II. Love is relational (vv. 4-7)
Notice that this famous description of love is entirely phrased in terms of relationships. Jesus founded his church on relationships with his disciples. He didn’t write a book, but he built relationships. Even Paul, who was perhaps the most systematic thinker of the early leaders, says that it was the “love of Christ” that constrained him in service. As he writes in Gal. 5:6 “the only thing that matters is faith working through love.” Or, as John put it: “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue but in deed and truth.” (I John 3:18) This passage should remind us that love here is not a sentimental feeling but is something we do.
“Love is kind” and it “bears all things.” The second person of the Trinity was happy and content in eternity. He needed nothing nor was there any necessity for him to interrupt his beautiful fellowship with the Father, yet that is exactly what he did. He looked upon our circumstances and freely chose to enter our history and begin the process of bringing us back to love and light. The NT describes what was done from the viewpoint of the Father in John 3:16. Then Paul describes it from the viewpoint of the Son in Phil. 2:6,7 “though he existed in the form of God He did not regard equality with God as something to be held on to, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature.”
God is said to be both love and light. In order to get back to love we must get into light. Love and truth are inseparable. This is why Paul will say in another place that we are to “speak the truth in love.” Jesus himself is our model for this. Love “rejoices in the truth.” (v. 6)
“Love does not brag, it is not puffed up.” These negative qualities have been already addressed earlier in the letter. The Corinthians could not have missed the point that he is speaking directly to their sub-Christian behavior. He continues here to try and reshape the way they see the spiritual life. The Gospels tell us that even the apostles themselves were vying for first place in the kingdom. That is not the way of love. Jesus came like an alien to a world that knew almost nothing of the kind of love he brought with him. The early Christians, like Paul, who wanted to write about this love had to redefine a word (agape) in order to begin communicating about it. Yes, the Greek language had four good words for love, but none of them were adequate until the Christians took over the word agape and began to pour new meanings into it. They virtually reinvented the word.
[This blog entry is dedicated to my mother-in-law Nancy Lyndon in celebration of her 79th birthday this week.]
–to be continued.