1 Corinthians 13:4-5

In 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 Paul continues to tell us what love is not – 8 different qualities that do not define the agape love that God wants us to have toward one another. “It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;” are the next three on his ‘does not equal love’ list:

  1. Not envious
  2. Not boastful
  3. Not arrogant
  4. Not rude
  5. Does not insist on its own way
  6. Not irritable
  7. Not resentful

It’s interesting that Paul chooses to tell us far more about the things that love is not, than the list of things that love is. That should be a clue that while love is one of the most powerful things for us to live by, it also can be misused, misconstrued, misapplied and mis….lots of other things if we don’t love God’s way.

The fifth thing love is not – it is not about me. Love does not insist on its own way. This is being like Jesus in a most basic way, being an others-centered person instead of a self-centered person. There is no room for self-centeredness when we love someone. Our focus, our actions, our emotions – they all need to be focused on the person who is the object of our love. It is human nature to focus on self, but agape love is not that way. We put our focus on others. We put self aside and spend our energy on how we can lift up and put others in the center of our attention and action. It’s how Jesus lived His life, and if we’re truly going to love, we have to do the same.

Paul then says love is not irritable. We all find it easy to be irritated with those who are just plain annoying. And if we focus on their actions and attitudes, that becomes pretty easy to do. And unfortunately, we often are most easily irritated by the people we claim to love the most – those closest to us and those we spend the most time with. But it is a sin to be irritated, and it isn’t agape love. Does God take this seriously?  Remember that Moses was kept from the Promised Land because he became irritated at the people of Israel. You can argue that they were just responding to their circumstance and Moses was tired of the whining, but God cares how we treat others.

Then comes the truth that agape love is not resentful. Love does not keep score on who did what to whom, and especially who did what to me. Literally this means “love does not store up the memory of any wrong it has received.” Love will put away the hurts of the past instead of clinging to them. Unfortunately many of us have long memories about things where we think we’ve been wronged or mistreated. But love let’s go of those things. It doesn’t mean we forget, but that we forgive and do not hold it within. Clarke writes real love “never supposes that a good action may have a bad motive… The original implies that he does not invent or devise any evil.” We assume the best intent and trust until we are proven that we cannot.

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