Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant (1 Corinthians 13:4, esv).
The bulk of 1 Corinthians 13, the renowned love chapter, can be summarized in three statements: On the majors—action. On the minors—acceptance. In all things—love.
Let’s start with the majors. There come times in close relationships when the issues are serious. Failure to take action will produce big fallout. In those instances, love does not sit passively by, weakly reasoning, “I love him, so I won’t upset him.” Wrong! Love takes action on things that are truly major.
How do you distinguish what’s major? Use these three guidelines to determine major issues on which love takes action.
1. Critical path: If your inaction will produce major fallout in another’s life, biblical love is on the move. If the person you love is struggling with a major doctrinal error, a case of marital unfaithfulness, a criminal act, a sin that could destroy him or someone else, or an abusive behavior, don’t sit passively by and collect stories for ten years. Step up! Get involved—say something! Love takes action on the majors.
2. Chronic problem: If you see the same sin patterns repeating over and over again, the issue doesn’t have to be big to get your love into gear. It’s “the little foxes that spoil the vineyards” (Song of Solomon 2:15). “Smaller” things call for action, too, if they’re part of a chronic pattern. If you have observed a destructive behavior repeated many times, it invites a loving response. A gentle word of correction can bear much fruit. Love might ask, “Is it possible you’re struggling with gossip?” If you’re close enough to observe “little” behaviors that add up to a “major” in the form of chronic patterns, get involved. On the majors, love takes action.
3. Close proximity: How close are you to the situation? There are some things you can live with in your neighbors and your friends but not in your spouse and your kids. Your closeness to the situation may imply responsibility. For example, if you saw a friend making a purchase that seemed unwise and wondered if he could afford it, you likely wouldn’t say something. But if your spouse were making that purchase, it would be very appropriate to speak up. “We can’t afford that! Trouble ahead.”
On the majors—action. If someone you love is on a critical path or fighting a chronic problem and you are in close proximity to the person, speak up. There are precious few people in this world who really love others enough to take compassionate action.
But much of what we see in each other doesn’t qualify as major, which brings us to our next principle: On the minors—acceptance. Minors refers to matters of personal preference, personality quirks, cultural differences, or even sin issues that aren’t critical or chronic. Really, 97 percent of life’s issues are minor: little irritations and differences between us. She thinks like this, but I don’t see it that way. I would have handled that scenario differently. I prefer contemporary worship music, but he likes traditional hymns.
These aren’t issues of right and wrong. We are different people, and we handle things differently. Most of the irritants in marriage and in friendship and in the workplace are minor. In those contexts, love learns to accept the person with his failures. Love doesn’t deny the irritation; love simply recognizes that the other person is far more important than any personal desire to live an irritant-free life. On the majors—action. But on the minors—most things—acceptance.
In all things—love.
Shouldn’t Christ-followers be the most loving, accepting, uncritical people on the face of the earth? The weird, sick, marginalized, and unlovely felt accepted by Jesus, and they should feel comfortable around us too. Let the wind of this beautiful breeze blow across your mind: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant” (1 Corinthians 13:4). Love is patient with people’s differences. Love waits for people to change. Love is long-tempered. Love doesn’t arrogantly assume its perspective is right. Love is simply, refreshingly kind.
Lord, thank You for this meaty passage of Your Word. It’s as relevant today as the day it was written. And it speaks to my experience. It calls me to less criticism and more love—sometimes speaking truth, more often accepting and embracing people who, like me, are in the process of transformation. God, forgive my negative, critical, faultfinding ways. Teach me to love others, to bear with them, to speak truth when it’s needed, and to accept them. Please bring to my mind a specific person with whom I need to be more loving and accepting. I want Christ to love others through me. Only He can give me a supernatural, endless capacity to love the very people who exhaust me. It’s in His matchless name I pray, amen.