God has been working on my heart about a most important topic lately; the topic of love. The Bible gives much insight on love and mentions love many times. I admit that I do not fully, or even partially comprehend this topic, but I desire to earnestly know more about it.
The Bible tell us in three of the gospels of the greatest commandment from God. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27 (Matthew 22:37-40, Mark 12:30-31) If God puts such a high priority on love, so should you and I.
I believe that the whole Bible points to this these commands and as a result we can break the Bible downs a four word sentence using only three words: Love God, love others. It’s really that simple. Simple in theory, or as a friend says, “That preaches easy, but lives hard.”
Why is loving God so hard? Why is loving my neighbor, (wife, children, family, friends) so hard? I could write a very long book on this topic, and I am sure many have already done so. Today though I am going to focus in on some key teaching on love from the Apostle Paul in his first letter to the church in Corinth.
When Paul wrote the first letter to the church in Corinth, it was written as most letters are, as one continuous document. His letter, like the ones we would write today, did not have chapters and verses numbered. To facilitate study and ease of finding specific teachings, we have broken down and separated the Bible by chapter and verse.
I recently read what we call chapter 12 verse 31 of 1 Corinthians, and then read chapter 13 as a continuous thought, not separated by chapter as we now do. Wow, what a difference! Let me explain.
In Chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians, Paul spends much time breaking down and explaining the various gifts that the members of the body of Christ, or Church, may be given. Gifts such as wisdom, knowledge, faith, the gift of healing, the working of miracles, prophesy, the gifting of speaking and interpreting of tongues, and the gifting of administration and helping. Paul explains how the whole Church is to use these gifts together for the edification, or growth and benefit, of the Church. It is at the end of what we call chapter 12 that Paul makes this bold proclamation. “But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.” 1 Corinthians 12:31.
The New Testament was originally written in the Greek language. I want to focus on two words, or short phrases, to help us understand what was to come immediately following this statement. The phrase of “higher gift” as translated in English, is the Greek word “megas” which means great, of large mass or weight and stature, or a thing to be highly esteemed for their importance. We derive the English word mega from “megas.”
As I looked at the Greek word which we translated into English as “the more excellent way,” I found the Greek word “huperbole.” Huperbole means superiority, excellence, pre-eminence. It is an exceeding or far beyond measure of excellence!
Paul is getting ready to explain what the greatest gifting is and the gifting of a superior excellence that is beyond measure! We call this next section of the Bible, 1 Corinthians Chapter 13, or the love chapter of the Bible. If you want to know about love, read and meditate on this chapter. More specifically, if you want to know how to love God and others, such as your wife and children, read and meditate on this chapter! For this study, we will focus on 4 key verses, 4-8.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Now comes the difficult part. God put on my heart to meditate on these 16 different ways to show and to love so that I might understand them better. Here is some of what I learned and what God placed on my heart in order that I might love better.
The application of love and this meditation of my heart is dual in nature. How can I love my God and my neighbors (my closest neighbors are my family) better?
I chose to use definitions from our standard English dictionary as well as the meaning from the original Greek to help me better understand and seek to apply Paul’s inspired teachings from God.
Love is patient. Patience is to not lose heart, to be patient in enduring an offense or injury from another. It is slow in avenging, slow to anger, slow to punish.
Love is kind. Kindness is to act in a benevolent way. To be kind is to be friendly, generous and considerate.
Love does not envy. To envy is to covet or desire earnestly. It can also be a resentful longing for something.
Love does not boast. To boast is to have excessive pride or self-satisfaction in ones self.
Love is not arrogant. To be proud is to puff ones self up to feel pleasure or satisfaction in ones self.
Love does not rude. To be rude is to be impolite, insolent, disrespectful.
Love does not insist on ones own way. To be self seeking, to be selfish, self centered, to lack consideration for others.
Love is not irritable. Irritable is to be angry, exasperated, or displeased, and hostile towards another.
Love is not resentful. To be bitter or angry at another. Irritated and dissatisfied with a lack of forgiveness.
Love does not delight in wrongdoing. To be sinful, illegal, or dishonest behavior.
Love rejoices in the truth. The truth is what is a real and factual. For a Christian it is what is true according to God and his word on morality and the duties of man as found in the Bible.
Love always bears all things. To bear is to cover, or hide the error and faults of others.
Love always believes all things. To think to be true, to have confidence and conviction in.
Love always hopes all things. To hope is to have an expectation or desire to trust in something.
Love always endures all things. To endure is to not flee from, to preserve under misfortune or trials, to hold fast to ones faith.
Love never fails. To fail is to give up, to be unsuccessful in a goal, to come to an end or disappear, to cease.
Gut punch time friends. How are you doing measuring up to what God has revealed via Paul’s teaching? Are you even desirous of loving your God, spouse, and children in this manner? If not you should be, and you don’t clearly understand the teaching of the Bible. 2 Corinthians 5:9-10 teaches us, “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” Friends, if the greatest commandment is to love God and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself, God believes it is very important. You should too.
Gut punch number two. Try substituting your name in place of the word “love” in the above breakdown. Instead of Love is patient, I would say, Robin is patient. See how many of the 16 phrases you can honestly say, “I consistently show that attribute of love.” This will tell you how well you are following God’s commandment. This is your ‘love obedience” score. This score will tell you of the condition of your heart. I hope that it is a wake up call for you on where you need to improve upon.
If you feel as badly as I do when I got done, substitute God for the word love. God is patient. God is kind, ect.. Then rejoice that He is so loving to us and praise him. Then I suggest that as I did, repent for your lack of godly love. Ask God for help and work to be a better follower and a better lover of God and your family.
Now the challenge for myself and you, will I meditate on these ways to love my God and my closest neighbors, my family? Will I ask God to change my heart? Will I commit to love as God has asked me to do? Will I dare to be better and more obedient to God’s word with the hope of loving those I care for most in a “huperbole” manner?
The challenge is a difficult one. I know that I cannot do it alone. But by God’s grace, the love of Christ, and with the direction of the Holy Spirit that dwells inside of me, I can continue to move towards this goal with perseverance and a willingness to not give up or give in! My God and my family are worth that effort. I hope yours are as well.
Here is a “Secret Tip” on how to change your heart so that you can grow in love. This is only for those who earnestly desire change. Be in the Word. Be in fellowship, Be in prayer, Be in contact with accountability partners.