If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 

It is so fascinating to me that Paul says here in 1 Corinthians 13 that there might be Christ-followers who experience manifestations of the power of the Holy Spirit’s gifts working through them but do so without embodying the love of God. And furthermore, others might exhibit extremes of sacrifice without embodying the love of God. This is how important, special, and central agape (Gk.)/hesed (Heb.) love is to authentic Christ-centered spirituality. 

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 

I have recently been meditating on what love looks like in both 1 Corinthians 13 and Colossians 3. I am struck by how both emotional and relational maturity are significant factors in embodying the love of God in what we call an Immanuel lifestyle. Our Life Model Works ministry is dedicated to helping Christ-followers from every tradition to integrate both emotional and relational maturity into their conceptions of spiritual maturity. This is profoundly biblical and often overlooked in models of discipleship in the church world. 

So, if we are not to measure our spiritual maturity in terms of power or sacrifice, since both facets of spiritual experience can be done without love, how shall we “measure” it? Ironically, “measuring” our spirituality may be quite antithetical to authentically living with our Immanuel God. The godliest people I know never seem to be concerned how far they have “progressed” in the Lord. They are too preoccupied loving God and neighbor to worry about all that! 

So here are my musings about some of the outstanding attributes of what love consists of: 

  • Love is patient – at peace when we hope the situation could be quite different than it is. 
  • Love is kind – it delights to lift some kind of burden off of another. 
  • Love is peaceful – it seeks to bring distinct parts into an integrated and functional whole by God’s wisdom.  
  • Love is tender – it yearns deeply for God’s mercy to triumph over justice.  
  • Love is enduring – it sticks together with another for their best in every situation of life.  
  • Love is true – it rejoices when truth stands tall and wins the day.  
  • Love is hopeful – it is assured that God is presently working for better things to emerge in the future. 
  • Love is trusting – it is vulnerably giving others the benefit of the doubt.  
  • Love is protective – it uses its power and resources to shield and strengthen the helpless.  
  • Love is forgiving – it knows no one is perfect, holds no grudges, and stands ready to reconcile with a penitent person.  
  • Love is joyful – it is glad to be relationally present with others who God has drawn into their sphere no matter the circumstance. 
  • Love is not envious – it authentically celebrates the fruitfulness and blessings given to another.  
  • Love is not boastful – it refuses to trumpet one’s own accolades, success, strength, gifts, or goodness. 
  • Love is not clamorous – it rejects adopting a mob mentality with its obnoxious roaring, blind hatred, and violent rioting.  
  • Love is not deceitful – it welcomes the purification of all ulterior motives in the heart in order to live transparently before God and others.  
  • Love is not covetous – it is peacefully contented with the nature and measure of the gifts God bestows upon oneself.  
  • Love is not resentful – it provides and possesses a sweetness of soul that permits no attitude of bitterness to take root. 

Can you add to the list?  

Finally, as the apostle John wrote, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” 1 John 4:18. I do not think this implies that if we know God’s love that we will never experience fear hitting us. This is part of what it means to be human. But this divine love is an active relationally based force that can drive fear out of our hearts, minds, and bodies as needed. Once we begin to experience this, we realize how possible this truly is and our minds become renewed! As you read through the list above about what love consists of, think about what kinds of fear might block us from embodying such virtue.  

Fears like:  

  • Failure 
  • Lack 
  • Loss 
  • Pain 
  • Rejection 
  • Misjudgment 
  • Ridicule 
  • Persecution 
  • Punishment 
  • Success (and its responsibilities) 
  • Death 

May we know that God is with us so that such fears will be surmounted and not define our way of being, our style of relating, and our wholehearted doing as we live for the honor of Jesus the Christ. 

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