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
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!