Because He First Loved Us

In 1 Corinthians 13:13, Paul listed three things that should characterize the Christian’s life. He wrote, So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love (ESV). When we read 1 Corinthians 12, we saw that the gifts God gives us are powerful and important, but when it comes to making an impact for the kingdom of God, all of the gifts, faith, and hope in the world will lose their power if not practiced in love. It all becomes just noise, like a resounding gong or clanging cymbal, useful only for distraction and not having any real eternal impact.

As you’ve studied the attributes of love that Paul focuses on in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, we hope that two things have become clear. First, these attributes are all focused on others. Love always considers the person or thing outside of itself. Second, love is a verb. This kind of love isn’t just talk. It is action. Focusing on others and putting love into action like Jesus did can be hard. If we are going to treat others with love and serve them well, we have to get to know them.

Who are you called to serve? Who has God placed close to you or within your sphere of influence? What are their needs? It’s easy to love the people who are just like us, but, what about those in our path who are not just like us?

In order to do what Jesus is asking us to do, we must be willing to be patient with those who aren’t like us; to be kind to those who have different backgrounds and have made different choices; to rejoice when good things happen to people we don’t think deserve it; to boast only in the good things of God; and to believe the best about others. But as we mentioned in the first day of our study, we cannot love others in this way on our own. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit and His work in us that we can love like Jesus loved.

Here is the most important truth: God loves you so much that He sent His Son to die on the cross for you, so that you could have a relationship with Him, just as you were created to do. Throughout the Bible, and in the modern day, we hear stories of people who have tried and tried to restore this relationship on their own. You may have even tried on your own before, too, but because God is holy and perfect, and we are not, our efforts will always fall short.

Philippians 2:6-8 tells us that this is why Jesus was willing to leave his rightful place in heaven. He did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (NIV).

He understands us in a way no one else ever will. He knows all about the choices we’ve made and the bad habit we can’t seem to shake, and He loves us anyway. He is patient when we make mistakes. He is kind when we don’t deserve it. He does not harbor a grudge when He has every right to, but instead, He promises to forgive us of every wrongdoing and provide eternal life if we will believe in Him. Romans 5:8 says, God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (NIV). And He did it all because He loves us and He wants a relationship with us.

Loving others is not about loving ourselves first. It is about loving Jesus first. Matthew 22:37-40 explains that loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind is the greatest commandment. The second is to love our neighbor. Wanting to love those around us is good, but the only way we can do it is if we love God first.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

– Matthew 22:37-40

Consider this:

Is love impossible to demonstrate? When we try to do it on our own, yes! But we see the attributes of love displayed in the life of Jesus culminating with the ultimate act of love on the cross. Have you embraced the love Jesus offered through His death on the cross? Understanding who Jesus is and believing what He so lovingly did for us is what brings each of us the peace and security we need to truly love others.

This is Day 14 of the “Attributes of Love” YouVersion study. Download it and start studying today!

Love Does Not Rejoice in Wrongdoing

My son played ice hockey in high school. Hockey is a sport where the fans cheer for the good things their team does, but they most enjoy the opportunity to jeer when anything bad happens to the other team. Any mistake the players made brought cheers and jeers from all sides. If they slammed another player into the boards, fans cheered—whether it was a legal hit or not. If they threw down their gloves and started fighting, more cheers. You cheered the good things your team did and jeered over the opponents’ missteps.

My daughter played tennis in high school. The fans at a tennis match are completely different than those at a hockey game. In high school tennis, you do not clap or cheer when the opponent makes a mistake. You never cheer if your player’s good thing comes at the expense of the other player.

 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

– I Corinthians 13:6-7

The kind of love mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:6, the kind that does not rejoice over wrong-doing is the tennis match kind of love.

True love rejoices in what is right and good. It doesn’t gloat over someone’s mistakes. Love doesn’t search for ways to get away with bad behavior or sweep sin under a rug. Instead, it values truth and integrity. It rejoices when other’s make good choices.

The week before Jesus was crucified, He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. Throngs of people lined the street and cheered as He entered the town. But Jesus knew that the city celebrating Him would soon turn on Him and shout for His crucifixion. Jesus also knew that one day in the future, this same city would be surrounded by enemies and be completely destroyed. In Luke 19, we see that He didn’t rejoice in the fact that the city would eventually “get what it deserved.” He was grieved and wept over what would happen to them (vv. 41-44).

Why would we rejoice in someone else’s wrongdoing? Maybe we believe that if something makes someone else look bad, it makes us look better. Maybe we feel like they deserve whatever bad thing happens to them as a result of their choice. Maybe we just don’t understand the seriousness of sin.

To exhibit Jesus’ kind of love, we must have God’s perspective on sin and righteousness. Psalm 1:1-2 tells us that the blessed person despises evil but delights in truth. First John 4:10 explains that God loves us so much He couldn’t just ignore our sin, so he found a way to cleanse us from it.

Consider this:

God takes sin seriously. If we really understand how God feels about sin, we will weep over those making sinful choices and embrace the truth. That is how Jesus loved and it is how we should love too. Do you take sin seriously? Do you grieve others’ poor choices, or do you cheer their missteps?

This is Day Five of the 14 day “Attributes of Love” YouVersion study. Download it and start studying today!

Love is not Arrogant or Rude

The words arrogance, proud or haughty are mentioned over 200 times in Scripture. Proverbs 16:5 tells us God detests those who are arrogant and have a haughty heart. In Proverbs 6:16-19, the first thing in the list of seven things the Bible tells us God hates are haughty eyes (NIV). Second Timothy 3:2 tells us to have nothing to do with people who are lovers of themselves (NIV). First Peter 5:5 sums up how God feels about the arrogant attitude: God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (ESV).

The opposite of arrogance is humility, and Jesus is the only perfect example of what humility looks like. His life began and ended with extraordinary humility. He came into the world in the most humble way, leaving everything He had. Then He died in a gruesome manner, having done nothing wrong. He could have stopped it all—He could have called the angels and come down off the cross, but He didn’t. Philippians 2:6-8 describes how Jesus didn’t use the fact that He was God to His advantage—instead, He humbled Himself and took on human likeness. He came as a servant and was like us in every way, obedient to death, even to death on the cross. All because He loves us.

But it wasn’t just the beginning and end of His time on earth that displayed humility, it was every action and interaction with people throughout His life. Jesus did not needlessly offend others. He was aware of and sensitive to His audience, all while speaking the truth. He treated every person with respect, and He communicated in ways they could understand. This is why He spoke in parables. When He was talking to people who understood vineyards, He talked about being the vine while we are the branches (John 15:1-8). He talked about sowing seeds in fertile soil rather than throwing them into rocks with those who understood sowing and reaping (Matthew 13:1-23). He described Himself as the Good Shepherd to those who knew how important the care of a shepherd is in the life of the sheep (John 10:11-18). He washed the disciples’ feet when everyone watching knew that was usually a task for the servant (John 13:14). He lovingly introduced new concepts and new philosophies to those around Him, challenging what they’d believed before and pushing them to live differently. As followers of Jesus, our actions should imitate His.

Consider this:

What is my attitude toward others? Am I sensitive to others’ feelings, and do I talk to them in ways they can hear and understand? Am I imitating Christ in how I interact with all those around me?

This is Day Five of the 14 day “Attributes of Love” YouVersion study. Download it and start studying today!

Love is Better

Around A.D.54, the Apostle Paul wrote an eye-opening letter to the church in Corinth. Given Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 12, it is likely that the people of Corinth were busy comparing their contributions to the church and judging each other’s value based on each person’s gifts. Paul admonished the Corinthians that every part of the body is important and emphasized the need for unity in the church. Paul listed the gifts and encouraged believers to give their best. He ended chapter 12 with this: And I will show you a still more excellent way (v. 31, ESV). Chapter13 shows us that, as excellent as the gifts are, love is better.

Read 1 Corinthians 12 (to help set the scene) and then read 1 Corinthians 13 to see the kind of love Paul was talking about. He explained that it is possible to do all the right things, but if our actions are void of love, they lose their power.

The kind of love Paul described in 1 Corinthians 13 is hard to imagine because it is perfect, and we are not. The best way to understand each of these attributes is to see how they are lived out in the life of Jesus, how Jesus put love into action, and how we should fashion our lives after His example.

It all begins with our willingness to enter into another’s world, which is exactly what Jesus did. He entered into our world in a radical, humble way—He walked alongside us, and then He chose to die so that our relationship with God could be restored. However, the story doesn’t end there. He rose again and gave us the Holy Spirit to indwell us and go with us as we walk in the world. This is love.

It can feel risky to reach out and love others. Sometimes people are too needy, talkative, or messy. They might ask us to sacrifice our time or space in a way that is inconvenient or uncomfortable. But Jesus radically loved each person He encountered. He sat around the table with the outcasts. He shared water and conversation with a woman who couldn’t find anyone else to go to the well with her; He invited Himself into the homes of those who mothers wanted nothing to do with. As Jesus followers, we are called to follow His example of love, but we cannot love others in this way on our own. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit and His work in us that we can love like Jesus loved.

Consider this:

How has the love of Jesus impacted your life? Of the attributes of love listed in1 Corinthians 13:4-8, which have you experienced from someone else? How did that impact you?

This is Day One in the “Attributes of Love” YouVersion study. Download it and start studying today.