by David H. Roper, Our Daily Bread, copyright 2001 RBC Ministries
There was a teacher in the second grade, however, whom all the children liked. Mrs. Leonard was a cheerful woman, full of good humor and affection. Each year she checked the children's hearing with a simple test. The students would stand across the room from her as she whispered a question such as: "Do you have a new dress?" or "What color are your shoes?" and the child would answer. When the time came for Mary's turn, she listened closely for the teacher to whisper. Then, she heard these words: "I wish you were my little girl."
Those words changed Mary's life forever. She realized she was loved, despite her flawed features, by someone who mattered.
Though you may feel unworthy and unwanted, God wants you to know that He is merciful, forgiving, and full of love for you (Psalm 103:1-8). Do you know that God loves you like that?
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life"
1.-The Bible, Lev. 19:18; Deut. 6:5; Mat. 22:37-40 // 2.-Ibid, Gospel of the Apostle John, chapter 3, verse 16
What Love Looks Like
Copyright, 1995 by Steven J. Cole
Flagstaff Christian Fellowship, 123 S. Beaver St. , Flagstaff, AZ 86001,
Information in brackets ( [ ] ) by DaySounds, 2011
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
A little girl was invited for dinner at the home of her firstgrade friend.
The vegetable was buttered broccoli and the mother asked if she
liked it. "Oh, yes," the child replied politely, "I love it!" But when the
bowl of broccoli was passed, she declined to take any. The hostess said,
"I thought you said you loved broccoli." The girl replied sweetly, "Oh,
yes ma'am, I do, but not enough to eat it!"
Do you love your family? "Of course I do!" We all would say that! It's
the only right answer. But what do you mean by love? So often we love
our family like that little girl loved broccoli: We love in the abstract, but
when it comes right down to it, we don't want to get too close. In the
words of the Apostle John, we love in word, but not in deed and truth
(1 John 3:18).
What does biblical love look like? We know that our relationships in the
family need to be marked by love. Husbands, especially, are to love
their wives. But, wives, too, must love their husbands. Parents and
children, brothers and sisters, must love one another. But how do we
know what such love looks like in everyday dress?
Paul's famous chapter on love, 1 Corinthians 13, tells us. The Corinthian
church was emphasizing a good thing, spiritual gifts, to the neglect of
the best. They were using their gifts apart from love. Paul makes the
point that the use of their God-given gifts would amount to nothing if
the Corinthians did not make love their priority. Selfless love is the
priority for every Christian.
These verses are the most eloquent and profound words ever written on
the subject of love. To comment on its parts is a bit like giving a botany
lecture on a beautiful flower--if you're not careful you lose the beauty
and impact of it. But we can profit from understanding the parts and
applying it to family relationships.
In verses 1-3 he shows the preeminence of love, that love is greater than
all spiritual gifts because without love, gifts are empty. In verses 4-7 he
shows the practice of love, how love is greater than all spiritual gifts
because of its selfless characteristics. In verses 8-13 he shows the
permanence of love, that love is greater than all spiritual gifts because it
outlasts them. We're going to focus mainly on verses 4-7, where Paul
describes how love acts. While in English most of these words are
predicate adjectives, in Greek they are verbs. Love is not talk; it is
We're all prone to apply verses like these to others: "My mate and my
kids could sure use a lesson in love. But me? I'm basically a loving
person. I'm really easy to get along with." But I ask each of you to
forget about everybody else and ask God to apply these verses to you.
Paul enumerates 15 characteristics of love to show how love acts or
what it looks like in everyday life. A New Testament definition of agape
is "a caring, self-sacrificing commitment which shows itself in seeking
the highest good of the one loved." Jesus Christ, in His sacrificial death
on the cross, is the epitome and embodiment of this kind of love. A
whole series of sermons could easily be preached on these qualities of
love. But let's look briefly at each of them.
1. Selfless love is patient. [μακροθυμεῖ/μακροθυμέω]
Ouch! Why did he put that first? This often confronts me with my
failure in relating to my family. Patience is an interesting quality in that
when I don't need it, I want it. It's when things start to irritate or
frustrate me that I need patience, but usually at that point I don't want
to be patient!
The Greek word comes from two words meaning, "longtempered." If
you're patient, you're slow to anger, you endure personal wrongs
without retaliating. You bear with others' imperfections, faults, and
differences. You give them time to change, room to make mistakes
without coming down hard on them. Do you do that, men, with your
wife and children?
I read a story of a man who had developed this quality to a far greater
extent than I. During the late 1500's, Dr. Thomas Cooper edited a
dictionary with the addition of 33,000 words and many other
improvements. He had already been collecting materials for eight years
when his wife, a rather difficult woman, went into his study one day
while he was gone and burned all of his notes under the pretense of
fearing that he would kill himself with study. Eight years of work, a pile
of ashes! [Perhaps he was at fault too, and should have organized his
time better, giving more attention to his wife.]
Dr. Cooper came home, saw the destruction, and asked who had done
it. His wife told him boldly that she had done it. The patient man
heaved a deep sigh and said, "Oh Dinah, Dinah, thou hast given a
world of trouble!" Then he quietly sat down to another eight years of
hard labor, to replace the notes which she had destroyed. (Paul Tan,
Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations, Assurance Publishers, #2350.) Next
time you think you've arrived at being patient, that will give you
something to aim for!
2. Selfless love is kind. [χρηστεύεται/χρηστεύομαι]
Kindness is patience in action. The Greek word comes from a word
meaning "useful." A kind person is disposed to be helpful. He seeks
out needs and looks for opportunities to meet those needs without
repayment. He is tender and forgiving when wronged. The word was
used of mellow wine, and suggests a person who is gentle, who has an
ability to soothe hurt feelings, to calm an upset person, to help quietly
in practical ways.
The kind person shows kindness in response to harsh treatment. Jesus
said, "And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is
that to you? For even sinners do the same thing. . . . But love your
enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your
reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He
Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men" (Luke 6:33, 35). The
kindness of God leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4). Kindness motivates
others toward positive change.
As with patience, the real proving ground for kindness is the home. Are
you kind to your wife and children? Do you do kind, useful things for
them? Are you training your children to be kind to one another by the
way you treat your wife and them? Love is not macho; love is kind.
[Additional meanings: benevolent, gentle, benign, that doesn't inflict
3. Selfless love is not jealous. [οὐ ζηλοῖ/ζηλόω]
The word means to eagerly desire, and it is used both positively and
negatively in the Bible. Jealousy in the negative sense is related to greed
and selfishness. The jealous person wants what others have, he wants
things for himself. He is too selfish to applaud others' success; he has
to have all the attention. In the family, a jealous husband refuses to
trust his wife. He doesn't want to recognize her abilities and
contributions. He is jealous of the time she spends with the children or
with her friends. He wants it all for himself. James says that jealousy is
often the source of quarrels and conflicts (James 4:2).
4. & 5. Selfless love does not brag and is not arrogant. [οὐ περπερεύεται/
περπερεύομαι, οὐ φυσιοῦται/φυσιόω]
These ugly twins are related. They both stem from selfishness and are
the flip side of jealousy. "Jealousy is wanting what someone else has.
Bragging is trying to make others jealous of what we have. Jealousy
puts others down; bragging builds us up" (John MacArthur, Jr., The
MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 1 Corinthians [Moody Press],
p. 341). Bragging is an outward manifestation of pride.
The braggart tries to impress others of his great accomplishments
in order to make himself look good: "After all I've done for you, and
you treat me this way!" But love isn't trying to build up me; love is
trying to build up the other person. Love is humble. The humble, loving
person is aware that everything he has is an undeserved gift from God
(1 Cor. 4:7). So he doesn't boast, but thankfully uses what God has
given to serve others.
[Bragging is boasting about who we are or aren't, what we have or don't
have, our accomplishements or lack of them; arrogance, on the other
hand, is communicated more through tone of voice, body language,
the cultural use of space (cultural proxemics), and/or words that "look
down" at the listener/reader.]
6. Selfless love does not act unbecomingly. [οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ/ἀσχημονέω]
The NIV translates, "It is not rude." Love does not needlessly offend.
Love has good manners. It is courteous, polite, sensitive to the feelings
of others and always uses tact. The reason we are not courteous, of
course, is that we are thinking only of ourselves and not of others.
I read of a man who was generally lacking in manners. He never
opened the car door for his wife. "She doesn't have two broken arms,"
he would say.
After many years of marriage, his wife died. At the funeral, as the
pallbearers brought her casket out to the hearse, the husband was
standing by the car door. The funeral director, who knew the husband
by name, called out to him and said, "Open the door for her, will you?"
He reached for the car door and then, for one second, froze. He realized
that he had never opened the door for her in life; now, in her death, it
would be the first, last, and only time. A lifetime of regret came
crashing down around him. Love is not rude.
["ἀσχημονέω" also means to behave or act in an indecent, dishonorable,
disreputable, improper, or unseemly manner.]
7. Selfless love does not seek its own. [οὐ ζητεῖ/ζητέω, τὰ ἑαυτῆς/
ἑαυτοῦ, ῆς, οῦ]
It is not selfish, does not demand its rights. Alan Redpath said, "The
secret of every discord in Christian homes, communities and churches
is that we seek our own way and our own glory." R. C. H. Lenski put it,
"Cure selfishness, and you plant a Garden of Eden" (The Interpretation
of I and II Corinthians [Augsburg], p. 557). Selfishness is the root
problem of the human race; it is the antithesis of love, which is self-
Elisabeth Elliot was once speaking on this subject to an audience
that included some young children who were sitting right in front of
her. As she spoke, she wondered how she could make this plain to
them, so that they could apply it. Later, she got a letter from one of
those children, a six-year-old boy, who wrote, "I am learning to lay
down my life for my little sister. She has to take a nap in the afternoon.
I don't have to take a nap. But she can't go to sleep unless I come and
lay down beside her. So I lay down with my little sister." That boy is
learning to love!
If husbands and wives, as well as children, would apply this verse as
that little boy did, our homes would be free of conflict and an honor to
Jesus Christ, who did not come to be served, but to serve and to give
His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Aren't you glad Jesus didn't
insist on His rights? He would have stayed in heaven and we wouldn't
8. Selfless love is not provoked. [οὐ παροξύνεται/παροξύνω]
The Greek word means to sharpen, stimulate, rouse to anger. Phillips
paraphrases, "It is not touchy." Love does not have a hairtrigger
temper. Some people make everyone around them walk on eggshells.
They're easily offended. One little thing that doesn't go their way and
"KABOOM!" They use their temper to intimidate and to punish. When
you confront them, they say, "Sure, I have a bad temper. But I get it all
out and it's over in a few minutes." So is a bomb. But look at the
devastation it leaves behind! When you're angry, usually you're not
9. Selfless love does not take into account a wrong suffered. [οὐ
λογίζεται τὸ κακόν / λογίζομαι, κακός, ή, όν]
This is an accounting word, used of numerical calculation. It is used of
God not imputing our guilt to us, but instead imputing the
righteousness of Christ to our account (Rom. 4:6-8). Love doesn't keep
a tally of wrongs and bear a grudge until every one is paid for. It doesn't
try to gain the upper hand by reminding the other person of past
wrongs. Love forgives.
One married man said to his friend, "You know, every time my wife
and I get into a conflict, she gets historical." His friend said,
"Historical? Don't you mean hysterical?" "No, I mean historical. She
rehearses everything I've ever done wrong in the whole history of our
marriage." That's keeping score! That's not love.
10. & 11. Selfless love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices
with the truth. [οὐ χαίρει ἐπὶ τῇ ἀδικίᾳ , συγχαίρει δὲ τῇ ἀληθείᾳ]
These qualities are the flip side of one another. Moffatt puts it, "Love is
never glad when others go wrong." To rejoice in the truth means to be
glad about behavior in accordance with the truth of God's Word. If
someone you don't like falls into sin, you don't gloat; you grieve,
because God is grieved over sin. If they repent, you rejoice. There is a
fine balance to love.
Although love is kind and overlooks the faults of others, it does not
compromise the truth or take a soft view of sin. To allow another
person to go on in sin, whether it is known sin or a blind spot, is not to
seek his best; it is not love.
Love will sensitively confront and correct precisely because it cares
deeply and knows that sin destroys. Love rejoices with the truth. Love
gets excited when it hears of spiritual victories. Love encourages by
expressing joy over little evidences of growth. John, the apostle of love,
wrote, "I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking
in the truth" (3 John 4).
12. Selfless love bears all things. [πάντα στέγει]
The word can mean either to bear up under or to protect by covering. If
it has the first meaning, then it would be the same as "endures all
things" (end of v. 7). I prefer the second meaning, to protect by
covering. Love doesn't broadcast the problems of others. Love doesn't
run down others with jokes, sarcasm or putdowns. Love defends the
character of the other person as much as possible within the limits of
truth. Love won't lie about weaknesses, but neither will it deliberately
expose and emphasize them. Love protects.
13. Selfless love believes all things. [πάντα πιστεύει]
The NIV translates, "Love always trusts." This does not mean
gullibility; it does mean that love is not suspicious and doubting of
the other person's character and motives without good reason, even if
his actions offended you. If trust has been broken, then it needs to be
earned again, step by step. But love believes the other person is
innocent until proven guilty, not guilty until proven innocent. If there is
a problem, love doesn't jump immediately to blame the other person.
In the family, trust shows itself by not grilling the other person about
every detail of his story, like an attorney cross-examining a defendant.
It means believing in your kids, expressing confidence in them. I'm
thankful that my parents trusted me as a teenager; it made me want to
live up to that trust. One of my friends had parents who did not trust
him, and he lived up to their distrust! Sometimes you will get ripped off
when you trust, but love persists in trusting.
14. Selfless love hopes all things. [πάντα ἐλπίζει]
It is not pessimistic. It does not expect the one loved to fail, but to
succeed. Love refuses to take failure as final. It exudes a godly
optimism which says, "I know you can do it, because God in you is
able!" It does not ignore reality. It doesn't close its eyes to problems.
But it rests on the promises of God, that He is working all things
together for good for those who love Him and are called according to
His purpose. And so love always hopes.
15. Selfless love endures all things. [πάντα ὑπομένει]
The word "endures" is a military word meaning to sustain the assault
of an enemy. It has the idea of holding up under trial, of perseverance
in spite of difficulties. It means that love hangs in there. It is not just a
passive, stoic attitude. It is a positive, triumphant spirit that sticks it
There is an epidemic among Christians of bailing out of tough
situations. People don't like something that happens in a church. They
go find another church more to their liking. They run into problems or
disagreements in their marriage, grow tired of the effort and bail out.
"But," you say, "isn't adultery a legitimate grounds for divorce?"
Technically, yes. But all too often one partner uses it as an excuse to
bail out of a marriage where both partners have wronged one another
repeatedly in many ways. I'm not minimizing the seriousness of
adultery. It destroys trust and creates all sorts of problems in a
marriage. I'm not suggesting that it's easy to work through. It takes a
lot of hard work to rebuild, a brick at a time. But God's best is to forgive
and renew the marriage, not to bail out.
Love endures all things. That's how love acts. It is selfless, wholly
directed to build the other person. Of course nobody can love like that.
Only God is love (1 John 4:7). Put "Christ" in verses 4-7 instead of
"love" and you have a description of Him. He is patient, kind, not
jealous; does not brag, is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; does
not seek His own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong
suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the
truth; He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always
perseveres. If we want to love one another, we must focus on His love
for us and walk in His Spirit who produces His love in us (Gal. 5:22).
Humorist Sam Levenson says, "Love at first sight is easy to
understand. It's when two people have been looking at each other
for years that it becomes a miracle" (Reader's Digest [3/83]). But it's
not really a miracle; it's the result of yielding to God, repeatedly
confronting our selfishness and daily practicing biblical love in our
An old legend says that in his old age the apostle John was so weak that
he had to be carried into the church meetings. At the end of the
meeting he would be helped to his feet to give a word of exhortation.
He would invariably repeat, "Little children, love one another." The
disciples grew weary of the same words every time. Finally they asked
him why he said the same thing over and over. He replied, "Because it
is the commandment of the Lord, and the observation of it alone is