In 1Corinthians 13, Paul gives 14 definitions in the portrait of love. We will look at several of these definitions.
Love is patient (v.4)
Paul says, "Love is patient." Patient love endures. It never gets tired of waiting. Patient love never gives up. Patient love doesn't give up on your alcoholic wife, your drug-addicted son, your loveless marriage. Love locks its jaws and refuses to give up. Do you stand in front of the microwave screaming, "Hurry up!?" Do you grow impatient while brewing instant coffee?
The American attitude toward waiting is reflected by the sign, "Antiques Manufactured Here While You Wait." We can't understand God who is powerful and patient. When God does not do what we want we get fidgety and fretful. We want what we want, and we want it when we want it, and if God doesn't give it to us, we scream, "You don't love me!" God's delays are not God's denials. Greatness is slow to anger, and part of the greatness of God is His eternal patience.
Look at God's patience in the plan of salvation. God sent Moses to Israel, and Moses was rejected. God sent prophets, and they were stoned. God sent kings, and they became corrupt. Saul went to the witch of Endor. David was seduced by Bathsheba. Solomon's wives led him into idolatry. Finally, God sent His only begotten Son, not on a white horse, not pushing and shoving humanity like a supreme sultan, not strutting with a swagger stick like a supreme commander, but nestled in Bethlehem's manger as a tiny baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. He didn't come to a throne in Caesar's palace.
He came touching the untouchable lepers. He hugged and kissed the castoffs of society. In the final days of His life, He wrapped a towel around His waist and washed the dirty feet of His disciples in the upper room. In the greatest demonstration of love, He allowed Herod's men to slap Him, spit on Him, mock Him, crown Him with a crown of thorns, and, finally, nail Him to a crude Roman cross outside the eastern walls of Jerusalem. Why? Because God's love is patient. God is saying, "If you have My love, you will be patient with those you love." You will be patient with your wife, your husband, and your children. You will be patient with your boss at your place of employment.
Love is kind (v.4)
Paul writes, "Love is kind." Kindness is love in action. Kindness is the ability to love people more than they deserve. On one occasion, a woman who was for marriage counseling said, "My husband doesn't deserve kindness." The counselor said to her, "Give it to him on credit; you do everything else on credit." She was not amused.
Do you want to do something great for God? Be kind to His children. Kindness is a language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see. People will overlook the faults of anyone who is truly kind. Treat a dog with kindness. Pet him often and feed him well, and he will never leave you. That same system generally works for husbands. Be as kind as you can be today, you may not be here tomorrow.
A husband left for work with his wife screaming at him over a silly matter that amounted to nothing. On the way to work that morning, he was killed in a car crash. She walked to his casket sobbing, "I'm so sorry." She lived the rest of her life with those silly, hateful words burning in her ears over a matter that amounted to absolutely nothing. Those words were the last thing she said to the man she said she loved.
Love does not envy (v.4)
The person generally criticizes the individual whom he secretly envies. The man who belittles you is trying to cut you down to his size. Love envies not. Love is not jealous. Love is not possessive. If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it's yours. If it doesn't it never was. Envy possesses, and love release. When you possess someone, you smother that person. The more you smother and hover, the more that person fights to get free. The harder you try, the harder the struggle. It's a fight for emotional survival. Turn loose! Love your partner without envy. Love without jealousy. Set it free; if it is yours, it will not leave you. If it is not yours, there is nothing on earth you can do to keep it.
Love does not boast about its existence(v.4)
Love doesn't say, "I know you are fat, freckled-faced, have false teeth, wear a wig, and look like a mobile home in a skirt, but I love you." Love does not put itself on display. Love makes no parade. Love has no pride. Love is needed most by those who deserve it least. To love the world is easy; it's that jerk next door that is the real problem. A honeymoon is often defined as "that brief period of time between 'I do' and 'You'd better.'" Compare this to your attitude. Do you want a twenty-one-gun salute for bringing colored toothpicks to the church picnic? Is everything you do the act of a prima donna? Are you pretentious? Are you pompous? Do you strut like peacock?
Love is not proud (v.4)
God has no superstars. He only has servants. His servants are loving and humbly. Servants are willing to be poured out in an endless stream of the love of God. Service is merely love in work clothes. When you get to heaven, you will be welcomed with these words: "Well done, you good and faithful servant." Are you a servant? If not...why not?
Love is not rude (v.5)
Paul writes that love is never rude. Love does not behave indecently. Love has good manners. America's society revels in its crudeness. Recently the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fined major media outlets for allowing absolute filth to be visually transmitted across the airwaves and spoken over radio stations. In America, the "gentleman" is being replaced by something that resembles an enraged orangutan. The "lady" has become a hip, vulgar, promiscuous, tattooed, loudmouthed, hell-raising feminist.
What's wrong with being mannerly? It's still all right to carry on a conversation without four-letter words. It's still in order to pull the chairout for the lady before she sits down-not as she sits down. It's still all right to open the car door for your wife, even if you have been married twenty-five years. It's still OK to send a "thank you" card to friends and family thanking them for their kindness.
Love is not self-seeking (v.5)
Paul says that love is not self-seeking. Love does not insist on its own way. Love does not pursue a selfish advantage.
During the Holocaust, a Catholic Jewish mother with three children dashed into the woods before the approaching Nazi army. For days they lived on roots and grass in the forest. One morning, a farmer and his son discovered them. The farmer demanded they come out of the brush. He saw in an instant that they were starved, and he told his son to give the mother a loaf of bread. The mother took it eagerly. Like a famished animal, she broke it into three pieces and gave it to her children. The farmer's son said, "She kept none for herself because she is not hungry." The father quickly responded, "She kept none for herself because she is a mother." Love does not seek its own. Love looks for a way to give. Money can build a house, but it takes love to make it a home.
Love is not easily angered (v.5)
The word "easily" was added in the King James translation. It is not in the original Greek text. Love is not irritable. Love is not touchy or fretful. Love is not quick to take offense. Love does not walk around with a chip on its shoulder, looking for a reason to pout.
Love is loyal (v.5)
There is no greater portrait of loyalty than the statement Ruth made to Naomi as they were about to enter the nation of Israel. "Ruth said to her mother-in-law, Naomi, 'Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. So if anything but death parts you and me" (Ruth 1:14-15).
Ruth and Naomi stand at the border of a Jewish nation. Ruth is a Gentile, moving into a Jewish society without hope of marriage, without hope of love of ever being accepted, without hope of ever having children. For this Gentile woman in a Jewish society, her only future would be serving her mother-in-law. What was the result of her loyalty? She met and married Boaz, a mighty man of wealth. Their first child was named Obed, and he became the great-great-great grandfather of Solomon and an ancestor of Jesus Christ. Ruth was listed in the genealogy of Christ. Her loyalty brought her to a position of immortality. Love is loyal.