What is love? How is it that a topic seemingly so straight forward can be one of the most complex discussions in modern day society? I mean, after all, love is love, right?
What is it that complicates the concept of love beyond the fact that everyone should both love and be loved? What is it that drives the myriad of educational books, movies, articles, and discussions focused on this single topic?
This isn’t a new-found concept. In fact, the Bible, in both Testaments, references the topic of love hundreds of times. It’s as if God knew it would be a difficult area of our life and provided us guidance ahead of time. To that, in retrospect, we say, thank you God for Your Word!
1 Corinthians 13:4 - Love “does not boast”
The author of this verse is the Apostle Paul and it is a letter sent to the church at Corinth. He mentions earlier in the book (ch.1), that he has heard of divisions – a lack of agreement, unity, and of demonstrated love.
Throughout this letter, it is clear Paul was calling the church back to a place of love that Jesus Christ had exemplified just a couple of decades prior to this letter.
In 1 Cor. 13, Paul gives us more than a dozen descriptors of love. If you haven’t read this chapter of your Bible recently, I encourage you to do so.
In verse 4 there is an interesting standout where it says that love “does not boast.”
Understandably, love in and of itself doesn’t have the ability to boast. So, we can deduce that he is referring to the individual who gives love as having the potential to boast and not actually love itself.
This chasm between love personified in Jesus and our frail humanity trying to once again perfect it is perhaps where the need for several hundred Bible verses of explanation comes into play. In this particular passage, Paul is highlighting for us that the true power behind love, generosity and charity is realized only when it is done without boasting, without arrogance, and without pride.
Think about it, most human accomplishments in life are vocalized and then recognized. We do something well, ensure others know of our achievement, and then we receive recognition. That reciprocation is expected.
However, love is meant to be the exact opposite.
Jesus told us in Matthew 6 not to trumpet our love for those less fortunate, but to do it in secret and our Father will reward us in return.
It goes against every fiber of our fleshly being to give or help someone less fortunate out of the love and goodness of our heart and then not share that act of kindness with others.
However, one of the most rewarding ways to love is to do so without boasting or expecting any recognition in return.
If you’ve never practiced this, give it a shot. Seriously, just try it! Do something kind for someone without telling them or anyone else for that matter. Whether at home, on the job, and yes, even at church. When you follow this Christ-inspired model of love, not only will your heavenly Father take notice, but the satisfaction of knowing that you changed the outlook of someone’s day is unmistakable.
I remember a specific instance where love and compassion were shown towards my family without boasting. It was a few decades ago, though I remember it as if it were yesterday.
Driving on an isolated stretch of mountain highway in Canada, my mother, myself (age 5), my older brother, and our cat were in a single vehicle rollover accident. We were shaken, especially the cat, but uninjured.
However, our Chevy truck suffered significant damage. Without the funds to fix it, we would have been stranded had it not been for a heaven-sent family that took us in for a week, paid to have our truck fixed to a drivable condition, and sent us on our way with no expectation of pay back.
I remember the three of us standing in the driveway as we left their home to continue on our journey, in tears, trying to comprehend the love and compassion this family had just shown us.
It’s unheard of… To share so many resources with complete strangers knowing you will likely never see them again.
That memory is top of mind quite often. Especially now, as I work for a ministry that focusses on Christians sharing their resources with one-another. What an example of love! To selflessly give, share with, love one another, and follow that ultimate example given to us by Jesus Christ.
If you aren’t already practicing this, I challenge you to do so as you go through your day today, the work week, and even church this weekend. Find a way to love, to give, to bless someone, with no expectation of return or recognition.
It seems counterintuitive, at first, but really it is just our flesh fighting the call to be Christ-like. Surrender to his will and start to develop habits around helping others in a spirit of humility and compassion. It will revolutionize your outlook, improve your relationship with God and you can find satisfaction knowing you have been Christ to someone else.
There is so much joy to be found in this… Don’t wait another day!