1 Corinthians 13 contains the Bible’s well known description of how love behaves. There the apostle of Christ shows us the demands of love toward God and all mankind. This is especially true of those who are given God’s gift of a circumcised heart (Deuteronomy 30:6). A circumcised heart is one that is renewed in the image of God. A heart given the grace of true love results from our being made alive in Christ, a heart which invariably manifests love. It is a joy to recognize that, “… the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5).
Chapter 13 bears an important message for Christians as we walk in a world darkened by sin. However, as we look at passages like 1 Corinthians 13 they can become for us a list of do’s and don’ts without giving any regard to the disposition of our hearts. Paul warns in verses 1-3 that it is possible to give all that we own to a charity and become martyrs to the cause of Christ and still not have love. It is possible then to avoid impatience, envy, pride, rudeness and such behavior and yet not have love. It is possible to do acts which appear as loving and yet not be loving. In this light it is helpful to observe that Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13 are not a definition of love so much as a description of love’s behavior and that it is possible to act lovingly and yet not have the love of God.
So, what is love? Seems to me that whenever I ask for a definition of love the word suddenly gets rather squishy. Admittedly, love is harder to define than describe. The English dictinoary is helpful, but only if I know the kind of love I am seeking to define and there is the problem. As Christians we want to know what God has in mind when we are told to,”… love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5) and to, “… love your neighbor as yourself …” (Leviticus 19:18).
So, Biblically, we can see that, love involves several components and when those components or constituent parts are present within me, love can be said to be present. Based upon the Biblical data I offer a definition of love for those who would like one. God’s gift of love is a right affection and disposition of the heart and mind in relation to God and man in every circumstance.
Only in Christ can God’s love be seen clearly and perfectly. Jesus is both our Savior and Exemplar!
For further thought, see this helpful devotion from Ligonier TableTalk Magazine