The Crushing Weight of Love

[A] mistake that many people make: we tend to read 1 Corinthians 13 as an encouraging, feel-good Bible passage full of happy thoughts about love. Instead, I find the passage to be almost terrifying, because it sets a standard for love I know I could never meet.

None of us lives with this kind of love, and there is an easy way to prove it: start reading with verse 4 and insert your own name into the passage every time you see the word “love.” For example: “Phil is patient and kind; Phil does not envy or boast; he is not arrogant or rude. He does not insist on his own way; he is not irritable or resentful; he does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Phil bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Phil never fails.” Do the same thing for yourself and you will know how I feel: not very loving at all….

It reads very differently, though, when we put Jesus in the picture. If 1 Corinthians 13 is a portrait of love, then it is really a sketch of the Savior we meet in the Gospels: “Jesus is patient and kind; Jesus does not envy or boast; Jesus is not arrogant or rude. Jesus does not insist on his own way; he is not irritable or resentful; he does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Jesus bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Jesus never fails.”

Paul encourages us to read the Love Chapter in a Christ-centered way by the dramatic shift he makes between verses one to three, where he speaks in the first person, and verses four to eight, where love is personified. First the apostle tells us what he cannot do without love; then he tells us what only love can do. And the reason love can do all these things is that it has become incarnate in Jesus Christ. Jesus is everything that I am not. He alone has “love divine, all loves excelling.” This realization does not crush me; it liberates me, because the love of Jesus is so big that he loves even me. And because he loves me, he has promised to save me, to forgive me and change me. We are nothing without love. But when we know Jesus, who does nothing without love, he will help us love the way that he loves.

Philip Graham Ryken, Loving the Way Jesus Loves, Chapter 1.

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Filed under 1 Corinthians, Applied Theology, Bible, Christian Living, Christology, Commentary, God, Gospel, Love, Theology

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