Because God is love, every Christian must model God’s love. How that is to be done is described in 1 Corinthians 13. Keeping in mind that God’s love is an expression of His essence, the essence of every Christian must express itself in love. If there is any question or confusion as to what biblical love is, the Scripture provides a clear understanding in terms of what love is, and what love will and will not do (1 Cor. 13:4-8).
Sixteen Characteristics of Love
Love is longsuffering, or patient.
Love is kind.
Love does not envy.
Love does not promote itself, or boast.
Love is not puffed up, or proud,
Love does not behave itself unseemly; it is not rude.
Love seeketh not her own; it is not self-seeking.
Love is not easily provoked, or easily angered.
Love thinks no evil, meaning love keeps no record of wrongs.
Loves does not rejoice in iniquity; love does not delight in evil.
Love does rejoice in the truth.
Love bears all things for love is always protective.
Love believes all things; it always trusts.
Love always hopes.
Love endures all things. It always perseveres.
Love never fails.
Every Christian should memorize these characteristics of love in order to make every effort to consciously, and consistently, model them for good reasons. Jonathan Edwards suggests the following.
Love reveals what the right Christian spirit is.
Love reveals whether those who profess faith in Christ have a genuine Christian experience. If we have no love, we have not been born of God. Everyone who has true faith has true love.
Love reveals a friendly spirit, which spirit is the spirit of heaven itself. There is a pleasantness of the Christian life. People who have no joy, have no love.
Love reveals why strife and contention contribute to the ruin of true religion.
Love reveals the urgent need to guard against envy, malice, and other darks spirits that over throw the work of love.
Love calls us to love even the worse of our enemies, as a testament to the spirit and sum of the Christian.
When the Christian models these particular characteristics of love, they model God’s love. In your life, and in mine, the love of God has been expressed at some point by one or all of these facets of love.
As the Scriptures are studied the various facets of love, defined by Paul, are manifested towards saints and sinners. The apostle’s thoughts on love is in the context of the broader subject on the gifts of the Spirit. The Church was dividing over the manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit, and glossalia, or tongues in particular. Paul taught that even the most gifted person, without love, is nothing more than a flashing and clamoring personality. It does not matter if a person has the gift of knowledge, or prophesy, and if a person can move mountains, and even if there is self-sacrifice, if they have no love, they are nothing. Spiritual gifts are no substitute for love.
Unfortunately, in the Church, in the 21st century, love is often been overshadowed by talent. If a person is knowledgeable, sophisticated, oratorical, or an educator, they receive preferential treatment even if they have no capacity for kindness and do are not loving. To these talented people Jesus may well say one day, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” Therefore, let the Church return to studying, teaching, and modeling biblical love as it reflects the essence of God.
Love is longsuffering. Many times, in Scripture, God is described as long suffering. To be long-suffering is to have self-restraint when one is stirred to anger. A longsuffering person does not immediately retaliate or punish; rather, the believer has a “long fuse” and patiently forbears. Longsuffering is associated with mercy and hope.
It does not surrender to circumstances or succumb to trial. “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father” (1 Thess. 1:3)God is the source of longsuffering because it is part of His character. “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth” (Psalm 86:15).
God is patient with sinners. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9).
At the same time, God’s longsuffering can come to an end, as seen in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18—19) and the sending of Israel into captivity (1 Kings 17:1–23; 2 Kings 24:17—25:30).
Love is kind. One act of great kindness is to speak well of other people, even when they are not present. Love does not give liberty to speak evil of others, or even to think evil of others.
“If to think evil be so much to be condemned, surely, they are still more to be condemned who not only allow themselves in thinking, but also in speaking evil of others, and backbiting them with their tongues.
The evil-speaking that is against neighbors behind their backs does very much consist in censuring them, or in the expression of uncharitable thoughts and judgments of their persons and behavior. And, therefore, speaking evil of others, and judging others, are sometimes put for the same thing in the Bible, as in the passage just quoted from the apostle James.
How often does the Scripture condemn backbiting and evil-speaking!
The Psalmist declares of the wicked, “Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit. Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own mother’s son” (Psa. 50:19, 20).
And, says the apostle, to Titus, “Put them in mind… to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men” (Tit. 3:1, 2); and again, it is written, “Wherefore, laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil-speakings” (1 Pet. 2:1).” –Jonathan Edwards
Jesus is kind. “A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth” (Isaiah 42:1).
Continue through the facets of love as set forth in 1 Corinthians 13, and you will find them modeled in God the Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ. Let the Christian model God’s love as well.