1 Corinthians 13 – The Most Excellent Way

Let me begin with a little scene and part of a script of a movie that someone shared. Bessie has taken care of her very ill father and her aunt for 20 years. After learning that she has leukemia, her estranged sister comes to visit her. Bessie says to Lee “I’ve been lucky to have had so much love in my life.” Lee says “Yes, our father and Aunty really loved you.” Bessie seems taken aback for a minute. Her sister did not understand what she said. She did not mean that she was lucky to be loved, but that she was lucky to have so much love to give to others.

Lucky to love. What a great perspective! That we are here on this earth thankful to be able to love others. LOVE is not about self, it is about others! 

1 Corinthians 13 is part of God’s message to us on love.  

Why was this chapter written by Paul? There was a lot of division at the time in the church of Corinth. There was a problem with spiritual gifts.  Paul wanted them to stop working so hard trying to prove themselves doing all these great things and showing off their gifts. Everyone was trying to be better than the other – there were those that thought their gift of languages made them the best; there were others that had great knowledge and a faith that could move mountains. And still others that gave much money to the poor. Paul stops them and wants to show them a more Excellent Way! 

Paul says love is the essential ingredient. Love must be the motivation for using our gifts and for blessing others with them. It must rule over all we do.  Without love we produce nothing, we are nothing and we gain nothing. It is worthless because it is not honouring God or our neighbor.

In verses 4-7 Paul explains what love is. The love mentioned here is “agape” love – the love that wants the best for others and the love of sacrificing for others. Love builds and holds things together. 

Love is patient. It puts up with people and their differences, faults and imperfections. It gives time for change and makes room for mistakes to be made. It endures personal wrongs and does not retaliate. 

Love is kind and considerate.  Kindness is patience in action. It does good to people, even those who irritate you.  A kind person wants to be helpful. He looks for needs and opportunities to meet those needs without repayment. He is gentle, calming, tender and forgiving when wronged.

Love is not jealous, it does not keep a record of wrong.  Love also does not keep account of what is owed to him or her. 

Love is not arrogant or rude. Love has good manners. It puts others at ease. It’s courteous, polite, tactful and sensitive to the feelings of others.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not resentful, it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  

Love is protection. Love is willing to protect others. Love provides a place of safety when someone is in the middle of a trial or storm in life. Love is trust. It looks for the best in everyone and takes their word and it mourns with those who fall. Love is hope. We may have been disappointed by love, but we can hope for better things to come. 

These things will keep our relationships in our families and churches strong. Love will prevent bigger problems creeping into our homes or churches. When divisions and problems arise in our church or home or in any of our relationships it is usually love that will restore these things. If we are full of God’s love it will also overflow to others. 

All these wonderful qualities do not exist apart from the person who loves but are flesh and blood to the one who loves, dominating one’s entire thinking and acting. 

The chapter ends with love endures. It is permanent and has a lasting effect on our lives. People will always remember your act of love, whether it was a listening ear or a note to encourage, a visit because of a disagreement or the time you sacrificed for them. In doing acts of genuine love we are storing treasures in heaven. We are building the Church of Christ and making it stronger.  We must challenge ourselves to apply this most excellent way to our lives in our homes, our churches, our neighbourhoods, and our communities. Love will destroy a lot of division and instead build unity.

The various aspects of love listed here characterizes God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Every follower of Christ must aim to grow in this kind of love, so as to truly become more like Jesus. 

God is love (1 John 4:8) His love is completely selfless love that embraces the entire world of sinful people (John 3:16) The greatest expression of that love was how He sent His only Son, Jesus to die for our sins- to satisfy the complete penalty for our rebellion against God and repair our broken relationship with Him. 

So how are we able to live with this kind of love in our lives? This sounds impossible. But we know that all things are possible with Christ.

Reading 1 Corinthians 13 is humbling. We know we fail miserably at love in all relationships in our lives. We are in desperate need of help – help that only God can give. We need to read God’s Word daily to convict us of our weaknesses and shortcomings. We must pray to confess our sin and ask for forgiveness and for the Spirit to help us to go forward and pursue love, and strive for love in all areas of our life as that is the most Excellent Way!

~ Wilma Vanderwoude