the flames,
but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, 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.
But where there are prophecies, they will cease;
where there are tongues, they will be stilled;
where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
When I was a child, I talked like a child,
I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror;
then we shall see face to face.
Now I know in part; then I shall know fully,
even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.