1 Corinthians 13:4-8 - 4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
What is love? That is one of the greatest questions. And the answer is given in these verses. Let’s examine these verses. The term “love” is translated from the Greek term agape (ἀγάπη agapē, ag-ah´-pay) which means, “love, i.e. affection or benevolence.” This is a word used to refer to the “love feast” of the early church and is often translated, “charity, dear, love.” It is in particular the brand of love associated with God (John 3:16; Rom. 5:5, 8). That is why we aren’t merely asking “What is love?” but “What is Agape Love?”
Paul defines what agape love is and does as well as what love is not. He defines love from every direction here which is why this is such a valuable passage in defining love. So just what is agape love?
First, love suffers long (13:4a). “Suffer long” comes from the Greek term makrothumeo (μακροθυμέω - makrŏthumĕō, mak-roth-oo-meh´-o) which means, “to be long-spirited, forbearing or patient; longsuffering, patiently endure.” Love has staying power. Love keeps at its objective even though suffering and difficulty may be involved. Love is like the Father waiting for the prodigal to return home (Luke 15:11-32). Paul is a good example of this because his compelling love in ministry moved and motivated him to continue on in the face of constant adversity (2 Corinthians 6:2-10).
Second, love is kind (13:4b). The word “kind” comes from the Greek term chresteuomai (χρηστευομαι - chrēstĕuŏmai, khraste-yoo´-om-ahee) which means, “to show oneself useful, i.e. act benevolently; be kind.” Love is an action. A loving person does not sit by and feel sorry for themselves or others, but a loving person takes loving action to help and act benevolently toward those around them. God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were sinners He sent Jesus to die for us and redeem us (Romans 5:8). We ought to do the same in His love (Proverbs 19:22; Luke 6:35; Romans 12:10; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:12-13).
Third, love does not envy (13:4c). Envy is to covet what another person has (ζηλόω - zēlŏō, dzay-lŏ´-o or ζηλεύω zēlĕuō dzay-loo´-o). A loving person will rejoice and be glad for the blessings of God bestowed on others. Carnal Corinthian Christians are envious and jealous, and therefore unloving (1 Corinthians 3:3). Envy is a trait of the sinful fleshly nature (Galatians 5:21). Love is not self-centered. Love does not see everything and everyone in terms of what “I” have or do not have. Love doesn’t get caught up in keeping up with the Joneses. Love is the fruitful produce of the Holy Spirit working in a person (Galatians 5:22).
Fourth, love does not parade itself (13:4d). The idea of the phrase, “parade itself” (περπερεύομαι - pĕrpĕrĕuŏmai, per-per-yoo´-om-ahee) is to be a “braggart; to boast; vaunt itself.” It is to make yourself the center of attention. Love is not proud. It doesn’t seek the spotlight. The loving person is a good listener who does not feel they have to be the center of attention in a group or a conversation. Pride leads to a host of problems in life and therefore pride should be overcome by way of God’s love (Proverbs 13:10; 16:18).
Fifth, love is not puffed up (13:4e). A loving person is not filled with hot air. The phrase “puffed up” comes from the Greek term phusioo (φυσιόω phusiŏō, foo-see-ŏ´-o) which means literally, “blowing; to inflate.” In a figurative sense it means, “make proud, haughty, puff up.” Love is discreet, humble and genuine. The puffed up person is the person who presents themselves as something more than they actually are. Jesus denounced hypocrisy (Matthew 23:23). Love leads us to be genuine and real before God and people (Romans 12:9).
Sixth, love does not behave rudely (13:5a). The loving person is a polite person who respects others and does not march around uncaringly like a bull in a china shop. To be “rude” (ἀσχημονέω - aschēmŏnĕō, as-kay-mon-eh´-o) is to be (i.e. act) unbecoming; behave self uncomely (unseemly).” Love esteems others as better than themselves (Philippians 2:3).
Seventh, love does not seek its own (13:5b). The loving person is not out for themselves. The loving person seeks the best for others. Love is diametrically opposed to carnality which is rooted in serving self. Jesus gave Himself on the cross so we could be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:14-21; 8:9).
Eighth, love is not provoked (13:5c). “Provoked” comes from the Greek term paroxuno (παροξύνω - parŏxunō, par-ox-oo´-no) and means, “to sharpen alongside.” It means to always be on edge. It’s like a person looking for a fight with anyone and everyone who might tread on their turf or rights. Remember a loving person is “long suffering” and therefore is not easily provoked but easy going and able to laugh off or not take offense easily at offenses. The loving person overcomes evil and their enemies with love (Luke 6:35; Romans 12:21).
Ninth, love thinks no evil (13:5d). “Evil” (κακός - kakŏs, kak-os´) means, “worthless; depraved, injurious; bad, evil, harm, ill, noisome, wicked.” Evil means rotten. Rotten things are not on the mind of the loving person. A loving person does not look at those around them with a look that is accusatory of evil. A loving person does not see evil in others or think the worst of people. Love thinks on holy things (Philippians 4:8-9).
Tenth, love does not rejoice in iniquity (13:6a). Love is not happy when injustices occur, even to their enemies (“iniquity” – ἀδικία - adikia, ad-ee-kee´-ah) is a word used to describe “injustice; wrongfulness of character, life or act; unrighteousness, and wrong.” A loving person is grieved over injustice, even when it happens to an enemy (Proverbs 24:17; Matthew 5:44). Fools overlook sin but the one who loves takes its consequences seriously (Proverbs 14:9).
In this first part of answering the question What is Agape Love? We have seen what love is not. In the second part of this study we will see what love is. We have seen the negative. Now we will turn to the positive. Until we do, make sure to love with agape love.