What Love Is or What Love Does?

TODAY’S READING: 1 CORINTHIANS 10-13

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Can you go to a wedding and not hear this passage of scripture?

Perhaps there’s a good reason for that.

Throughout the Bible, the picture of marriage is a man leaving his father and mother so that the two can become one flesh, one body. Quoting Genesis 2:24, Paul says, “‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

Therefore, marriage is a picture of two becoming one. But, two becoming one is a mystery. It is a mystery because two becoming one is not about flesh merging with flesh – man and woman becoming one – but about spirit merging with flesh – God and man becoming one.

So, we read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 at a marriage ceremony because we instinctively know that the only possible way for two to become one is love. Love is the power, the capability, the capacity, potential for two becoming one.

Love brings God and mankind together in perfect union, perfect harmony, perfect relationship.

However, what gets too easily forgotten in this is that God is love (1 John 4:8, 16).

Therefore, I have written previously that

“God is patient and kind; God does not envy or boast; God is not arrogant or rude. God does not insist on his own; God is not irritable or resentful; God does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. God bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. God never ends.”

This is an entirely different picture of God than what most people have, including Christians. We struggle with our view of God because people, including Christians, take the Old Testament description of God as authoritative. Then, we try to shoehorn what we know about love into the Old Testament description of God even though we all know that love – the love we all want to base our marriages on – is not like that Old Testament description of God.

In the Old Testament, God reportedly destroyed all people everywhere with a flood, committed genocide, commanded the burning of everyone – men, women, children, babies – in numerous cities, inflicted multiple nations with earthquakes, plagues, diseases, and wars, ordered the rape of women and abortion of babies.

And, somehow Christians use that description as the authoritative description of God that we somehow squeeze into the silly little notion that God is love. The same type of love we so desire in our most intimate of human relationships.

Talk about cognitive dissonance.

Or, maybe not for so many, many Christians because the conflict between the description of God in the Old Testament and God is love seemingly causes no discomfort for them.

God is love is a simple, clear, direct statement. Perhaps we should take that as authoritative. Then anything, anywhere, whether it is written in the Bible or not that conflicts with

God is patient and kind; God does not envy or boast; God is not arrogant or rude. God does not insist on his own; God is not irritable or resentful; God does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. God bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. God never ends

should immediately get tossed aside as a lie, an untruth, a fiction.

But, apparently people would rather worship what a book says about God than God himself.

However, even all of this – “God is patient and kind…” – doesn’t give us the full picture.

Just take the statement “God is patient.” God is the subject. Is is the verb. Patient is an adjective, a noun that describes a quality, a characteristic of God. And, when we read the English translation of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, this is basically true of kind, envy, boast, arrogant, rude, irritable, and resentful. In English these are all nouns, adjectives.

So, we read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 as description of what love is, what God is. However, the Greek word for is is not found one time in the passage.

That’s because in the Greek everyone of these words is a verb. Paul is not describing what love is but what love does. In English, it is not so easy to say love patients.

Paul is telling us how love acts and behaves. Therefore, this is a description of what God does and how God behaves. Knowing this drives home the point that God take these actions, and he is doing so to make himself one with us.

Further, the English translation loses the fact that some of these verbs are active, meaning love and God do them, and some are passive, meaning that love and God are the recipient of the action. The Greek words for kind, boast, arrogant, irritable, resentful are all verbs in the passive voice. Therefore, love and God are the recipients of these actions, not the ones that do these actions.

The word for kind also means make use of. Paul is not saying that love kinds or love is kind. Rather, it’s more like love makes use of itself for other or love is made use of for others.

Paul is not saying that love does not boast. Rather, it’s more like love is not boasted about. Love is not the recipient of boasting.

The Greek word for arrogant also means made proud or puffed up. Paul is saying that love cannot be made proud or puffed. Therefore, God cannot be made proud. In other words, your actions cannot make God proud. God loves you for you.

Paul is saying that love cannot be irritated. Think about that. God is not the recipient of irritation. You cannot irritate God.

Finally, resentful is actually several words in Greek. Those words actually mean speaking evil. Paul is not saying that love does not speak evil. Rather, Paul is saying that love cannot be spoken evil of.

This is really, really important.

Love does not receive being spoken evil of.

Therefore, God does not receive being spoke evil of.

In other words, we should never speak evil of God.

Yet, when we take the Old Testament description of God as authoritative, when believe God to be a mass murderer, inflicter of plagues and diseases, commander of rape and abortion, we are speaking evil of God.

Let it never be so.

God is love.

Love is not what God is. Love is what God does.

And, simply based on the love everyone desires in marriage, we know that God does not kill, hurt, maim, curse, sicken, or wound us.