Sheldon Clowdus

Disciple . Husband . Father


The Greatest of These is Love
Our small group is studying the book of 1 Corinthians together.  Tonight we will be in chapter 13.  You know, the love chapter.  The chapter that graces wedding invitations, anniversary cards, and other similarly romantic items.  I certainly think these are all appropriate applications of what amounts to the most complete definition of agape love given to us in scripture.  Unfortunately, the tendency is to relegate that definition to the context of the marriage relationship when in reality it is meant to be the defining characteristic of every relationship we are a part of.

Interestingly enough, 1 Corinthians 13 isn't even written in the context of marriage but of the proper use of spiritual gifts in the church.  The church at Corinth had asked Paul about the gifts and their uses and Paul makes it clear to them that they can clamor all they want to about their gifts but if they operate apart from love, then they may as well be devoid of any gift at all.  In order to help them operate in love, Paul defines what true Christian love looks like.  This is where I think this passage becomes especially useful and convicting for us today.

There are several Greek words used in the New Testament that are translated as love in English. Of them all, agape is the love that is most removed from emotions and most attached to the will.  Agape love reveals itself not in how we feel, but in what we do.

These are the characteristics of agape love according to Paul:

  • patient
  • kind
  • does not envy
  • does not boast
  • not arrogant
  • not rude
  • not selfish
  • not irritable
  • not resentful
  • loves truth
  • believes the best of people
  • hopes for the best things
  • endures all things without bitterness
What this all means for us is this: it doesn't matter how you feel or what you say, if you aren't demonstrating these characteristics towards others then you aren't loving them.  

When you are impatient with someone, you are not loving them.
When you envy your neighbor's house, you are not loving him.
When you avoid telling someone the truth, you are not loving them.
When you believe the worst about people, you are not loving them.

We love others with our will through the power of the Holy Spirit working through us.  Without Christ, we cannot love others as we are called.  If these behaviors and attitudes define love, then the absence of them define the absence of love.  No amount of warm feelings or spoken platitudes will change that fact.

So just how important is it for us to demonstrate this kind of love?  Very.

  • Love marks us as disciples of Christ - John 13:35
  • Love marks us as having passed from darkness to light - 1 John 3:14
  • Love marks us as having been born of God - 1 John 4:7
  • God is love - 1 John 4:16
  • Love give us confidence in the day of judgment - 1 John 4:17
  • Love casts out fear - 1 John 4:18
  • Love is the greatest quality of the disciple - 1 Corinthians 13:13

The world teaches us that love comes from the heart.  It is a fickle emotion that comes when it wills and sweeps us away with its power.  It also leaves when it wills and leaves us devastated in its departure.  We fall in and out of love and there is nothing we can do about it.

Scripture teaches us that love comes from the will. It is an act of our Holy Spirit empowered will towards others.  It is not fickle, it never fails.  Scripture teaches us that love is the defining characteristic of the follower of Christ.  Without love, every other claim we may make pertaining to Christ makes us to be a liar.  God is love and His followers must be reflections of that love. God's love flourishes even when we don't feel loving.  We can still love others because our emotions do not determine love, our actions do.  Praise God that He can love others through us even when we don't feel like loving anyone.

I am a follower of Jesus, a husband, and a father. I teach 5th grade in my hometown of Rome, Georgia.


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