The Benefits of Love
Jerry A. Collins
The most beneficial thing we can do is to love. That we become loving people is more beneficial and important than whether we are active, busy people for God. The fruit of the Spirit, love, is more beneficial than the gifts of the Spirit to serve God. Both are necessary, but one is greater and more beneficial than the other. God’s Word says so: "But earnestly desire the best gifts (to serve). And yet I show you a more excellent way" 1 Corinthians 12:31.
What is the character of this love that is the more beneficial way to live? What does it look like and how does it present itself? Love is not an ethereal thing. Love manifests itself in the normal, ordinary pursuits of all of our lives. It is helpful to ask ourselves "Am I growing in love" Looking over the past year, am I easier to live with now? Am I able to handle people more graciously, more courteously? Am I more patient, more compassionate, more sensitive?" We are given life that we might learn to love. Nothing else can be substantiated for it. If we lack this quality, there is no use holding up any other for people to see. It does not matter. Nothing is more beneficial than love. We have been given some very practical ways of testing love in our lives. These practical tests are recorded in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
THREE POSITIVE TESTS
In verses 4-6 there are only three positives given and all the rests are negatives. So love expresses itself in three ways.
(1) Love is Patient
This is the capacity to be wronged and not retaliate. It is being slow to become angry and take offense. This idea always means being slow to anger with people so that you do not immediately wipe them out, or turn them off while enduring some suffering, in order to let people have a chance to work things out. For instance, we can express this toward an obnoxious teenager; inconsiderate employee; insensitive marriage partner; apathetic student; or vindictive associate. These situations reveal my capacity to endure the wrong we receive. Love has a constant and growing capacity to do so.
(2) Love is Kind.
This is reacting with goodness toward those who mistreat us. It is giving yourself away in service of another for their benefit. While patience has to do with the capacity to absorb the hurt others cause us; kindness takes action to reach out and serve the offender in spite of the injury received. For instance, you might shovel your neighbors driveway in the winter while doing yours even though he is the same neighbor who has continued to be inconsiderate of your requests to stop driving on your grass or turning down the noise in the middle of the night.
(3) Love Rejoices In Truth
In verse 6 the rejoicing is at the truth as well as with and in the truth. Truth is the way things actually are. Jesus says "I am the way the truth and the life..." in John 14:6 meaning that He always speaks the way things actually are. In other words, God has given us truth that is absolute because it is the way things actually are. Today, we have self-serving rules and standards which allow everyone to decide for himself the rules which apply and truth is lost. Tolerance of opinions, practices and behavior which ignores and replaces Gods standard has become a virtue. However, love delights and rejoices in the absolute standards God has spoken in His Word. For instance, it is not loving to be tolerant of sexual relations outside of marriage; indebtedness; lack of respect from children; or speaking evil of others because all of these are violations of Gods absolute standard of truth in his Word. So, we can test the quality of our love by determining the degree it produces patience, kindness and joy in the truth.
EIGHT NEGATIVE TEST
As we continue to test the quality of our love, we must also determine what is hindering these qualities from being produced in our lives. To do this, we must survey a number of negative things we must set aside in order to let the love of God manifest itself through us.
This is being displeased at the success of others. We can become spiteful and short with people because we see them enjoying something that we want. For instance, a person may have a relationship that we envy or opportunities that we do not have or qualities about themselves we do not have and get angry about it.
It means to ‘play the braggart'. It is the desire to receive admiration, recognition and applause. It refers to the person who talks about himself. For instance, we are impatient with another because we would rather have them listen to us than take the time to listen to them. We are anxious to make a point that will motivate them to admire me. But that must be surrendered for love to break through.
In our lingo it means to ‘strut your stuff’. It is such a preoccupation with our own significance and importance that we view another person with disdain or a lack of respect. It ignores how the other will feel and asserts oneself regardless of what the result may be. For instance, criminal behavior can be sourced in an arrogant spirit because the person is consumed with self-importance that disrespects other people and property.
This means to behave indecently or in a shameful manner. It treats others in such a way as to create embarrassment. A rude person ignores another's rights by displaying a haughty or cutting or sarcastic behavior. For instance, a father can shame his son by putting him down or punishing him in front of a group of his peers or friends. Instead, love is tactful and does nothing that would raise a blush.
(5) Self Interest
This is the spirit that insists on getting its own way. The spirit of self-interest is stubborn, intractable and inflexible while insisting that everyone else has to adjust. For instance, I was threatened that no one would work with me in the warehouse once they were told I was a Clinton-hating Republican so I better conform.
A person who is touchy and moody is not a loving person. Love is not easily provoked. This is a spirit that is resentful and irritable and brings a lot of misery to those who receive the brunt of their fury and insensitivity. For instance, a husband can become irritated with his wife because of the demands of becoming the kind of loving husband God requires of him.
This is when a person deliberately keeps a record of all the wrongs they have suffered. The record of injuries builds up a spirit of resentment and malice toward another. It registers the evil and holds it over another's head. It is unwilling to forgive. For instance, most marital break-downs happen because one of the partners has developed contempt for the other due to a series of injuries they have kept record of and find it impossible to live with anymore.
This is a person who sympathizes with what is hurtful, wrong, evil and gloats over people’s miseries and misfortunes. It is a spirit that enjoys seeing harm come into another's life. For instance, we can gloat when we are glad that someone has experienced the same misfortune we have and say ‘now you can understand what I was feeling.’
If we are going to produce genuine love then we have to get the behavior and attitudes that are hindering that love from expressing itself, out of the way.
BENEFITS OF LOVE
In 1 Corinthians 13:7 we have four benefits of love that passes the test.
(1) Love Protects
Learning something unpleasant, it does not run and scatter the goods all over. Love covers it over, keeps it silent until appropriate timing and place to uncover and deals with it.
(2) Love Pardons
While it is easy and often our nature to think the worst of others, love is always ready to give the benefit of the doubt unless reality reveals otherwise. Yet, it is always ready to start over and grants second, third and fourth chances easily.
(3) Love Promotes
No cause, situation or person is regarded as completely hopeless. The idea is that even when love has no evidence it hopes for and believes the best with regard to the person or situation.
(4) Love Perseveres
Love never quits and never gives up on anyone. It is the capacity to sustain the assaults of suffering and hurt and never cave into self-pity, resentment, impatience, irritability, rudeness, jealousy, self interest, bragging or arrogance. Love endures all things.