We seek love constantly. Love is a much rarer commodity than the world would have us believe. The world would have us believe that love is that which satisfies our physical desires. That is so far from the truth, it spurs all kinds of confusion and debate among loves greatest proponents.
There is a distinction between lust and love. While we may blend physical attraction into loves composition of emotion, dedication, and devotion, complete love doesn’t even consider a physical bond. It may be present, and it may show itself in different forms, but complete love goes so far beyond being allured by another.
There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears is not complete in love.
1 John 4:18 (CSB)
John was a real lover. You can tell this by what he wrote in his letters. He doesn’t limit love’s impact on us by throwing out a specific attribute and then calling it a day. His statement here quickly separates the physical from the spiritual bond of love.
Perfect love repels fear. When fear enters it, then there are issues unrelated to love that are replacing or affecting the attributes of love. It will infringe the fullness of love by allowing fear. Complete love is what we see God having for us.
How else can you explain a God of creation that has seen what the costs of loving us would be, but despite that forethought He created the universe, all it has in it, and us; with the express purpose of loving us and having a relationship with us.
This kind of love is incomprehensible to our finite minds. We can lay it out, diagram it in our minds, draw conclusions from it, but a full comprehension of love is beyond our ability to grasp. It has absolutely nothing to do with physical attraction because we are in contrast to God disgusting and vile creatures.
Paul told us in Corinthians …
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:7 (CSB)
That hope and endurance are exemplified in the sacrificial love of God, who despite our corruption and defilement chose to love us and provide a means of remaking us from the vial creatures we have become, into a glorious new creation in Him.
A closer look
If I speak human or angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give away all my possessions, and if I give over my body in order to boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (CSB)
We get caught up in Paul’s rhetoric about love in chapter thirteen of First Corinthians. What really should be drawn from the first three verses is the essential need for love to preeminent everything in our being.
The relationship between what we do, and the infusion of love applied with it is inversely proportional. What is meant by this, is when the things we do, are done just because we can, or are motivated to do them, the benefit of the action has minimal or even a negative effect.
However, when coupled with love there comes a proportionality which amplifies the benefit of both the act and the love in sequence with each other. The element of each complements the other and build the effect greater and greater as each are applied.
Take one away or diminish it and the effect becomes minimized in effect.
This is the inverse proportionality of love.
Unlike dealing with math, as inverse proportionality typically does, applied to love it, folds in meaning and fulness to everything we are and do as disciples of Jesus Christ. That ‘Perfect Love’ that casts out fear has power and empowers everything we speak and do.
Other attributes of love
Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs.
1 Corinthians 13:4-5 (CSB)
As Paul continues to talk about love, he outlines the attributes of perfect love, just as John touched on briefly.
A presence of patience, kindness. A lack of envy, boastfulness, arrogance, rudeness, selfishness, irritableness. Love doesn’t keep score of wrongs that take place.
It’s so very interesting that love doesn’t track wrongs. Often what is not said is the consequential assumption true of something else. There is likely a reason Paul stated this truth in this manner. We can safely say love will track the goodness of another because of not keeping a record of wrong.
Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:6-7 (CSB)
Love doesn’t take pleasure in unrighteousness, rejoicing in truth. Honesty, integrity, and doing the right things for the right reasons is what love takes pleasure in. Truth is a catalyst to trust and infuses faith.
We touched on the ‘hope and endurance’ earlier but it is important to consider the support system that love puts in place as it bears all things. These attributes of love sketch into place a slight understanding of the love God has for us to hope and endure all that was to be before we had become his creation.
A test of love
If we take verses four through seven, they can serve as a superb evaluation of our love and the love of another. I’ve heard it suggested for couples considering marriage to go through these four verses and every time the word love appears replace it with the name of their potential mate.
Kip is patient, Kip is kind. Kip does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Kip finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. He bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
This also can be used as a test of our own love regarding God and others.
Wrapping up love
Paul ends the chapter with…
Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love — but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13 (CSB)
Which again underscores the determination of God to establish with us a relationship that would last all of eternity. Resulting in a merging of His being with our being in an eternal state of blissful unity.
He’s done it all for love and all He will do going forward is predicated on love.
Because of this love we should love him completely as well. It is the appropriate response to one who has given us everything, to be everything they desire in return.
We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And we have this command from him: The one who loves God must also love his brother and sister.
1 John 4:19-21 (CSB)
Because we love God, we must love others. They are loved no less than we are by Him and were created for Him to love and to love Him.
It is only when these are accomplished that we can all abide in “Complete Love”.
In His Grace,