Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13.4-8.
Yesterday, I ended by looking at what love does not rejoice in — the evil that it sees in the lives of others; and today I begin by looking at what it does rejoice in — the truth. The verb that the NIV translates as “delight” is chairo and the verb it translates as “rejoices” is chairo too, but synchairo — to rejoice with or in or at something. And what love rejoices in is that which is honest and upright and good and beautiful in the lives of others, as opposed to the sins they fall into and their faults and failures. Jesus is, of course, “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14.6), and what I will rejoice in if I have real agape in my heart is the Christlikeness I see in the lives of others, even if it puts my own lack of such Christlikeness to shame.
Love “always protects”. The verb stego means “to cover” in the way that a roof (Greek stege) covers what lies beneath it; and here it seems to mean that love is ever anxious to hide the faults of others rather than expose them. It takes the thought of the previous phrase one step further. Not only does love not rejoice at the wrong it sees in the lives of others … it rushes in and covers them. If I have love, I will be like Shem and Japheth who, seeing that their father Noah had become drunk and was exposing himself in sleep, “walked in backward and covered their father’s nakedness” (Genesis 9.23). “Above all, love each other deeply,” says Peter, “because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4.8). And isn’t that just what God in Christ has done for me?
Love always trusts. It deliberately places its confidence not only in God but in other Christians, even though there is always the risk that other Christians will let down the one who is trusting them. It involves believing the best about people.
Love always hopes. The verb elpizo is much more positive than our English verb “to hope”; it speaks of confident expectation rather than something that lies just over the border from doubt. It is the attitude that, whatever is happening or whatever lies ahead, enables me to say with Dame Julian of Norwich, “‘And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well”.
And love always perseveres. The verb hupomeno is often translated “to endure” but it means more than that. There is nothing passive or resigned about it; it rather describes the spirit that greets trials with transforming courage and triumphant fortitude.
Love never fails. The verb is ekpipto which literally means “to fall away or drop off” but when it is used metaphorically, as it is here, it means “to be in vain, to be without effect”. And agape love never is in vain, says Paul. It is never without effect. It is the most powerful thing in the whole wide world.
And, of course, we see it in its fullness and perfection only in Jesus. He personifies this agape love …
Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind. He does not envy, he does not boast, he is not proud. He is not rude, he is not self-seeking, he is not easily angered, he keeps no record of wrongs. Jesus does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Jesus never fails.
Lord Jesus, let your love … this agape love … be shed abroad in my heart today. Amen