We have noted these positive characteristics of agape love thus far from I Corinthians 13:
1. Love suffers long.
2. Love is kind.
Let us now continue our consideration of what love is and isn't:
3. LOVE REJOICES IN THE TRUTH (13:6).
How can one rejoice in the truth? Such can be done in telling the truth (being honest) and in possessing the truth and loving it. Those with agape love rejoice in what is true, even when it is favorable toward their enemies. God desires all to come to a knowledge of the truth and to obey it (cf. I Tim. 2:4). Those who don't love the truth (or consequently rejoice in it) cannot be saved (cf. II Thess. 2:10).
4. LOVE BEARS ALL THINGS (13:7).
Literally, this means that love is to cover. This has led some to think that it means to cover the faults of others, but more likely it means to cover as if to keep resentment out and to patiently endure their faults. Related thoughts are found elsewhere in the Scriptures - "Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins." "He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends." "And above all things have fervent love for one another, for 'love will cover a multitude of sins.'" (Prov. 10:12; 17:9; I Pet. 4:8).
5. LOVE BELIEVES ALL THINGS (13:7).
Agape love clings to hope even when things may seem hopeless. Agape love labors to give people the benefit of the doubt. Isn't that what we desire that others give us? Don't be naive, but be harmless & follow the Golden Rule (cf. Matt. 7:12; 10:16)!
6. LOVE HOPES ALL THINGS (13:7).
True hope can be defined as desire plus expectation plus patient waiting. Agape love always hopes what is righteous and pure. Is our love accurately described in this fashion?
7. LOVE ENDURES ALL THINGS (13:7).
Agape love is perseverance. It is solid, firm, and grounded in God. It is the attitude of "never give up & never die" when suffering hardships. "You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (II Tim. 2:3). "For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God" (I Pet. 1:19,20).
Did you notice the most common theme on that list? Patience! Agape love is patience in action. One without this type of endurance and longsuffering is lacking in the love God wants all His children to have.
Having briefly considered Paul's list of positive characteristics of agape, let us now contemplate the negative characteristics found in I Corinthians 13:4-8 (in other words, things agape love will not do).
NEGATIVE CHARACTERISTICS OF AGAPE:
1. LOVE DOES NOT ENVY (13:4).
Agape love is not envious of others in any way. We must learn to be content with what we have. As Paul declared in Philippians 4:11,12 - "Not that I speak in regard to need for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content; I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need." If we are concerned about others having more money, power, beauty, or pleasure than we do, our love is lacking and our focus is misdirected.
2. LOVE DOES NOT PARADE ITSELF (13:4).
Agape love does not parade itself, but lies do. Romans 12:3 exhorts - "For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith." Genuine love does not show off; it is humble and meek.
We will consider the remaining aspects of what love is not in our next lesson.