The More Excellent Way

12:31b And I show you a still more excellent way.  13 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.  4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
This may be one of the best-known passages of scripture, yet frequently misinterpreted.  These verses are often used to describe romantic love.  Many couples have this passage read at their wedding ceremony.  Paul did not have romantic love in mind when, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he penned these words.  He was speaking of how we are to love our fellow brother and sisters in the church.

Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthian church to address somer serious problems that arose within the congregation.  There was a division within the church due to immorality, incest, failure to administer church discipline when needed, favoritism, and inappropriate observance of the Lord's supper, and placing a higher value on certain spiritual gifts over others.  His response was "I show you a still more excellent way".   He is showing us the way God is calling us to behave toward one another in the church.

Paul, first, turns to the appropriate way to exercise our spiritual gifts.  In verses 1-3, he emphasizes the necessity of love in our motivation when using our gifts.  Without love what we do is nothing.  We just make a lot of noise.  God gives us spiritual  gifts, not to. puff us up or for our gain, but for His glory and edification of others.  If our motivation is self and not love, our gifts fail to bring benefits to others in the church.

Paul then goes on to define Biblical love in verses 4-7.  [Love is patient, love is kind]  Patience is showing restraint.  Which means we overlook wrongs against us and don't seek revenge.  We wait for the proper time to act.  Kindness is active.  We seek good for others and gently correct those who have strayed from God's Word.

[love is not jealous; love does not brag]. We don't covet what others have.  We also don't get upset when others succeed, nor do we boast in our accomplishments.  We don't seek glory for ourselves.

[love is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly]. Our hearts are humble and count others more significant than ourselves.  We know when to act or speak in a situation and when to remain still and be silent.  We refrain from gossip.

[it does not seek its own]. We are not to be selfish but concerned for about other's needs.

[love is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered]. When we love others we are not easily angered or frustrated.  Our anger is kept in check and our response is appropriate when people say or do things that annoy us.  Always forgiving and never hold the sins of others against them.

[love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth]. We are not to approve or condone morality. Always  be ready to s peak out against sin and uphold God's truth.

[love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things]. Love covers a multitude of sin, never assigns motives, doesn't stop hoping for the salvation of unbelievers, and seeks good for enemies.

The church is nothing like anything else in this world.  The church is a community of sinful people from different backgrounds and different experiences that have Jesus Christ and the Gospel as its authority.  Our purpose and mission are to take the Gospel to a lost world, baptizing and making disciples of Him.  To do this, we must love one another as the Bible has defined love and not as the world defines it; it is to be other-focused.  The world doesn't understand the church when we are loving as God has called us to love.  This kind of love is foreign, but it is attractive.  It supports our testimony and invites others to come and know our Savior.

You may read Paul's words and get overwhelmed.  You may see this definition of love as daunting and ask "how can I live out this love".  The only Person who has ever shown this love completely and perfectly is Jesus Christ.  We are not able to love like this in our power.  This love can only be lived out if we are in Christ and then yield to and cooperate with the Holy Spirit who indwells us.  We will never show this love perfectly but we can strive to love others as we continually grow in our sanctification.
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