I am amazed how Adonai leads me as an individual, how He confirms His Word through multiple witnesses. Now I watch Him lead our congregation, confirming his Word as we walk together. As a congregation we have been working our way through Paul’s letter to the congregation in Corinth. We find ourselves paused between Chapters 12 and 13 for the past 2 weeks. Over that time, we have experienced the exercise of the Supernatural gifts at the week of services at High Street Church and the ministry to the Holocaust survivors in Ukraine and Eastern Europe.
We saw the demonstration of the gifts of prophesy, tongues, interpretation and discernment of spirits through an evangelistic and prophetic team. We also heard testimonies of healing through one who is gifted in the ministry of helps. Each minister had their own style and their own gifting.
While it is often exciting to see these gifts of the Ruach in action, what I long for in our congregation, is that we receive and give out the love of Yeshua. In Ephesians, Sha’ul declares that love is the primary fruit that the Ruach ha-Kodesh grows in our lives. Here in this passage, Sha’ul called this a “far better way.”[Read 1 Cor. 13:1-7] [i]
The first thing I would like us to notice is that our modern definition of “love” is very shallow. We say, “I love my wife, I love my house, I love my car and I love my coffee!” Many of you may have heard that the Greeks had many different words for love. Eros is romantic passion, philia is friendship between equals, storge is tenderness and affection within a family, and agape is caring charity. Although agape was used before the time of Yeshua to mean “non-romantic affection”, the Scriptures provide a definition of agape to mean, “giving from oneself and expressing itself in acts of benevolence, kindness or mercy”[ii]. It would be synonymous with the chesed found in the Hebrew Bible which is “loving-kindness”. Another problem we have with our modern understanding of love, is that today, love is defined as an inner emotion or feeling, that we experience toward another person or object. However, this passage uses 15 different verbs that all use love as their subject. The love that is described here, the love that we are supposed to emulate in our lives, is a love of action, and deliberate choice, not one of emotion or feeling.
Definitions of Agape
I now want to focus in on verses 4-7 and look closely at how we are supposed to act in love.
- Love is patient: Are we willing to tolerate the short comings in others remembering that we also have faults? [iii]
- Love is Kind: Do we treat others with respect and compassion, the same way that Adonai treats us?
- Love does not envy: Envy has been called one of the 7 deadly sins, and it is the last of the 10 commandments. When we covet, we want what others have, without being willing to pay the price they paid. But do we do the opposite and act generously? Do we seek to enable others to succeed at our own expense?
- Love does not brag: Do we seek to promote ourselves and our accomplishments? Are we ambitious to get ahead? Or do we choose to praise others when they succeed, and rejoice with others in their accomplishments?
- Love is not puffed up: Are we humble? Do we prefer each other in love? Do we submit to one another and recognize that each person was made in the image of God? Or do we judge others by their actions, and judge ourselves by our intentions? Do we expect that we are entitled to more than others?
- Love is not rude: Are we crude with our words, or inappropriate in our behaviour toward other people and embarrass them? Or do we choose to treat all others with respect and dignity?
- Love is not self-seeking: Do we attempt to advance our own interests, especially at the expense of others? Or do we look for ways to help others grow and prosper?
- Love is not easily angered: Do we imitate Adonai by being slow to anger? Do we willingly suffer long without reacting, knowing that God treats us the same? Or do we have a sharp tongue that lashes out at others?
- Love keeps no record of wrongs: Are we forgiving? Do we choose to release the debts that others owe us? Yeshua shows us in Matt 18, that forgiveness is a commandment. We have no right to hold another person’s sins against them, while at the same time, asking Adonai for forgiveness for ourselves.
- Love does not delight in evil and injustice: Do we seek to bring about justice? Do we go along with what God calls “evil”?
- Love rejoices in the truth: Do we rejoice when truth prevails? Do we speak the truth even when it will hurt us personally?
- Love bears all things: Do we overlook the failings in others, the way we hope they overlook our own failings?
- Love believes all things: Do we chose to trust others and give them the benefit of the doubt?
- Love hopes all things: When we see the short-comings in others, do we look forward to the day that Yeshua will work these things out in their lives?
- Love endures all things: Are we willing to wait for people until the Lord works out the rough edges in others?
When I read this list, I cried, realising that in so many ways I do not demonstrate this love through my life. How are we supposed to have this love flowing from our lives to everyone we meet? Then I read John’s first letter and honestly, I cannot say it better.[Read 1 John 4:7-21]
The more we abide in God and have his words abide in us,
The more we know God and the love that he has for us,
The more we trust the love that He has for us,
Then the more His love is made perfect among us.
This week let us seek to know and share God’s love more.
[i] All Scripture quotations are taken from the Tree of Life (TLV) version unless otherwise noted.
[ii] Jewish New Testament Commentary, David Stern, pg. 481.
[iii] The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Rev. Ed., Vol 11, pg. 372-373.