Category: Do’s and Don’ts of Love

In 1 Corinthians 13:7, we see that love is more than an abstraction or ideal; it is action. Four specific actions are “always” performed by true love, and the second is that love “always trusts” (NIV) or “believes all things” (ESV).

First, we should understand what this description of love does not mean. The fact that love believes all things does not make a loving person a dupe. Neither does it mean that love is naïve, undiscerning or credulous. We’re not talking about gullibility here, and a foolish lack of skepticism is not a part of love.

The Greek word translated as “believes” is a form of the verb pisteuo, which means “to believe, place faith in, or trust.” The word is a common one, used 248 times in the New Testament. Many times, this word is found in contexts in which belief is an expression of love.

Those who love will always “believe” in the other person. There is no second-guessing or questioning of whether the person should be loved. Love is simply given. It is unconditional. The loved one does not need to perform anything or achieve a certain goal in order to be loved. Just as Christ loves His children unconditionally, He calls us to love others. Love is based on who He is, not on what others do.

Some scholars suggest this teaching of “love always trusts” is directly connected to Paul’s rebuke of lawsuits earlier in his letter. In chapter 6 we read of believers bringing lawsuits against one another in the local courts. Love that “always trusts” would not do such a thing.

A person with God’s type of love will “always trust.” That is, he will not be suspicious of the one he loves. He will be slow to believe any damaging news concerning the loved one and will always give the benefit of the doubt. Whatever the situation, love is ready to trust. To trust someone means that you are “ever ready to believe the best” (AMP) of him or her. The loved one may have a checkered past or be in some other way undeserving of trust, yet true love is able to look past that and meet the need of the individual. Mistrust, cageyness, and suspicion are at odds with godly love.

If brothers and sisters in Christ would believe in one another, setting suspicion aside and extending unconditional love, what a difference it would make in the church! When our focus is on Christ, we can show His love to meet the needs of others.

The final verse of 1 Corinthians 13 lists three things that will always remain: faith (pistis), hope, and love. The Christian need never be without these gifts. His nature is to believe and to love.

In 1 Corinthians 13, the famous Bible chapter on love, the apostle Paul details God’s greatest gift. Part of the description of love is a list of negatives—what love is not. One of these negatives, found in verse 4, is love “does not boast.”

The Greek word translated here as “boast” means “to brag or point to oneself.” In contrast to the kindness and patience mentioned in the beginning of the verse, boasting is not a mark of love. Paul’s mention of boasting is significant, given his teaching against arrogance elsewhere in the epistle.

Earlier portions of this letter reveal that the Corinthian Christians were boasting about many things. They touted their allegiance to different apostles, creating division within the church (chapters 1–3). They were critical of Paul (chapter 4). They boasted of their tolerance for immorality within the church (chapter 5). They sued each other in court (chapter 6). These and other arrogant actions are ultimately countered in chapter 13, with love as the proper corrective. According to verse 4, real love does not boast. There’s no arrogance in love.

The actions of the Corinthians are sometimes  evident among today’s believers. Rather than live with kindness and patience (verse 4), many promote division within the church, criticize church leaders, brag of their enlightened attitude toward sin, and bring lawsuits against fellow Christians. The remedy for these flaws is found in 1 Corinthians 13. A Christian who exhibits godly love will not boast.

The reason that love does not boast is simple: love is focused on the loved one, not on oneself. A braggart is full of himself, magnifying his own accomplishments and too occupied with self-aggrandizement to notice others. Love turns the perspective outward. A person with God’s type of love will magnify others, focus on their needs, and offer help with no thought of repayment or recognition. When someone says, “Look at how great I am!” it’s braggadocio talking, not love.

Paul had chances to boast, but he chose not to. He had served the Corinthians without a salary, completely gratis, but he did not boast of his sacrifice. Instead, he wrote, “If I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting” (1 Corinthians 9:16). Elsewhere, Paul wrote that no Christian has a right to boast about salvation: we are saved by grace through faith, “so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:9; see also Romans 3:27-28).

Boasting is unloving and sinful. Those called to reflect Christ should strive for the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5), showing a love that draws people to the Lord and gives glory to the heavenly Father (Matthew 5:16).

First Corinthians 13 offers one of the Bible’s richest expositions regarding love. Verse 4 notes that love “does not envy.” So, selfish jealousy is at odds with God’s type of love.

The Greek word translated “envy” means “to burn with zeal.” Literally, the sense is “to be heated or to boil over with envy, hatred, or anger.” In the context of 1 Corinthians 13, the idea is that love does not focus on personal desires. It is not eager to increase possessions. God’s type of love is selfless, not selfish.

Envy is the opposite of God’s command not to covet (Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21). “Love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10). The one who truly loves will be in conformity to the Ten Commandments, and envy will be excluded.

In contrast to God’s command, the Corinthian believers were ranking some spiritual gifts as more important than others and envying those who had the “best” gifts. In chapter 12, Paul points out that the different gifts are meant to serve one another and build up the church. No one person has all the gifts, but each child of God has at least one, and love demands that each gift be used to serve others rather than self.

“Envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30). When we crave what someone else has rather than being grateful for what God has given, we hurt ourselves. Instead of envying others, we are called to love them.

True love—God’s love—rejoices when others are blessed. There is no room for envy. Love does not seek to benefit itself and it is content with what it has, because its focus is on meeting the needs of the loved one.

First Corinthians 13:7 lists four specific actions that love “always” performs. The fourth and final one is that love “always perseveres” (NIV) or “endures all things” (ESV). There is a persistence to love, even in the tough times.

The Greek word hupomenei carries the idea of “remaining” or “enduring.” Love doesn’t quit or give up. Love lasts. The love spoken of in 1 Corinthians 13 is not a fleeting romance or a fading feeling. Instead, godly love always perseveres. During good times and bad, the love of God’s people endures the challenges of life and remains steadfast.

In the wedding vows, a husband and wife take each other “for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.” The basis of this pledge is the fact that love perseveres.

Jesus modeled enduring love: “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1). During His most difficult night, He washed the feet of His disciples and prayed for them. His love even endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2).

Earlier in his epistle, Paul had spoken to the Corinthian believers regarding endurance: “When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure” (1 Corinthians 4:2). Such perseverance in the face of opposition can only come from the love of God rooted in the heart.

Endurance for the sake of endurance is not the point of this teaching. It is endurance motivated by love for God and others. “If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God” (1 Peter 2:20). We are called to endure for what is right. We must show love whether or not it is convenient or easy.

A person with God’s type of love will consistently seek what is best for his loved one. There is no fair-weather friendship in love. It’s not an on-again, off-again proposition, but a commitment to always seek the highest good, no matter what adversity befalls.