The Church Should Be Characterized By Love

Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

What does this type of love entail? Scripture gives us the answer.

The most comprehensive description of love is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4–7. Paul shines love through a prism, and we see 15 of its colors and hues. Each ray gives a different facet of what is called agape love. The passage does not focus so much upon what love is, but upon what love does and does not do.

Agape love is active, not abstract or passive. It does not simply feel patient. It is patient! It practices patience. It does not simply have kind feelings. It does kind things.

Love is fully love only when it acts!

Scripture tells us, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

The purpose of Paul’s prism in 1 Corinthians 13 is not to give a technical analysis of love, but to break it down into bite-size pieces so that we may more easily understand it and apply it in a practical way.

There is only one person whose name could be substituted for love in these verses: Jesus. In essence, this passage is a portrait of the Savior. At the same time, the goal of the Christian is to be “conformed into the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). Thus, our goal should be to demonstrate this kind of love one to another.

Love is patient.

The word patient literally means “long-tempered.” This word is common in the New Testament, and it is used almost exclusively in being patient with people (rather than circumstances or events).

Love-patience is the ability to be inconvenienced or taken advantage of by a person over and over again. Steven’s last words were those of patient forgiveness: “Lord, do not charge them with this sin”(Acts 7:60). As he lay dying, his concern was for his murderers rather than for himself.

This is the love that Jesus speaks of that turns the other cheek (Matthew 5:39). Its primary concern is for the welfare of others, not itself.

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3–4).

How different this is from the secular thinking of our day, where everyone wants their rights. The slogan of the day is, “What about my needs?” We don’t forgive. We get revenge. We sue. But the love we are to have for others is the direct opposite of that.

Love is kind.

Just as patience will take anything from others, kindness will give anything to others. To be kind means to be useful, serving, and gracious. It is active goodwill. It not only feels generous; it is generous. It not only desires others’ welfare; it works for it. God is our supreme model in this:

“Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience? Not knowing that the kindness (goodness) of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4).

Love does not envy.

This is the first of eight negative descriptions—what love is not. There are two kinds of envy:

  • We want what someone else has. If they have a better car, house, job, or even wife or husband, we secretly wish that we had the same.
  • We wish that someone else didn’t have what they had. This is more than just selfishness; it is desiring evil for someone else. There will always be someone out there doing better than you. You can either live with it and be content with such things that you have, or you can be eaten up with envy.

“But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there” (James 3:14–16).

Love does not parade itself.

In other words, love does not brag or parade its accomplishments. Bragging is the other side of envy. Envy is wanting what someone else has; bragging is trying to make others envy what we have. Love does not remind a person of the great sacrifice you have made for them.

Love does not behave rudely.

True love has good manners. That is something that is largely lost today. But love cares about others and is mannerly.

Love does not seek its own.

This speaks of that aspect of fallen nature where we always want to have our way. The world should revolve around us, we think.

Love is not provoked.

To provoke means “to arouse anger, a convulsion or sudden outburst.” Love guards against being irritated, upset, or angered by things said or done against it. Ephesians 4:26 reminds us, “Do not let the sun go down on your wrath.”

Love believes all things.

In other words, love believes the best of every person. It is not suspicious or cynical. If a loved one is accused of something wrong, love will consider him or her innocent until proven guilty. You will stick up for them!

Love endures all things.

It refuses to give up, surrender, stop believing or hoping. Love will simply not stop loving.

May God help us to be loving Christians, and may this be a loving church.

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