The Characteristics of Love: Part 3

Love is, indeed, one of the most prominent virtues of all time. Everyone has heard of love and many people have their own opinions of what love really is. And like everything else, we must define love based on the facts and the truth as opposed to opinions and feelings. Love cannot be defined any better than what Paul describes in 1 Cor. 13:4-7. The qualities laid out are best exemplified in Christ who is the very essence of love but we too can have this kind of love in our lives. For the past couple weeks we have been looking at the various characteristics of love. Today, we will continue to see what love is and what it isn’t. 

1. Love is not rude (act unbecomingly)

To say one is rude is to say that someone conducts them self improperly, disgracefully or unbecomingly. Love, on the other hand, seeks that which is proper or becoming in all the circumstances and relations of life in which we are placed. To behave like a gentleman or a lady is one and the same as behaving in accordance with love. We may think of a gentleman as someone who opens the door for other people or always has a smile on his face while complementing others and putting others above himself. We may think of a lady as someone who serves everyone else before herself and she conducts herself in the most humble and respectable manner possible. All these qualities are ultimately reflective of love and they are the opposite of insults, harm and violence. Love would never desire to be involved with those things and it is the antidote for the individual who struggles with behaving unbecomingly.  

2. Love does not seek its own

There is, perhaps, not a more striking or important expression in the New Testament than this. That love is self-less is abundantly clear given the life Jesus lived. Remember, He is the true essence of love. Not once did Jesus seek to put His needs over the needs of others. There are several times in the gospels in which Jesus sought some time for Himself but the multitudes followed Him and He had compassion on them and devoted time to their spiritual/physical needs. Now, this does not mean that one cannot look after his own interests. We certainly must look after our needs and the needs of our families but we must also ask ourselves if we are loving our neighbor too. To love means that Me, Myself and I no longer takes the pedestal but rather we must seek to glorify God first and to look after the well-being of our neighbors (Matt. 22:37-40; Phil. 2:3). 

3. Love is not irritable, provoked (resentful, thinks no evil)

To be irritable or resentful is related to one who is roused to anger, seeking to incite wrath or provoking others toward evil. Conversely, the person who is in submission to love is calm, serious and patient. Such an individual looks soberly at things and although he/she is unjustly wronged, criticized, hated or inflicted with pain/punishment, they control their anger and resentful passions knowing that it will not produce anything of profit or encouragement. A good example of someone who was irritable was Cain in Gen. 4. God did not accept His offering because he didn’t do as God said and he became angry to end that he killed his own brother. Cain followed through on a rash, emotional response because he did not incorporate love into the equation. We would all do well to learn from Cain and control any resentful feelings we may have by turning to love and observing the example of Christ who when He was reviled, He did not revile in return (1 Pet. 2:23). 

4. Love does not take into account a wrong

For many people, this aspect of love is incredibly hard to swallow. How are we to let go of those evil things people do unto us? Our fleshly nature is such that most of the times when someone does harm to us, we want revenge and we want it fast. God, however, asks us to do the opposite. He wants us to let it go. 

The bible teaches that we are not to take vengeance into our own hands because that is God’s business and He will settle matters with those that do us harm. There are obviously circumstances that require us to step in by turning to self-defense or calling the police for example. When Paul says love does not take into account a wrong, he is stating that we are not to be keeping a record of them. Instead we ought to forgive, just as Jesus forgave us.

5. Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness but truth

The person whose life is filled with love does not find pleasure in others partaking of sin. In fact, when such a person sees unrighteousness being done, he/she seeks to put a stop to such matters. Wicked people often find pleasure in sin and they encourage others to continue in evil and disgrace. 

Love understands that such a lifestyle will lead to a short life full of ruin and disaster. And because love seeks out the interests of others, it will correct the lifestyle of someone who takes pleasure in sin in order to save their souls and point them in the direction that leads to life. On the reverse end of the above, the one thing love will always seek to rejoice in is the truth. Truth stands in compete opposition to sin and evil. Truth is reflective of light while sin is reflective of darkness. In the bible, truth is said to be God’s word (Jn. 17:17) and so the idea here is that love rejoices in the word of God. 

When we know the truth, and share it with others, we are better equipped to manage our lives. We know what works and what doesn’t work according to God’s will. We make better decisions. We know how to help and serve one another. Better decisions mean better outcomes and who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? Lord, willing we will finish looking at these qualities next week.