By Dr. Harold Sala
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:5
When Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the power of love, he redefined a commonly used word in the context of God’s grace. Christians today borrow the Greek word Paul used and call it agape love. Paul says this kind of love–the kind that comes through a God connection–has fifteen characteristics. First, it is patient and not jealous. It is neither boastful nor proud.
Then, says Paul, Love is not rude. “Love does not behave itself unseemly” is the way the King James text puts it. This kind of love separates itself from the “in your face” mannerism often practiced in society today. We are living in a period of time when civility seems to take a back seat to brashness–in our speech, in advertising, in the way we treat each other. A hamburger chain advertises that if it’s not all over your face, it’s not worth eating.
Even we who are believers get caught up in this cultural mindset without even realizing it. In the ’70s a trend began whereby people felt that to be completely honest with each other, they were bound to be brutally frank, telling everyone their flaws and failures. Most of the time people know when they blow it. They know they should shed some weight, that their hair is thinning, that they scored poorly on their exam.
Rudeness is more than belching in public or wiping your mouth with the back of your hand. It also includes saying things that offend and hurt. How do you know when something is rude? Ask yourself, “How would I feel if I were on the receiving end of my humor or my comments?” Anything that makes another feel inferior, embarrassed, or offended falls into the category of rudeness. Agape love shows the restraint which keeps you from hurting another, no matter how funny you think what you are saying really is.
The seventh characteristic of agape love which Paul lists is that love is not self-seeking. One word summarizes this negative. It is selfishness, as opposed to generosity or being self-sacrificing. One of the greatest single threats to marriage today is selfishness. “I want mine first, now!” Far too many people are charter members of what my brother calls the AMYF Club. The AMYF stands for “After me, you’re first!” But you never get to come first because I’m always there ahead of you.
The selflessness of agape love insists the other have the larger piece of steak, the last piece of chocolate, and the softest side of the bed. Agape love demonstrates that you really do care about someone by insisting that the other come first.
The eighth characteristic of agape love in this list of descriptions found in 1 Corinthians 13 is that love is not easily angered. Paul doesn’t say that agape love never yields to anger, because there is a time and a place for anger. But it does mean you don’t live with your finger on the trigger, you don’t swagger around with a chip on your shoulder manifesting the attitude that says, “Just touch me; make my day!”
Agape love insists that children learn to do right, which involves discipline. But the difference between punishment and discipline is that punishment is usually executed in anger; discipline should be motivated by love.
Paul then adds one more negative. He says agape love keeps no record of wrongdoing. It thinks no evil. I never cease to be amazed at the instant recall some people have for the faults and failures of another. Agape love, says Paul, is forgetful. It forgives and forgets. It refuses to fight fire with fire. It returns wrongdoing with acts of kindness. It’s the kind that turns enemies into friends–the kind we need today.
Resource reading: 1 Corinthians 13.