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December 18, 2023

The Love Connection

Now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

–1 Corinthians 13:13

Jonathan Swift, the author of “Gulliver’s Travels,” once said, “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.”

That was certainly true of the church at Corinth. They were an influential church, they were a growing church, but they were filled with strife and division. What was the answer to the conflict in the Corinthian church that was threatening their witness for Jesus Christ? In a word, the answer was love. And that is why Paul wrote an entire chapter about this subject of love. Love is the lubricant, he said, that makes any friendship, any relationship, any family, and any church run smoothly.

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul was not talking about erotic love; he was talking about agape love, a self-sacrificing love that is more interested in what it can give than what it can receive. He said love is preeminent–it is superior to eloquent speech, it is superior to spiritual gifts, and it is superior to sacrifice. Then beginning in verse 4, Paul listed the characteristics of love. As I said last week, these descriptive words about love are not adjectives; in the original language, they are verbs. Love is not so much something you are as it is something that you do.

Consider this list of characteristics a checklist for love. And I want you to use this checklist in two ways. First of all, use it on yourself. Are the characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians 13 true of you? Are you doing these things in your relationships? Second, if you are thinking about entering a romantic relationship with somebody, use this checklist on your potential partner. Does that other person possess these characteristics of love?

Last week, we looked at the first two characteristics of love on Paul’s checklist. He wrote, “Love is patient” (v. 4). That word translated as “patient” is “makrothumia,” and it usually refers not to circumstances but to people. Literally, we could say, “Love is long-tempered.” In other words, love has a long fuse rather than a short fuse when it comes to people.

Second, “love is kind” (v. 4). It is always doing something useful for people, especially people who wrong us. Of course, God demonstrated kindness toward us in sending Christ to die for us. Even though we were sinners deserving God’s judgment, God did not give us what we deserved but what we needed–He acted with kindness toward us. That is the kind of love we are to demonstrate. This week, we are going to look at the rest of Paul’s checklist for how to love other people with that unconditional agape love.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Love Connection” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2012.

Jonathan Swift, “Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting,” in “The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift, D.D. [. . .] with Notes, Historical and Critical,” vol. 9 (London: J. Johnson, 1808), 286.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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