Sunday September 22, 2002 | Greg Boyd
1 If I speak in human or angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body [to hardship] that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
This message continues with the theme of discovering what love looks like by turning to I Cor. 13, where we saw that this chapter is found within a discussion of the spiritual gifts and how the church of Corinth was using—and abusing—those gifts. Paul warns that the presence of the gifts (tongues, prophecy, knowledge, wisdom, faith, radical obedience, generosity, etc.) does not guarantee the presence of love. This is a stunning revelation! Paul is teaching that one can have wonderful experiences of faith and spiritual intensity and still lack true spiritual life—that is—still lack love.
This message continues with the theme of discovering “what love looks like” by turning to I Cor. 13. In the context of I Corinthians, we see that this chapter is found within a discussion of the spiritual gifts and how the church of Corinth was using—and abusing—those gifts. Paul warns that the presence of the gifts (tongues, prophecy, knowledge, wisdom, faith, radical obedience, generosity, etc.) does not guarantee the presence of love. This is a stunning revelation! Paul is teaching that one can have wonderful experiences of faith and spiritual intensity and still lack true spiritual life¬—that is—still lack love. It is dangerous to try to assess “how we are doing” according to these external “indicators” that Paul is warning us about. Rather, the only true indicator of spiritual health is whether or not we have love. Even though we may find it easier to assess a person’s spiritual fervor or a church’s doctrines and activities, we must remember that the real criteria of spiritual life is not found in these external things.
Paul offers a verbal picture of “what love looks like.” The first in the list is that love is patient. Now, we may be tempted to try to duplicate what we think of as “patient” behavior, but this is truly NOT the point. If we have love, we (and others) will recognize this is because we ARE patient. The idea here is not that we try to look patient or feel patient, but that we actually are patient with others because the love and patience of God resides in us. If we are not patient, we should not worry about the behavior but rather take a look at our own hearts and motivation. What prevents us from being patient? To help, Greg gave us a definition of patience and its contrasts. Patience, in Greek is makrothymia which means “long to anger” or “slow to anger.” Patience, then, is defined as a resistance to a certain kind of anger. The New Testament uses three different Greek words that can be translated as anger in English. Understanding these words will help us know the anger Paul wants us to resist. Orge is anger that is just and good. This anger comes about when something we value is devalued by someone else. Jesus was orge when the temple of God was used for making money. This was justified anger at the devaluing of God’s temple. A person can be loving and patient and still feel and express the “anger” identified by orge. Parorgismos is “anger down under” or “submerged anger” and it often is translated as “bitterness.” We feel this when we try to “stuff” or “swallow” our offense or frustration. Finally thymos is the “explosive anger” or “rage”. It is “hot anger” in the Greek. Eph. 4:26-27 uses the first two forms of anger instructively: be angry (orge) but don’t let the sun go down on your anger (parorgismos). We can see that it is appropriate to be angry but not to swallow that anger lest it become bitterness. Patience (makrothymia) then, is most closely related to thymos. This is because a person who loves as God loves understands the infinite worth of each person, and as a result, is slow to be enraged by them. They understand that we have no right to be angry in this way because God has been so very patient with us (Romans 2:1,4).
Greg illustrated how love brings about patience by offering some scenarios and assessing the motivations involved. Greg became impatient with an older woman who was driving below the speed limit which caused him to have to slow down. This woman’s behavior didn’t meet Greg’s expectations so he grew impatient with her. If Greg were not in a hurry or if he too was a conservative driver, he would not have had a problem with patience. But because her behavior was interfering with Greg’s desires and plans, the tension emerged. So we can see that impatience is primarily about the individual who feels it. In this case, it is about Greg and his desire to get from A to B quickly. Since this is being prevented, he imposes his own ideas about “how to drive” onto this other person. This forms a “supposed to” statement that Greg applies to the woman. She is “supposed to” drive faster, do things my way, etc. This standard that we set in our “supposed to” statements always serves us and our agenda. We then apply this to others and become impatient with them when they don’t meet it. We tend to be patient in areas that we struggle with ourselves, and impatient in areas where we are strong. We tend to judge others out of our own success. We get life from this by feeling good about ourselves, thinking that we are superior to others.