FIFTEEN TRAITS OF DIVINE LOVE
Last week we wrote about four different words in the Greek of New Testament times by which the word “love” is translated in our English versions of the New Testament. The highest form of love is expressed by the word agape, a word indicating a deliberate choice of the will. By agápe one can love even someone he does not like and by such love one can and should desire and seek the best interest of all other people. It is with this kind of love that we are love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, and mind and our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). It is this kind of love that husbands and wives are to have for each other (Ephesians 5:25-29; Titus 2:3-4) and the kind of love we are to have even for our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48).
In I Corinthians 13 the apostles Paul gives a beautiful description of agápe. These set forth the behavior of a person who is characterized by such love. (We will use the New King James Version to set forth these traits, with comparisons to other English versions to help in better understanding some of the qualities). Fifteen traits are listed. Love…
1. Suffers long. It is patient (NASB; NIV). A person of genuine love is willing to endure and put up with a lot.
2. Is kind. It is good-natured, gentle, affectionate, and tender.
3. Does not envy. Love is not jealous (NASB). It does not have negative feelings toward the good fortune or success of others.
4. Does not parade itself. It does not brag (NASB) or boast (NIV). A person of true Christian love does not have to be the center of attention or make a “show off” of himself or herself.
5. Is not puffed up. Love is not arrogant (NASB) or proud (NIV). As David Lipscomb observed, “It does not engage in an inflated opinion of itself” (Commentary on First Corinthians, p. 197).
6. Does not behave rudely. Love is not ill-mannered, neither does it act unbecomingly (NASB). As my wife often says, “A person of love is not rude, crude, or lewd.”
7. Does not seek its own. Love is not selfish, self-centered, or self-seeking (NIV). A person of love is concerned about the good and happiness of others above his/her own selfish desires. In this sense, love is always sacrificing for others.
8. Is not provoked. Here I must admit a little favor for the King James Version because it says, “Not easily provoked,” giving me a little “wiggle room” with people who do sometimes provoke, irritate, and aggravate me. The meaning however is that person of real love does not readily take offence or is easily angered.
9. Thinks no evil. Love “does not take into account a wrong suffered” (NASB). “It keeps no record of wrongs” (NIV). “It does not surmise evil and put the worst construction on the action of others” (Lipscomb).
10. Does not rejoice in iniquity. It does not delight in evil (NIV). Unlike those who approve of the wicked deeds of others (Romans 1:32), the person of genuine love does not find joy in wrong doing, whether in word or deed. As righteous Lot was oppressed with the filthy conduct of the wicked citizens of Sodom (II Peter 2:6-8), so a person of love today is vexed by the ungodliness of wicked people. A person of true love does not laugh at sin!
11. Rejoices in the truth. Love is happy at the triumph of truth. It loves to see the truth of the gospel being advanced. A person of love rejoices to see people “walking in truth” (II John 4), rather than in error.
12. Bears all things. Love “always protects” (NIV). “It does not lay bare and expose to public gaze the infirmities and wrongs of the erring and those led into sin” (Lipscomb). Instead, genuine Christian love “will cover a multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8).
13. Believes all things. This does not mean that love is gullible and believes everything that “comes down the pike,” but it means that a person of love is slow to believe the worst about others.
14. Hopes all things. Love looks for and optimistically expects the best in all people and in all situations.
15. Endures all things. It always perseveres (NIV). Love is not driven from the path of right regardless of the actions of others. The person of love never says, “Look what you made me do.”
Paul concludes his divine description of agape by affirming that “Love never fails” (verse 8a). Unlike the miraculous gifts of the apostolic age which served a special purpose, were temporary, and then passed away (verses 8b-10), faith, hope, and love continue to abide, with the greatest of these being love (verse 13).
Now go back and read this list of divine traits again. Instead of using the word “love,” put your name in its place and ask yourself, “Do I possess this trait?” Such will tell you much about whether or not you are a person of genuine Christian love.
May 11, 2021