It’s not uncommon to see who are blessed with an outstanding skill or ability. Perhaps it’s a talented musician or star athlete who can do things that no one else can do. It could be a skilled craftsman or a gifted artist who turns out beautiful and inspiring work. It may be a teacher or a coach who has the ability to help a student or player be the very best they can be. We often honor the Provider of these abilities by saying that such people have a “God-given” talent or skill.
But as great as it may be to have some outstanding skill or ability, there is something that’s even better. In the book of 1 Corinthians, the Bible tells us exactly what that something is…
“If I had the gift of being able to speak in other languages without learning them and could speak in every language there is in all of heaven and earth, but didn’t love others, I would only be making noise. If I had the gift of prophecy and knew all about what is going to happen in the future, knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others, what good would it do?
Even if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, I would still be worth nothing at all without love. If I gave everything I have to poor people, and if I were burned alive for preaching the Gospel but didn’t love others, it would be of no value whatever” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
This “something greater” that the Bible speaks of is love. You see, nothing can ever make up for the absence of love in someone’s life. There is no talent, skill, or special ability, no matter how great or how spectacular, that can take the place of love in someone’s life. If you are able to do incredible things that cause people to say “Wow!” but don’t have love, then you really don’t have anything.
Now at this point some of you may be asking, “That’s fine, but what exactly is love, anyway?” That’s a great question because love is one of those words that is easy to say (sometimes too easy) but tough to define. For example, take a look at this dictionary definition of love…
Love (luv) n. A deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship, recognition of attractive qualities, or a sense of underlying oneness. (1)
Now what in the world does that mean? Hey, if you understand that, then please feel free to write to The Doctor and tell him because he’s still trying to figure it out.
Anyway, because love can be so difficult to define it’s been said that the best way to identify love is to look for the actions that prove that it exists. This is because real, true love is always best demonstrated by actions. Just as an image in front of a mirror creates a reflection, love is also reflected by the actions that it produces.
So if love is so important, how do we know we have it? Well, God provides us with a handy road map to answer this question in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8…
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…” (NIV).
Let’s take a closer look at these identifying features of love and see how we measure up…
Love is patient It’s been said that the word “patient” used here describes the reaction of a person who has been wronged and easily has the power to retaliate but chooses not to.
Love is kind Someone who treats people in a cruel manner is certainly not acting in love.
Love is not envious Are you jealous of someone who has more talent or money or is better looking than you? Hey that’s not love, that’s envy.
Love is not boastful or proud Love doesn’t show off or display a superior attitude. It doesn’t see itself as better than others. It doesn’t look down on other people and it doesn’t create cliques that exclude others.
Love is not rude Love doesn’t display bad manners. Love doesn’t treat “important people” well and “unimportant people” with disrespect.
Love is not self-seeking A person who loves is a person who seeks to put the needs of others ahead of their own. Love considers the needs of others even before it considers what’s best for itself.
Love is not easily angered A person who loves is a person who doesn’t fly into a rage. A loving person keeps their temper under control.
Love keeps no record of wrongs Love doesn’t say, I’ll forgive, but I won’t forget! Love doesn’t say, I’ll get even. Love waits for God to handle the situation as He sees fit (see Proverbs 20:22).
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth Love isn’t happy when bad things happen to people even if they “deserve it.” Love is never glad when injustices occur but is happy whenever the truth wins out.
Love always protects The word “protect” here means, “to preserve by covering” and “to keep off something which threatens.” Just like a roof protects the occupants of a house from the wind and rain, love protects others from the things that would harm or injure them.
Love always trusts Love says, I knew you could do it! Love doesn’t say, I knew you’d mess it up again. Love has the faith to see and believe in the potential of someone else.
Love always hopes Love doesn’t automatically assume the worst about someone but is always ready to believe the best about someone.
Love always perseveres Love always hangs in there.
Love never fails Real, true love is unstoppable- it never fails.
So now that you know a little about the characteristics of love, let’s try something out. Try substituting your own name for the word “love” in these verses…
“(Your name) is patient, (Your name) is kind. (Your name) does not envy, (Your name) does not boast, (Your name) is not proud. (Your name) is not rude, (Your name) is not self-seeking, (Your name) is not easily angered, (Your name) keeps no record of wrongs. (Your name) does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. (Your name) always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (Your name) never fails…” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV)
Did your name sound right when you substituted it for the word “love” in these verses? Well if it didn’t, don’t feel too bad- the fact is that none of us can substitute our own names for love in these verses and have it sound totally accurate. The truth is that Jesus is the only one who can substitute His name for “love’ in those verses and still have it be completely true.
But listen, the good news is this: as you continue to grow in your relationship with Jesus, the more appropriate it will sound when you substitute your name for the word love in those verses. The more like Jesus we become, the more our lives will take on those characteristics of love that He showed for us. As it says in 2 Corinthians 3:18…
“(A)s the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him.”
(1) The American Heritage Dictionary, third edition