Chapter thirteen continues the same topic of spiritual gifts. In the last verse of chapter twelve, Paul said that he would show us a better way. This better way is the way of love. In the first three verses, Paul says that if he has all of these other gifts, but does not have love; then everything that he does is meaningless. Even if we have the gift of healing or faith to moves mountains, but do not have love then our spiritual gifts are useless because we will use them in an inappropriate many to gain praise from others. Instead, Paul says we must have love and we can use the gifts properly.
“Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for languages, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 HCSB ( https://www.bible.com/72/1co.13.4-8.hcsb )
Paul explains to us in these verses why love is so important, and why we should seek love above all other spiritual gifts. In society today the definition of love has been exchanged for false selfish love, placing oneself as the object of love. When we place ourselves as the object of love the love that we receive and the love that we give to others is in total opposition to the love that Paul defines for us.
If we are the object of love, then we will not be patient or kind toward others. We will be demanding and selfish. We will become boastful and conceited about the way we look, or our intelligence, etc. Envy will also take over as we see that others have the things that we desire. Which will lead to selfish acts that lash out at others because we have not forgiven them of the wrongs that they have done. We will feel that if someone calls us out for the sins that we are doing that they do not love us, and we will rejoice in the sins of others. This is the type of self-centered love that we see in our societies today. Even the good that we do with this type of love, is done to make others look favorably at us. This self-centered type of love that we see in society is making us all into little gods that only truly care about our desires and wellbeing.
Of course, that is a generalization of secular love and not everyone in society will display it to the same degree; but that is the love of the world. Paul has given us a much better definition of love in verses 4-8. This is the type of love that God has displayed toward humanity in sending Jesus Christ to be born of a virgin, to die on the cross for our sins, and raised again to new life so that all who believe in Him will be saved. Only those that have believed in Jesus Christ can have and display the type of love that Paul is talking about here. This type of love does not magically spring up in our hearts the moment that we believe, but it is love that we have to cultivate in our lives through a daily relationship with Jesus.
The better that we know Jesus and the closer that we are in our relationship with Him, the more this love will be produced in our lives. As we grow into this love we begin to see that the world’s love is in opposition to the love of God. The world will say that if you love me you have to agree with everything I do or am. For example, the world will say that if you love them, and they believe that they are LGBTQ that you have to accept that type of behavior and can not call it, sin. They want you to celebrate their behavior.
True love “finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth” vs. 6. Meaning that we can not celebrate their sinful behavior, but we can still love the individual. This concept is foreign to the understanding of our societies today but is what true love is. True love does not take pleasure or pride in behavior that is in opposition to the word of God. The way that we treat them should be with love. Unfortunately, some that call themselves Christians do not act lovingly toward people that they do not agree with which hurts the overall witness of the Church body. We are right to point out the behaviors that God calls sin, but we should not do so in a hateful or mean manner.
May God help us all to treat others lovingly, according to the love that we find in 1 Corinthians 13, and help us to reflect more and more on the love that we have seen exemplified in the life of Jesus.