1 Corinthians 13:4-8
“4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.
All of us at some point or another have heard this verse about what love is and what love is not. We try to match our actions to this checklist and feel guilty when we fall short of them. We’ve all done that exercise where we replace the word love with our name and are inevitably disheartened when the last line reads “Kendall never fails.” Yikes. Is this passage just setting us up for disappointment and failure?
Perhaps this passage is not a checklist that we are meant to attempt to accomplish and ultimately fail at, followed by discouragement and shame. What we are supposed to attempt is love, and this scripture tells us what love can do and be. LOVE is patient and kind. LOVE is not proud or boastful. LOVE is not angry or vengeful. LOVE protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres. LOVE never fails. When we try to replace love with ourselves and say, “These are what I am,” we are trying to give ourselves a godly status. Not only is this wrong, but it’s not possible. 1 John says, “God is love.” These are not qualities of ourselves, but of God because He is LOVE.
So, does this mean that we ignore this list and give up since it doesn’t apply to us? Of course not. What is Paul talking about when he recites to us what love is? He is showing us “the most excellent way.” Everything we do in life, whether good or evil, pleasing or repulsive, righteous or sinful, will not matter if we do not have love. We are nothing and can do nothing without love. Paul is telling us, “Use love because this is what love can do. You cannot do this. Love can.”
There’s a lot we can do without love. But when we do, it is fruitless and meaningless. Put on love as the most excellent gift from God. These verses show you exactly what can come out of putting on love.