We noted in our prior lesson that without agape love--a love that seeks what is in the best interest of others--we are nothing.
Paul continues this thought in I Corinthians 13:3 - "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing." Notice carefully that the apostle says it is worthless for one to give everything away if he doesn't have love. One's motive & mindset is even more important than the act one is engaged in. One could do great things by giving away all his possessions or even by allowing himself to be killed brutally, but God says that such is not beneficial to that one if he does it for the wrong reasons. It is undeniable that giving one's life or all his belongings is a serious & costly gift, but if such is given for any other reason than agape love, it is hollow and worthless in the Lord's eyes.
Any good that is done is worthless if one's motive is not love. Now think of it this way: What other motive would one have for doing a good deed if it wasn't love? I can only think of a couple reasons: pride or the desire for the praise of men. Isn't that what Jesus talked about when He said:
"Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may receive glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly" (Matt. 6:1-4).Without agape love, our talents and good works are all in vain.
In I Corinthians 13:4-8, Paul gives an explicit definition of what love is and what it isn't. Let's look at these verses by sorting out the positive & negative characteristics of agape love. First we will reflect upon the...
POSITIVE CHARACTERISTICS OF AGAPE:
1. LOVE SUFFERS LONG (13:4).
In other words, love is patient. Admittedly, it is easier to be patient with those whom we have a natural affection for (phileo) than for those that perhaps we dislike or are not very close to, but God would have us to love (agape) even our enemies (Matt. 5:44)! In fact, Jesus commands it. How can He command us to love our enemies? How can we feel endearment or affection toward our enemies? Friends, that's not what Jesus is expecting us to do. You might never feel a natural affection toward certain folks, but that doesn't mean that you can't show agape love to them! You can treat them in a way that shows that you desire what is best for them! You can humbly treat them as better than yourself (cf. Phil. 2:3,4). This is what Jesus did with many of the religious leaders of His day. Do you think He felt a close affection for those hypocritical Pharisees? I doubt it, but He did love them. He always treated them in the best interest of their souls, even when they needed rebuking.
2. LOVE IS KIND (13:4).
Love is kind in front of people & behind them. In truth, there's MORE to kindness than just how you treat people when you're with them! Ephesians 4:32 instructs - "And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as God in Christ forgave you." Is your love characterized by kindness?
We will continue this study in our next lesson.