Jonathan Swift once remarked, “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.” In the great “love” chapter of the Bible, the apostle Paul urges Christians to develop the quality of love (1 Cor. 13). Love is the “circulatory system” of the body of Christ. Paul wrote these words in the context of having to deal with many of the problems faced by the Corinthian congregation. Many of their problems were due to a lack of love. Notice some of them: abuse of miraculous gifts, division, envy, lawsuits, to name only a few.
One of the characteristics of love is its enriching quality. Paul reminded them that the exercise of spiritual gifts is nothing without love (13:1-3). Love is like mortar that fuses bricks together. It is one of the supreme evidences of genuine discipleship (Jn. 13:35). It is the essence of being God-like (1 Jn. 4:8).
Another characteristic of love is its edifying quality (13:4-7). Love doesn’t tear down; rather, it builds up. Love puts up with much that is not pleasant. It manifests kindness for which every heart hungers. Love is the opposite of envy which ultimately destroys the one whom it possesses. It keeps its chin up and not its nose. Love does not have an inflated opinion of itself. It is polite and courteous to all. It practices good and gentle manners. Love is not prone to violent anger or exasperation. Though injured, love governs passions, restrains tempers, and subdues feelings. It does not love the wrong, nor does it love the fact that wrong has been done. Love is optimistic.
Another characteristic of love is its enduring nature (13:8-13). Miraculous gifts such as prophecy, tongues, and knowledge were only temporary. These gifts assured the truthfulness and certainty of the gospel message (Heb. 2:3). Now that the message has been confirmed there is no longer any need for them, but there will always be a need for faith, hope, and love in every generation.