Charity suffereth long and is kind. — 1 Corinthians 13:4
Attending camp meeting as a wary unbeliever, I was skeptical of the reaction I would encounter. Would I be ignored or overlooked because I was not a Christian? My parents were faithful Christians, but thus far I had not been convinced. I was only there because another vacation option had fallen through and I decided to attend the week-long Christian convention with my friends.
As I went through the cafeteria line to get dinner on my first day, I was unprepared for the warmth I encountered from the cashier. A smiling lady named Connie rang up my total and greeted me kindly, asking my name. Throughout the week to follow, she smiled when she met me and addressed me by my name. It surprised me, really, to be so warmly welcomed even though I was basically unknown and had nothing to contribute to the services.
It was a simple and completely natural action on her part, and yet it impacted me more powerfully than a dynamic sermon on sin would have. Her living example of charity was one of the “bands of love” (Hosea 11:4) that drew me to give my life to the Lord. By the end of the week, after bringing up each of my excuses before the Lord and watching them wither to nothing, I was ready to surrender. On my knees, I promised the Lord I would give Him my best if He would only place in my heart the happiness and peace I had witnessed in other Christians during that camp meeting. Happily, I was not disappointed; the Lord planted real love, joy, and peace in my heart.
Agape love — the humble, merciful, sacrificial love that God gives — is foundational to Christian life. God’s love is the cornerstone on which we build our faith; it is the heart and soul of Christianity. This charity comes from God above; it is superior to all other love, and is neither deserved nor earned. It is spontaneous, selfless, and forgives offenses. It is patient with lack of perfection in others, and puts the best interpretation on their actions. It builds bridges between people, drawing them to Christ’s love. Agape love bestows value on an otherwise hollow life, transforming it into a vessel of honor.
Today, reflect on ways you can demonstrate God’s love to those you encounter. A simple act may change someone’s life entirely, drawing him or her to Christ!
The city of Corinth (now called Korinthos) was situated on the isthmus of Greece, a principal trade route where cultures of the East and West met. As a result, the city, boasting a population of 400,000, was only surpassed in size by Rome. Foreign languages were commonly encountered, and this diversity of ethnic backgrounds created natural barriers in the church that needed to be overcome through love.
Paul had spent more than a year in Corinth on his second missionary journey, laying the groundwork for this group, which was one of his largest churches. However, over time the church members had become self-righteous about their knowledge, faith, gifts, philosophy, and liberality, and left behind the most valuable tenet of their Christian life — the love of God. The gifts of prophecy and tongues became reminiscent of medals to be admired. Individuals felt important if people noticed they spoke in a language they had not studied. Instead of seeking to edify the whole group, they merely sought personal attention.
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul brought their focus back to the key attributes available to the child of God. They placed too much value on fleeting signs, so Paul pointed them to something enduring — love.
Four Greek words which translate into the English word “love” are: 1) Agape–selfless, sacrificial love that acts in conformity to the character and nature of God; 2) Phileo–endearing love that cherishes, such as the husband/wife relationship, the love of a brother/sister, or dearest friend; 3) Eros–passionate or physical love; and 4) Storge–affectionate love, such as the loyalty of an employee to his employer. Translators had no proper word to use when attempting to convey the true meaning of Christian love. Hence, in this chapter they chose the word “charity,” which is related to “cherish.”
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III. Answers to inquiries
C. Concerning matters in public assembly
3. The use of gifts
d. The regulator of spiritual gifts (13:1-13)
(1) The prerequisite of love (13:1-3)
(2) The properties of love (13:4-7)
(3) The permanence of love (13:8-13)
In living as the thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians teaches, we will have the unity and freedom God desires for us. We will esteem others better than ourselves, and keep no record of wrongs. Let us challenge ourselves to daily live this more excellent way!