As we dive into understanding and applying real love (1 John 4:10) to our lives, we are looking to Paul's writing on God's agape love (1 Corinthians 13) to help us think upon what love is not, and what love is. First, what love isn't.
What do we mean by "love"?
Our English word "love" has many implications. However, both 1 John and 1 Corinthians were written in Greek, and the Greek language has several different words to describe the different facets of our one word 'love'. For example, the Greek word eros can be translated as romantic love or lust, while the Greek word philia indicates brotherly love and affection.
The Greek word used for love in our passages (1 John and 1 Corinthians) is the word agape. Agape refers to unconditional love; the highest form of gracious love. This is the kind of love that is only perfectly demonstrated by God in His love for us.
What does 1 Corinthians 13 tell us about 'agape' love?
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 - 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
What does this passage teach us about what love is not?
Love is not jealous. The word envy means to eagerly desire, and it is used both positively and negatively in the Bible. Jealousy in the negative sense is related to greed and selfishness. The jealous person wants what others have, he wants things for himself. He is too selfish to applaud others’ success.
Love is not boastful or proud. Jealousy is wanting what someone else has. Boastfulness and pride is about trying to make others jealous of what we have. Jealousy puts others down; boastfulness and pride builds ourselves up above others. It tries to impress others of our great accomplishments in order to make us look good, even at the expense of others.
Love does not dishonour others. Love does not needlessly offend. Love has good manners. It is courteous, polite, sensitive to the feelings of others and always uses tact.
Love is not self-seeking. It is not selfish, does not demand its rights or seek our own way and our own glory.
Love is not easily angered. Love does not have a hair-trigger temper. Some people make everyone around them walk on eggshells. They’re easily offended. One little thing that doesn’t go their way and “KABOOM!”
Love does not keep a records of wrongs. Love doesn’t bear a grudge. It doesn’t try to gain the upper hand by reminding the other person of past wrongs. Love forgives.
Love is never glad when others do wrong. If someone you don’t like fails, you don’t gloat; you grieve, because God is grieved over sin. If they repent, you rejoice.
We should all be relieved to know God loves us this way!
God has commanded His followers to love the way He loves, so the list above may be convicting for many of us. Be comforted that God is not easily angered. He commands us to love like Him for our own good, and it is not in His heart to keep a record of our failures. He is with us and for us, and He is patient with us as we walk towards loving more like Him.