BY T. O. BANSO
Love is a very important subject in the Bible. Both the Old Testament and New Testament emphasize the need to love God and others. Jesus underscored this in His teaching, stressing that loving God with all of one’s heart, soul, and mind and loving one’s neighbour as oneself are the greatest commandments (Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-31). Also, the Apostle Paul said, “Love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10b NKJV). In other words, if you could walk in love, you would have fulfilled the requirements of the law.
Nevertheless, before Jesus started His ministry, the teaching about love for others had been corrupted and Jesus’ teaching on love was a departure from what people had heard.
Hear Him: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48 NKJV).
In this passage, Jesus was talking about a kind of love different from what the people had been taught. God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). So we are to love both foes and friends and not discriminate against anyone. This is the kind of love God has for human beings. He loved the world so much that He gave His Son, Jesus, to die for our sins.
4 types of love
Whereas at least four Greek words are used for love, only two of them are used in the New Testament. Eros refers to romantic or sexual love from which the word romantic is derived and storge refers to family or familial love. Both are not used in the New Testament. Storge only appears in compound Greek form, philostorgo, in Romans 12:10.
The two Greek words used for love in the New Testament are philia (verb: phileo) and agape (verb: agapao). Philia refers to brotherly love or friendship love while agape refers to unconditional or sacrificial love. Every mention of love in the New Testament refers to either philia or agape but the most common is agape.
Some Bible scholars believe that agape love and phileo love are used interchangeably in the book of John, and, therefore, can be regarded as synonyms. They contend that usage depends on the context and that God loved with both agape love (John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 9:7) and phileo love (John 5:20; 16:27), as reflected in these scriptures. They submit that agape should not be exclusively defined as God’s kind of love or unconditional love, as sinners can also love others with agape love. This, for example, is seen in Matthew 5:46 and Luke 6:32. Even in Luke 11:43, the Pharisees agapao (love) the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Other Bible verses support this position.
Nevertheless, for the purpose of this message, we shall refer to agape love, which the New Testament refers to a lot, as God’s kind of love. Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary notes “contrary to popular understanding, the significance of agape is not that it is an unconditional love, but that it is primarily a love of the will rather than the emotions.” In other words, agape is not dependent on one being loved but on one’s commitment (will) to love others. This is how God loves us.
We need to know what agape is to be able to walk well in it. 1 Corinthians 13, which is often referred to as the love chapter in the Bible, tells us what love (agape) is.
The first three verses of 1 Corinthians 13 underscore that love matters more than anything else and anything done without love is useless. Therefore, everything must be done out of love.
The chapter goes further in 1 Corinthians 13:4-10 to tell us the characteristics of agape love. It lists out 15 characteristics of love which I will discuss under 14 points to help you walk in God’s kind of love. These characteristics tell us what love does and what it doesn’t do.
Characteristics of God’s kind of love
1. Love suffers long. This means that love is patient. The Greek word translated “suffers long” in 1 Corinthians 13:4 in the New King James Version is “makrothumeo to be long-spirited, i.e. (objectively) forbearing or (subjectively) patient” (Strong’s Concordance). God is love (1 John 4:8). And one of the attributes of God is long-suffering (Numbers 14:18; Psalm 86:15; Romans 2:4; 9:22). God is long-suffering and God is love. Therefore, God’s kind of love suffers long.
Walking in God’s kind of love requires that you walk with longsuffering among other things (Ephesians 4:1-2). You must be patient with everyone (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
2. Love is kind. Ephesians 4:32a says to be kind to one another. In 2 Corinthians 6:6, Paul talks about his longsuffering, kindness, and sincere love, among other things so that his ministry might not be blamed. Longsuffering and kindness are also listed in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Love is kind. Are you kind to others or callous?
3. Love does not envy. Envy is one of the symptoms of carnality (1 Corinthians 3:3). To be carnal means to be controlled by the appetites of the flesh. God’s kind of love does not envy. James 3:16 says where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. Those who walk in God’s kind of love lay aside envy and other walks of the flesh and desire the pure milk of the word, so that they may grow thereby (1 Peter 2:1-2). Don’t envy anyone either a sinner or saint (Proverbs 23:17; Galatians 5:26).
4. Love does not parade itself and is not puffed up. This means God’s kind of love is not boastful and proud. These two are discussed together because they are related. Love does not parade itself and is not puffed up. “It does not brag, and it is not proud.” (1 Corinthians 13:4b NCV). As Paul wrote to Timothy, one of the features of the last days is that people will be boasters and proud (2 Timothy 3:1-2).
Are you boastful or proud? Psalm 5:5 says the boastful shall not stand in God’s sight. Also, Proverbs 16:5a says everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5) Beware of pride. “When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2 NKJV). Remember that pride goes before destruction and haughtiness before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). “A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor” (Proverbs 29:23 NKJV). Love does not parade itself and is not puffed up.
5. Love does not behave rudely. The Greek word that the New King James Version translates in 1 Corinthians 13:5 as “behave rudely” is aschemoneo. It means “to be (i.e. act) unbecoming” (Strong’s Concordance). Love does not act unbecomingly or improperly. It also means that love is not rude (Amplified Bible) or ill-mannered (GNT). It does not dishonour others (NIV). Do you behave rudely?
6. Love does not seek its own. This is also stated in 1 Corinthians 13:5. It means that love is not self-seeking, does not seek its own interests, or is not selfish. It’s not self-serving. Jesus said in Matthew 20:27-28, “And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (NKJV).
Also, Paul says, “Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being” (1 Corinthians 10:24 NKJV). In Romans 12:10, he says that we should give preference to one another. Furthermore, Paul says in Philippians 2:4 that each person should not look out only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. In verse 21, he notes that, unlike Timothy, others seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus.
Love does not seek its own interests. Don’t forget that where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there (James 3:16). Paul pleased all men in all things, not seeking his own profit, but the profit of many, that they might be saved (1 Corinthians 10:33). Don’t seek your interests; seek the interests of others. If everybody seeks the interests of others, everyone’s interests would be taken care of.
7. Love is not provoked. Whereas some translations like the New King James Version and the American Standard Version say in 1 Corinthians 13:5 that love is not provoked, the King James Version says love is not easily provoked. The Bible in Basic English says love is not quickly made angry. The nature of God, who is love, is that He is slow to be angry (Nehemiah 9:17; Psalms 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Nahum 1:3).
Love does not get angry quickly. We must avoid provoking one another (Galatians 5:26b). But when people knowingly or unknowingly provoke you, control yourself. Don’t react in anger. Respond in love. Don’t provoke anyone except positively as Hebrews 10:24 puts it thus: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” (KJV).
8. Love does not think evil. The New Living Translation says love keeps no record of being wronged (1 Corinthians 13:5). The New Century Version puts it this way: “Love does not count up wrongs that have been done.”
If you’re walking in God’s kind of love, you will not keep records of the wrongs against you. As a human being, you may be unable to completely forget wrongs as God forgives and forgets our sins. But you shouldn’t keep records of past wrongs such that you’re angry as if they’ve just happened. If you’re walking in God’s kind of love, you should forgive no matter the gravity of the wrongs and the number of times you’ve been wronged. From what Jesus said in Matthew 18:21-22, there is no limit to the number of times you should forgive.
Jesus said in Mark 11:26 that if you did not forgive, neither would your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:15 says a similar thing. Do you forgive people their sins? Or do you still have a fresh memory of offences of years or decades? Love does not keep a record of evil.
9. Love does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in the truth. “It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out” (1 Corinthians 13:6 NLT). The New Century Version says, “Love takes no pleasure in evil but rejoices over the truth.” Weymouth’s New Testament renders it thus: “She finds no pleasure in injustice done to others, but joyfully sides with the truth.”
Love rejoices in the truth. John wrote, “For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 3-4 NKJV). Practise God’s kind love; rejoice in the truth.
10. Love bears all things. In other words, “Love never gives up” (GNT 1 Corinthians 13:7). Moffatt’s translation renders the phrase “love bears all things” as love is “always slow to expose.” Those who are eager to expose others’ secrets, weaknesses, faults, or sins are not walking in God’s kind of love. Love keeps every confidence (NASB). Love always protects (NIV). Proverbs 10:12 says, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins” (NKJV). 1 Peter 4:8 says a similar thing: “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins’” (NKJV).
Love bears all things. “We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Romans 15:1 NKJV). According to Galatians 6:2, believers should bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
11. Love believes all things. What does this phrase in 1 Corinthians 13:7 mean? The Amplified Bible explains it as “looking for the best in each one.” Love believes the best in all (ISV). It means that love “is not distrustful and suspicious” (People’s New Testament Commentary). It also means that love “unsuspiciously believes all that is not palpably false, all that it can with a good conscience believe to the credit of another” (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary). Do you have this kind of love?
12. Love hopes all things. Still, in 1 Corinthians 13:7, the Bible says love is always hopeful (NLT). Faith is the substance of things hoped for (Hebrews 11:1a). Faith and hope go together but faith must work through love (Galatians 5:6b). Love hopes all things and is greater than faith and hope. “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NKJV).
13. Love endures all things. God’s kind of love “endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:7 NLT). It endures persecution from enemies and maltreatment from friends. Paul told Timothy to endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3). You also should. In Hebrews 12:1, the Bible says we should run with endurance the race that is set before us. According to Hebrews 10:36, we need endurance, so that after we have done the will of God, we may receive the promise. Love endures all things. Do you endure all things?
14. Love never fails. Compared with prophecies and tongues, which will cease, love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8). Love will last forever (NLT); love is eternal (GNT); love never comes to an end (GWT). Love will never disappear but will always abide. There will be no need for prophecies and tongues in heaven but love will continue to eternity.
Conclusion: Agape is God’s kind of love. Use the characteristics of love considered in this message to confirm if you’re walking in God’s kind of love. Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbour as yourself. Practise God’s kind of love.
If you have not given your life to Jesus, do so now by taking the following steps: *Admit that you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto You today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and God raised Him on the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like a palm tree and grow like a cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President of Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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