I’d been thinking about I Corinthians 13 and planning to write about it for Valentines’s Day, so I was happy to come across this quote this week on a blog I read occasionally.
At the end of one of his lectures, Gordon Fee recalled a time when he was writing his commentary on 1 Corinthians, especially the morning he arrived at the famous words in 13:4, “Love is patient and kind.”
I remember the morning when I came to this passage: “Love is patient, love is kind.” It’s actually a verb: “Love does patience.” Or better yet, the KJV: “love suffers long.” Patience is what you show when your computer doesn’t work. Long-suffering is what you show when people don’t work, and you’ve been around them a long, long time. That’s what it means to suffer long. And I looked at those words and then realized that Paul was here describing God’s character. Those are exactly the words he uses of God back in Romans 2. Then it dawned on me, the first (long-suffering) is the passive side of His love; the other (kindness) is the active side of His love. And then I started to cry for a long time. It took me a long time to return to my computer. What if God was not like this toward us?
I Corinthians 13
1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,endures all things.
8Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
13So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
In recent years, I’ve been convicted repeatedly of how unloving I am. So often, I am the exact opposite of all the characteristics listed in this chapter; I’m impatient, unkind, arrogant, and irritable. I’m thankful, though, that Christ is patience and kindness personified and that He deals with me in loving ways. May I reflect more of His character as He continues to save me from my sin.