“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” (Reference: 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 )
Whenever I read this passage from I Corinthians my pace of life and my whole thought process slows down. I think it stems back to my adolescence; somehow I instinctively felt that this was a portion of scripture that was extremely important and I want to catch every nuance. From the first three words, “love is patient”, I pause so I can take in the action and emotion of patience. “Love is kind” – you can’t do kindness in a hurry; you have to take the time to know what is needed. From there the slower pace just seems natural; to not “envy” you have to take account of what you have and appreciate that. Then you can rejoice with the other concerning what they have but yet feel contentment within yourself.
The beginning structure of the passage also slows the reader down. The sentences are are composed of phrases that are short and separated by commas. It is a simple basic composition that does not depend on a lot of complex adjectives or adverbs. As the verses continue from verse eight onward and to the end of the passage, the sentences become longer and more involved. This makes the simple definitions of love stand out all the more clearly.
Peter Riedeman wrote about this passage saying, “Since so much has been said about love so far, we must show what it is like in orderthat it is better understood, that one may not think they have love when it is only an illusion. Love cannot hide itself because its nature is light. It must shine and show itself in active work, serving all people and doing good. For love does everyone good. It is ready to serve; it is kind, gentle, mild, patient, humble, pure, temperate, modest, sympathetic, brotherly, warmhearted, good, compassionate, gracious, lowly, forbearing, loyal, and peaceable. Love is not repulsive; it is not proud, puffed up, boastful, envious, or drunken; it is not self-willed, disobedient, deceitful, quarrelsome, or thieving. Love does not gossip; it is not jealous, irate, or spiteful, it despises no one, but bears all things and suffers all things; it is not revengeful; it does not repay evil with evil; it does not rejoice in what is wrong, but rejoices in truth. Only love does God’s work, 1 Cor. 13:4ff.”
Compare what he said beloved (which is all true and applicable) to the simple verses 4 to 7. Riedeman’s is an excellent discussion on the merits of love and how it should be used and applied. But if you are like me, in his discussion you are thinking not of love as an action but love as an attribute. It is both, of course. His last excerpted statement, “Only love does God’s work” is by grammatical and philosophical necessity a statement about the action of love. Because God’s work is action, and not just a passive wish.
May you beloved actively show the love as the writer of I Corinthians defines it, and may you do God’s work. Selah!