It seems that most people understand love to be this warm, emotional feeling you have for someone to whom you are attracted. But that isn’t the love that Jesus commanded you to have for God, for your spouse, for your fellow Christian, for your neighbor and even for your enemy. The characteristics of this love are described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
My encouragement to you is to pick someone in your life that you know you need to love, but you have trouble loving, and then consider the “love characteristics” you should have for that individual. It can be a man or a woman or a boy or a girl; I am going to refer to that person as “he”.
“Love suffers long and is kind.” You are to be patient in spite of the things you may have suffered from him. He may be inconsiderate or antagonistic. He may be selfish. He may talk too much or ignore you and your needs. He may cause you many trials because of his actions. Those who sin against you are likely the most difficult to love. But you are asked to suffer all these things and still love, not merely for a time, but long, without end. I have found that the best way to love someone who causes you to suffer is to see them as a precious soul that needs God’s love and your love so that eventually they can be saved. You are to be kind to him. Your natural reaction may be to fight fire with fire and give him a taste of what he has done to you. But instead, you are to be kind, that is, gentle, mild, and compassionate – easy to be approached.
“Love does not envy.” Envy is when you resent him and you wish that you had what he has. It may be that he has material possessions, abilities, relationships, position or accomplishments. Love is that you are happy for him and how he has been blessed and you don’t resent him.
“Love does not parade itself, is not puffed up.” This has to do with pride and boasting on your part. Maybe you have done something well; maybe you have been greatly blessed. But you don’t throw it in his face and show him that you think you are better than he is. The opposite of pride is humility. Therefore, in love you will be humble.
Love “does not behave rudely.” You don’t act in an inappropriate manner towards him. You aren’t rude, sarcastic, overly critical or exhibit any action unbecoming of a Christian. Whereas he may act in an inappropriate manner to you, you do not respond in kind.
Love “does not seek its own.” In my opinion, this is one of the most significant characteristics of love. In love you are not selfish but instead you seek the good of the one that you love. You want his success; you want him to be blessed; you want his salvation.
Love “is not provoked.” Some versions say “is not easily provoked.” Even when he acts inappropriately, because of your love, you are not provoked to be irritated or angry or to respond in any inappropriate manner.
Love “thinks no evil.” You don’t suppose that his good actions have a bad motive. In love, you don’t miss judge him but think that his actions and motives are good until proven otherwise.
Love “does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.” Because of your love, you do not rejoice when he sins or commits wickedness. Neither do you rejoice when he receives punishment for his wrongs. Instead, you rejoice when he follows the truth of the gospel and you rejoice when he is bearing good fruit. You rejoice when you hear good things about him.
Love “bears all things.” When the one you love has imperfections or even sin, you do not give up on him; you do not spread to others what you know about his faults. It is not a matter of condoning wrong, but instead you are seeking his good.
Love “believes all things.” You are not distrustful or suspicious. You believe the good about him because you love him.
Love “hopes all things.” You don’t give up on the one you love; you hope for the best. If there is sin in his life, you maintain hope for a change of heart and repentance. If he commits some doubtful action, you hope that a good explanation can be provided.
Love “endures all things.” You patiently endure persecution or suffering you receive from him. Whatever may happen, you continue to love.
“Love never fails.” Love continues to survive. You don’t switch off love and go to other inferior reactions in your heart and actions. Your love for him is permanent until death.
God has love for you with these very characteristics. I encourage you to have this kind of love for those around you. This kind of love is very powerful in making you the person God wants you to be and in influencing for good those that you love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” It should be easy to see why love is the greatest.