1Co 13:4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant. 1Co 13:5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 1Co 13:6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
I am preaching through 1 Corinthians in church and right now we are in chapter 13. We are all familiar with this chapter as it is one of the most beautiful and descriptive passages on love in the Bible. I want to focus in this article on what is one of the most common misconceptions concerning love that we face which is defining love as an emotional feeling. We can expand on this as we tend to live our lives based far too much on the way we feel rather than based on the truth of God. Let’s face it; it is easier to be guided by emotion rather than taking the time and spending the energy to be guided by thinking through the Word of God in every situation. But this is also one of the biggest areas of failure I believe Christians have.
We notice in these verses that love is not described as a series of feelings and emotions. Actually these are all in the verb form so, as many have said before me, the focus here is not so much on what love is but what love does. Much like faith which can only be evidenced by a faithful life, not by adhering to a set of doctrines; so love is proven by actions, not feelings.
So to display love towards a person and towards God as well, it should not be driven by how you feel but what you do. Unfortunately too many times what we do and say is based entirely on how we feel at any given time. But we need to remember that we are created in the image of God and if we are saved we have his Spirit indwelling in us. We are human beings not animals and so we must not live by instinct and passion but by “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”.
The epitome of our depraved nature is deciding, or perhaps better, “sensing” how we feel about someone or some situation and then acting out those feelings rather than acting out the love of God. This is much easier than being driven by love for the Lord because of the love shown to us in Christ Jesus and this motivating us to think through the Word of God and what action or word would honor the Lord the most. But this at least in part is behind the ideas of taking up our cross and following the Lord and dying daily. It is not about how we feel but we die to those passions that are only concerned for self and we live unto Christ. How often is your speech guided by your feelings rather than your mind being transformed by your love for the Lord?
Biblical love is to do good for its object. In God’s case we love him and so want to glorify him in all things. In our neighbor’s case it is to meet needs starting with spiritual needs. If we believe the Lord to be the most wonderful and fulfilling person there is and the only Savior then if we love our neighbor we want to help them know and serve him. My point here then is that acting out feelings toward people ignores all that and just focuses on how they affect me. True Christianity thinks through how to best serve the Lord and others and makes life about God and not just self.
Romans 12:17 ESV brings this out, Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. We must train ourselves to give thought to what we do and not just react to things like animals. Verse 4 above says that love is patient and kind. A person filled with the love of God doesn’t strike back in retaliation but considers what honors the Lord the most and can control himself to that end. Love is not rash, love is calculated. That might sound a little cold and I am not denying the gift of emotions and all that romantic love brings for instance, but I am merely saying that Christians are to be ruled by thinking, not passions; by a renewed mind, not the old man. It is what separates us from the rest of creation.