Friday, June 14, 2013

Love: The More Excellent Way, Part 4

 [Love] is not conceited, 5 does not act improperly (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)

In the context of 1 Corinthians 12, love not being "conceited" reveals an interesting danger in being a disciple of Jesus. In 2 Peter 1:5-8, Peter shows us a logical progression of Christ-like maturity. It starts with faith, which begins to change your behavior and results in goodness. The end goal seen in verse 8 is love, but to get there, you need knowledge:

faith > goodness > knowledge > self-control > endurance > godliness > brotherly affection > love

It makes sense. Psalm 119:11 says you have to know God's Word to not sin against Him. To become like Christ, you must know what character qualities He exhibited and desires to see in us. But what do you do with that knowledge?

1 Corinthians 8:1b Knowledge inflates with pride, but love builds up.

There was a time in my life when I had a very conceited attitude towards those who did not want to know the deeper things of God, to study what the Word says about Him just for the sake of having the knowledge. In my own intellectual superiority, I made people feel stupid for not knowing what I felt like they ought to know. In my knowledge, I was inflated with pride, because in my knowledge I had become stagnant in the journey to Christ-likeness. I needed to seek to add to my knowledge self-control by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The word translated "act improperly" is the same word used in 1 Corinthians 7:36. Here it describes the hypothetical situation of a man who cannot control his desire for his bride to be. Paul tells them to get married so that they may fulfill that desire properly, as God intended. To say that love "does not act improperly" means that it does not take for itself physical pleasures to which it is not entitled. How many times do we see and hear, and sometimes even participate in, the attitude of "well, we love each other, so we're going to do what we want" ? To love God is to obey God (1 John 5:3), and God says to "run from sexual immorality" (1 Corinthians 6:18). It is the fruit of self-control, the next step after knowledge according to Peter.

At the end of chapter 13, Paul says that all the spiritual gifts he listed earlier will one day pass away. Even in the "remaining" or "abiding" of faith, hope, and love, love is the greatest because only love is eternal. God has no faith in Himself. Faith is assurance of things hoped for but not yet attained, evidence of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1). God does not hope for that which has been promised but not yet delivered. We ourselves will not need hope once we see "face to face", and we will not need faith once we "know fully" (1 Cor 13:12). But God is and will always be love, and we will know that love fully for all eternity.

Do not arrogantly elevate yourself in your partial knowledge of God, and do not seek to take for yourself pleasures that have not been given to you. Add to your knowledge self-control, and to your self-control endurance, godliness, brotherly affection, and ultimately love. This is the path to which you have been called. It is the journey of a disciple of Jesus Christ.