Love in Action in the New Testament – 1 John – part 1

Introduction

In previous posts I have talked about the importance that the Lord places on love.  He cites Love as the basis for the Law and Prophets in Matthew 22:37-40, for example.  The last several posts looked at 1 Corinthians 13.  This chapter is a comprehensive definition of the love that is the taught about and demonstrated, both positively and negatively, throughout the bible.

What I want to do now is to survey the New Testament to look at examples of this love in action and learn from them what the Lord has designed for us.  I am starting with 1 John since I know there is a lot here about love and how critical it is for us.

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Reflections on 1 Corinthians 13

After studying love as it is described in 1 Corinthians 13, I wanted to pause and mention some overall reflections.  I learned a lot in this study of love, but one of the things I am impressed by is the sense of how much more there is to learn.  Love is mentioned so commonly in our culture and language that it means very little to us, definitely nothing special.  It does not take long in the study of the bible to come to realize that the love most commonly mentioned there is nothing like what we commonly talk about in our culture.

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Love Never Fails – 1 Corinthians 13


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For the last 14 posts I have been studying and discussing the detailed description of love provided for us in 1 Corinthians 13.  This “agape” love that is described there is the love that we, as disciples of Jesus, are expected to live.  This is mentioned many times in 1 John and other places.  This is the love God possesses (John 3:16, for example) and that we see modeled for us throughout scripture and, most specifically, in Jesus’ life on earth, culminating in His crucifixion and resurrection.

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Love …Endures All Things… 1 Corinthians 13:7


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As I mentioned in previous posts, verse 7 of 1 Corinthians reads like a 4 point list of emphasis in the description of what the “agape” love is designed to be.

“bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.“  1 Corinthians 13:7  (NKJV) (emphasis mine)

Click the links for the posts that discussed “bears all things,” “believes all things,” and hopes all things.” 

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Love …Hopes All Things… 1 Corinthians 13:7


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As I have studied the “agape” love as it is described in the bible, and specifically here in 1 Corinthians 13, it makes even more sense to me that this love is not based on an emotional response to circumstances, but is a commitment to the welfare of the one I love.  Over and over, the teaching in 1 Corinthians 13 makes it plain that this love is focused on the benefit of another person.  This is especially true of verse 7.  It is like a powerful 4-point summary in the middle of this beautiful description of what the Lord has designed this love to be.  This verse reads:

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Love …Believes All Things… 1 Corinthians 13:7


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Going through this study of love found in 1 Corinthians 13, I am struck by the beauty and power of what the Lord has designed it to be.  If you are anything like me, you live through your relationships much of the time in a kind of reactionary way, responding to circumstances and trying to do the right thing, but not thinking a lot about what love is.  I am blessed by loving relationships in my life (particularly with my wife), but the more I learn about love, the more I realize how much more profound and powerful love is designed to be.

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Love …Bears All Things… 1 Corinthians 13:7


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This section of 1 Corinthians is a very detailed lesson on the “agape” love. Verses 4-6 start with a few positive aspects of love and then provide a list of several negative aspects that are NOT a part of love. Now, in verse 7, there is a series of four positive aspects of love delivered in short phrases, almost like the bullet-point lists we often see in modern presentations. This is verse 7:

“bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:7 (NKJV)

For reference, here are a couple of other translations of this verse.

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Love Rejoices in Truth, Not Iniquity – 1 Corinthians 13


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Verse 6 of this chapter has a significance that is easy to overlook, at least it has been for me.  It reads like this:

“does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;”  1 Corinthians 13:6  (NKJV)

If we allow the verse divisions to narrow our focus too much when studying this passage, we can miss the impact of these words.  I must admit that I can remember reading through this verse many times and essentially dismissing it as obvious.  Of course a disciple of Christ is to rejoice in truth.  We should just move on to the next verse.

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Love… thinks no evil… – 1 Corinthians 13


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The last phrase used in verse 5 of 1 Corinthians 13 is “…thinks no evil.”  This describes an aspect that is NOT a part of love.

“does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;  1 Corinthians 13:5 (emphasis mine)  NKJV

On first glance this seems obvious.  Of course we are to think no evil.  But, there is much more to this phrase and its context to consider.  The significance of what this is teaching us speaks directly to a real problem we have with our relationships.

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Love… is not provoked… 1 Corinthians 13


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This phrase is the third one in verse 5 that describes a trait that is not a part of love.  It is related to the previous phrase, “…does not seek its own…”  As I discuss below, it is often our selfishness that makes us vulnerable to irritability and being provoked.  Let’s look at the text in 1 Corinthians 13:5.

“does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;:  1 Corinthians 13:5 (emphasis mine)  NKJV

Consider how other translations handle this phrase.

  • “…it is not easily angered,”  NIV
  • “…it is not irritable or resentful;”  RSV
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