The Characteristics of Love: Part 2

Last week, we began looking at the characteristics of love which is described for us in 1 Cor. 13:4-7. Paul although describing the virtue itself, personifies love, thereby creating an image in the minds of his readers of that none other than Christ Himself. Christ embodied everything that love is and as Christians we are called to do the same if we have any hope of achieving unity, peace, encouragement and salvation. So, what else does Paul say that love is?

1. Love does not envy (is not jealous)

This word properly means to be “zealous” for or against any person or thing. It is used often in a good sense but it can be used in a bad sense such as to envy someone. Envy is the feeling of uneasiness, mortification, or discontent at the sight of superior happiness, excellence or reputation enjoyed by another. This may remind us of the story of Joseph in which his brothers plotted to kill him because of their jealousy and envy. We may also think of Jesus who was handed over by the Pharisees to Pilate because of envy (Matt. 27:18). There are many more than just these but they show us what envy looks like and it is not good! It leads to hatred, strife and even death. Envy is not becoming of God’s people and we should not have this kind of attitude toward anyone and that includes even our enemies. We ought to instead rejoice in the happiness and blessings of others and look to God to correct this problem if we struggle with it. 

2. Love does not brag, is not prideful 

The idea that Paul seeks to convey by the use of this word is that of boasting, vaunting or parading oneself. To brag and be prideful is to put oneself on full display without thinking about the well-being of others who may require attention themselves (and perhaps far more than us). This Greek word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. This is the individual who walks into an atmosphere of people and demands that all undivided attention be placed on them because the world revolves around them. The person who is boastful may cultivate an attitude that seeks to put others down while elevating themselves at their expense. 

The bible records a story for us told by Jesus in Lk. 18:9-14 in which two men went to the temple to pray. The first man, a Pharisee, prayed to God expressing how good he was and how much better he was than the other man who was a tax collector. The bible tells us explicitly that God will humble those kinds of people especially if they believe they have His approval. Earlier in the 1stletter to the Corinthians, Paul stated that if any man should boast, let him boast in the Lord (1 Cor. 1:31). If anyone feels an earnest desire to boast or to be prideful about something then by all means, we can exert such an attitude but it has to be about Jesus and what He has done for us and for all men. There is truly nothing else in this life that we can elevate and brag about more than the cross of Christ. That has God’s approval but it also stems from love and having an understanding of what it truly means to be a Christian, a follower of Christ. 

If there is someone who struggles with bragging and pride, turning to Jesus and incorporating love into our lives would correct this problem. There is no such thing as person who is both prideful and loving at the same time. We can only be one or the other. Lord willing, next week, we will continue to delve into the characteristics of love. In the meantime, may we all strive to be more like Christ and to give way to more love in our lives.