Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Definition of Love

1 Corinthians 13
Though I speak with the tongues of men and Angels, and have not love, I am as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I had the gift of prophecy, and knew all secrets and all knowledge, yea, if I had all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and had not love, I were nothing. And though I feed the poor with all my goods, and though I give my body, that I be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing. Love suffereth long, it is bountiful; love envieth not; love doth not boast itself, it is not puffed up, It doth no uncomely thing, it seeketh not her own things, it is not provoked to anger, it thinketh no evil; It rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; It suffereth all things, it believeth all things, it hopeth all things, it endureth all things. Love doeth never fall away, though that prophesyings be abolished, or the tongues cease, or knowledge vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect, is come, then that which is in part shall be abolished. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass darkly; but then shall we see face to face. Now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I am known. And now abideth faith, hope and love, even these three; but the chiefest of these is love.

(the above scripture is quoted from the 1599 Geneva Bible )

This passage, 1 Cor. 13, is often referred to as the "Love Chapter." If you happen to use the King James translation then you will notice that every place that the word "love" is used in this passage, it is rendered as "charity" in your Bible. Nearly all other translations also render it as "love." This is not a failure on the part of either translation. The word from which both "love" and "charity" are translated is the Greek word "agape." As a matter of fact "agape" is translated as "love" two out of three times in the King James. Though the King James is closing in on its 400th birthday, this difference in translation of the word agape, is perhaps just as appropriate now than it was in 1611.

The Old English concept of "charity" is that of a generous and unselfish concern for others. It embodies the concept of love expecting nothing in return. The meaning of the word "love" in our day has devolved into many and varying meanings. It can mean the romantic love that a man and woman share. It can mean an erotic love, and it can even mean simply to enjoy. For instance "I love a good cup of coffee." However, in the context of this chapter, the word charity perhaps does help clarify the intended meaning.

The first three verses point out that even if we are involved in all manner of Christian service, such as worship and ministry and good works, they are in vain if done with the wrong incentive. They are of no effect. Remember; a generous and unselfish concern for others, expecting nothing in return. If write this with the motivation that you will look up to me; hold me in esteem, that is not love; that is not charity.

Our motivation for the deeds we do is so important, that Paul says here that even if we were to die a martyrs death, it is no gain to us if it is done without love. In other words, if we perform an act to get something in return, we will get nothing in return.

If you were not quite sure that I had the definition of this Greek word that is translated Love or Charity quite right, then verses 4 - 7 give the biblical explanation of what it means. It is patient; it is kind. Envy does not have a place in it. Love is not boastful, nor is it prideful. Love is not rude, and does not insist on its own way. It is not easily provoked and it doesn't think evil. Love does not enjoy wrongdoing, but it rejoices in truth. Love bears up under all circumstances, believes all God's word, hopes in all God's promises, and endures through all adversity. And to top it off, Love never ends. That is how the Bible explains this word we call Love, or Charity. It must be pretty important trait, because I cannot think of another in the Bible which gets such a thorough explanation. The Lord didn't want us to be able to miss what this word Love really means.

Verse 13 tells us that Love is the greatest of the three; faith, hope, and love! How can that verse help but bring to mind another verse.

In John 15:13 Jesus says: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

Paul tells us that Love is the greatest of the three spiritual gifts mentioned in our text, Faith, Hope and Love, and here Jesus tells us what is the greatest expression of love. The greatest expression of love is that you would sacrifice yourself for your friends. If we read on in this passage verses 14,15 "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you."

The greatest expression of love is that you would die for your friends. Jesus Christ showed us that greatest of love when he died for us on the cross.

Christ commanded us to love our neighbors, love our brothers in the faith, and even stated that men will know we are his disciples by our love. This being the case, shouldn't we study this definition of love we have been given to be sure we understand what it is that he would have us to do?


Dennis said...

Excellent post! Thanks!

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