A Loving Disciple of the Nazarene


Anyone who claims to be a "Christian" -- that is a disciple of the Nazarene (or, Friends of the Nazarene) -- is bound to do two things in proof of this: First, "If anyone loves me, he will OBSERVE MY WORD, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our abode with him. He that does not love me does not OBSERVE MY WORDS." (John 14:23-24) And, second: "These things I command you, that you love one another." (John 15:17) These two will mark every genuine Christian: a knowledge of and obedience to what Jesus taught; and, becoming a loving disciple of the Nazarene.

What is this "love"? How is it characterized? Most familiar with the Bible would turn their pages of the Scripture to one of the most lovely passages in Holy Writ: 1 Corinthians chapter 13. We do so now with an intense interest and motive to become more loving Friends of the Nazarene.

1 Corinthians 13:1 "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but do not have love, I have become a sounding [piece of] brass or a clashing cymbal."

A personís speech may seem inspired -- like the voice of angels. Or, another may be a master of mystic and ancient languages. Or, speak a dozen different languages. However, if this angelic voice lack agape-love it is nothing more than a "noisy gong" (GDSP) or "the clash of cymbals." (KNX)

The English word "love" is from the Greek AGAPE. How would you define this Greek word? What are your thoughts on this first verse? Perhaps you have a translation comparison, a word study, a quote or commentary bearing on these verses? Also, you may be able to think of practical examples from true life experiences.

1 Corinthians 13:2 -- "And if I have the gift of prophesying and am acquainted with all the sacred secrets [mysteries] and all knowledge, and if I have all the faith so as to transplant mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing."

A man or woman may claim to be a prophet, possessed of spiritual mysteries, and claims to understand the "All" of the cosmos -- "every kind of hidden truth." (BECK) In affect say: "No knowledge is too deep for me." (KNX) A person may have powerful conviction -- such "absolute faith" (MOF) to overcome every kind of obstacle. Yet if love be not present such a person is "useless" (BER) or "worth nothing." (LB) Such a gift person is without value and may well as not.

1 Corinthians 13:3 -- "And if I give all my belongings to feed others, and if I hand over my body, that I may boast, but do not have love, I am not profited at all."

Can there be a hidden agenda behind such charity? May it be praise or honor from others? What is the motive and principle behind such self-sacrifice? (Matthew 6:1-4) [For details on the Sermon on the Mount see the online publication Nazarene Mountain Teachings.]

The KJV uses "charity" here which has in English come to mean "giving ... to those in need." The old English word is from the French CHARITE and Latin CARITAS, the primitive root KA, which meant "like" or "desire." In Sanskrit KAMAH meant love or desire and thus the KAMASUTRA. In the Latin Bible by Jerome the word AGAPE was rendered by CARITAS and equaled "love." Translated into English the word gradually took on its present dominant meaning: demonstrating oneís supposed love for oneís fellows by giving them charity. (See "The Roots of English") Websterís remarks: "2. In Christianity , the love of God for man or of a man for his fellow men. ... SYN: see mercy."

Now, examine Paulís list of sixteen of those characteristics which describe agape-love

#1) 1 Corinthians 13:4a -- Love is long-suffering

The Greek MACRO [ = long] -THYMEI [ = desire; feeling] is variously rendered: MOF: patient; RHM: gracious; PHM: slow to loose patience; UBS int: suffers long. The word occurs about two dozen times. God possesses the attribute. (Romans 2:4; 9:22 1 Timothy 1:16) It is a fruit of the spirit. (Galatians 5:22) It is proof of an outstanding minister or servant. (2 Corinthians 6:6; 2 Timothy 3:10. It contributes to unity. (Ephesians 4:2) It is reflected in joy. (Colossians 1:11) A Christian should show it toward everyone. (1 Thessalonians 5:14)

#2) 1 Corinthians 13:4b -- (Love is) kind.

The Greek KHRESTEETAI is variously rendered: RHM: gracious; PME: it looks for a way to be constructive; but, most use the English "kind." The Middle English root KYNDE means sympathetic, friendly, gentle, tender-hearted, generous. The Greek is a rare word in the Christian Bible, occurring only here in 1 Corinthians 13:4b. Related forms occur about 70 times. Christís yoke is kind. (Matthew 11:30) God is kind even toward the unthankful and wicked and thus kindness and mercy are the path to godly perfection. (Luke 6:35; Matthew 5:45) Kindness is often associated with hospitality and giving. (Acts 26:2, 30; 2 Corinthians 8:6, 7, 9) God is characterized by kindness. (Romans 2:4; Titus 3:4; 1 Peter 2:3) Paul elsewhere counsels kindness. (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:12) Kindness is a fruit of the spirit. (Galatians 5:22) Of course, kindness is related to "grace" which is really undeserved kindness.

So, kindness, or being kind, would be characterized by hospitality, charity, giving, mercy, and good manners, or gentility (a word rooted in the old English related to KYNDE).

Someone has said, "When in doubt about what to do to another -- do the kind thing." Our Christianity should be characterized by our kindness, particularly toward even our enemies, those unthankful, or even wicked. Only then can spiritual perfection be attained. (Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 6:30-36)

#3) 1 Corinthians 13:4c -- Love is not (being) jealous.

The Greek for "jealous" is ZELOI and the phrase is variously rendered: KJV: envieth not; WMS: never boils with jealousy; TCNT: love is never envious. One can see the English word "zeal" in the Greek. There is a good jealousy (John 2:17; 2 Corinthians 11:2) and there is bad jealousy. (Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 3:3) Often when the subject is the bad form of ZELOS then translators use the word "envy." When it is good, it is "zeal." But, zeal can be misdirected or wrongly motivated.

This may be illustrated two ways: there are three friends but one becomes overly zealous (jealous) in this friendship and begins to speak unkindly against one of the others. The jealous one seeks a singular and unique friendship which closes out all others. Also, jealousy may manifest itself in greed or envy. Here the jealous person covets what another has: beauty, riches, intelligence, social standing, or spiritual status. This jealously always manifests itself in gossip, slander, or hard-hearted coldness.

Proper jealousy may be illustrated by a wife or husbandís insistence on exclusivity in matters of romance or intimacy. (Proverbs 6:32-34) This is a proper jealousy which is an insistence on exclusive devotion. It is not petty and over-bearing so that the mate may have no friends because of the other mateís jealousy.

Jealousy and envy are exceedingly dangerous and corrosive. (Proverbs 14:30)
Proverbs 27:4 warns, "There is the cruelty of rage, also the flood of anger, but who can stand before jealousy?" This may be illustrated: a flood may not move a giant boulder but water dripping incessantly will wear it away. Just so, a godly man may be able to with stand great attacks but the subtle and veiled Chinese water torture of jealous slander may take its toll. This is what happened to Moses who to spoke without faith because he was provoked by the jealousy of others . (Psalm 106:32, 33)

If we remember that if we are ever moved to speak unkindly, even evilly in slander of another, it is probably jealously or envy which motivates us.

#4) 1 Corinthians 13:4d -- (Love) does not brag.

The Greek is OU PERPEREUETAI and is variously translated: KJV: vaunteth not itself; PME: it is neither anxious to impress; MOF: love makes no parade; TCNT: never boastful. The word is unique to this verse. As with jealousy, there is a good form of bragging or boasting and a bad form. The difference is dependent on the object of this boasting or bragging.

Proverbs 27:1, "Do not make your boast about the next day, for you do not know what a day will give birth to." This is echoed by James 4:13-16, "Come, now, you who say: ĎToday or tomorrow we will journey to this city and will spend a year there, and we will engage in business and make profits,í whereas you do not know what your life will be tomorrow. For you are a mist appearing for a little while and then disappearing. Instead, you ought to say: "If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that." But now you take pride in your self-assuming brags. All such taking of pride is wicked." On this basis the bragging or boasting -- which is not out of love -- may be characterized by materialistic boasts which ignore God.

Twice Paul quotes Jeremiah 9:23, 24 to the Corinthians. 1 Corinthians 1:28-31 says, "God chose the ignoble things of the world and the things looked down upon, the things that are not, that he might bring to nothing the things that are, in order that no flesh might boast in the sight of God ... that it may be just as it is written: "He that boasts, let him boast in the Lord [YHWH]." And, 2 Corinthians 10:17-18, "íBut he that boasts, let him boast in the Lord [YHWH].í For not the one who recommends himself is approved, but the man whom the Lord recommends."

Jeremiah 9:23-24 writes about a good and bad form of bragging or boasting, "This is what Jehovah has said: ĎLet not the wise man brag about himself because of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man brag about himself because of his mightiness. Let not the rich man brag about himself because of his riches. But let the one bragging about himself brag about himself because of this very thing, the having of insight and the having of knowledge of me." Jeremiah lists some of those areas in which even worshippers of God might find themselves bragging or boasting: wisdom or intelligence (or, educational background); personal strength, health or physical fitness; and, riches or material possessions. On the other hand if one is to boast or brag it ought to be in the realm of spiritual insight (characterized by humility) and knowing God in a personal relationship.

In the spirit of Paulís description of love as not bragging, it is often the case that a mature and qualified Christian must remain silent and not give the impression of bragging. For example, a group might discuss how often some have read the Bible and one knows they have read the Bible more often -- it is best to remain silent. Even if pressured for an answer, it may be best to decline to answer, perhaps with, "Not enough."

#5) 1 Corinthians 13:4e -- (Love) does not get puffed up.

The Greek is OU PHASIOUTAI and is variously translated: NJB: never conceited; RSV: not arrogant; GDSP: not put on airs; PME: nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance. We are not surprised this conceit and arrogance was a Corinthian problem. (2 Corinthians 12:20) Nor that this word is used most often within Paulís two letters to the Corinthian Christians. Paul states the egotistical attitude often involves favoritism or a sectarian spirit involving personalities. (1 Corinthians 4:6) It is often manifest by what we say about ourselves. (1 Corinthians 4:18, 19) It is also seen in a failure to repent. (1 Corinthians 5:2)

In other letters Paul associates being puffed up with a fleshly way of thinking. (Colossians 2:18) Or, a head-strong disposition. (2 Timothy 3:4) It is always a danger for ambitious men. (1 Timothy 3:6) Paul associates the attitude with those who teach erroneous doctrine not founded on the Gospel. Note what Paul writes: "If anyone teaches differently and not from a healthy approach to the words of our Lord Jesus Christ -- not according to the true form of worship -- such a man is puffed up, not possessed of a good understanding, diseased about speculations and word-fights which result in envy, strife, blasphemies, evil suspicions --- men completely corrupt who rub others the wrong way, despoiling the truth, thinking to profit from the true form of worship." (1 Timothy 6:3-5 NRS)

#6) 1 Corinthians 13:5a -- (Love) does not behave indecently.

The Greek is OUK ASCHEMONEI and is variously rendered: KJV: not behave itself unseemly; MOF: never rude; BER: unmannerly; NAS: unbecomingly; WMS: not act with rudeness. The word is rare and other forms are elsewhere rendered as shameless, indecent, unseemly, or dishonorably. (1 Corinthians 7:36; 12:23; Romans 1:27; Revelation 16:15) It is most often associated with sexual matters, including homosexuality.

In English the word "love" is most often associated with romantic, even sexual, feelings towards another. One thing true AGAPE is not is an emotion motivated by actions which violate Godís law. Thus, this kind of "love" will never be found among the immoral or those seeking to take sexual disadvantage of another. Indeed, one may see the word "scheme" within the Greek.

Other translators lean toward the idea of bad manners or rudeness. Certainly, AGAPE love can never be characterized by those with ill-manners or rude social behavior. Rather, a Christian possessed of this kind of love will be seen to be well-mannered and polite in social matters. Never would a Christian man (or, woman) take advantage of their spiritual position in the Church to scheme indecency toward a fellow worshipper.

#7) 1 Corinthians 13:5b -- (Love) does not look for its own interests.

The Greek is literally "not seeking things of itself." (OU ZETEI TA HEAUTES) It is variously rendered: KJV: seeketh not her own; MOF: never selfish; RSV: does not insist on its own way; TCNT: never self-seeking; NOR: not pursue selfish aims. Perhaps no phrase describes the general understanding of agape-love. The idea is expressed elsewhere by Paul. Indeed, a similar phrasing in Greek has already occurred in 1 Corinthians 10:24, "Let none seek selfish interests, but rather the interest of others." Philippians 2:4 is very similar: "Do not be looking after selfish interests, but rather those interests of others."

Here is the root of agape-love: interest, not in self, but in that of others. Truly, this is neighbor-love characterized by the Golden Rule: "Do to others just as you would have it done to yourself." (Luke 6:31) This means putting others before self, just as the example of our Lord, "Though he had a divine existence he did not insist on retaining his own rights, but rather he emptied himself and took on a slaveís existence in the likeness of humankind." (Philippians 2:6, 7) This is Paulís example of not looking after just oneís own interests as he mentions in Philippians 2:4.

Love does not sit at home wondering why people donít call. Love makes the call, posts the email, or sends the card to encourage another. Such love will attract other warm-hearted persons.

How many ways can you think which would characterize this unselfishness in your own life experiences?

#8) 1 Corinthians 13:5c -- (Love) does not become provoked.

The Greek is OU PAROXYNETAI and is variously rendered: NEB: not quick to take offense; RSV: not irritable; PME: not touchy; BECK: it doesnít get angry. One can see the root of "oxygen" in the word and it literally refers to the bellows of the blacksmith which blasts the coals and heats things up and thus sharpens iron. The English word PAROXYSM can mean "a sudden convulsion or outburst" for either good or bad. The word is rare and various forms convey "to stir" or "arouse" (Acts 17:16).

The first case of anger makes us shiver that such a thing befall us. (Genesis 4:5) The Corinthian church had a problem with "cases of anger." (2 Corinthians 12:20) Anger is a work of the flesh. (Galatians 5:20) Elsewhere Paul encourages getting rid of anger. (Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8)

There are two particular occurrences which catch out attention, one bad and another good. Note Acts 15:39, "But, a paroxysm [sharp burst of anger] occurred and they (Paul and Barnabas) separated from one another." It is very interesting that the one who wrote that "love is not (given) to paroxysm" should have it recorded by his traveling companion Luke that he did succumb to such a burst of anger. Though we are not precisely told who it was that first became so angry. The case that caused this circumstance was Paulís refusal to take the disciple Mark on this missionary tour because he had left midway during the previous journey. Barnabas, Markís cousin, may have wanted him to join them for family reasons. (Galatians 4:10) Clearly, here is a case where love was not controlling these men.

This illustrates that there are times when even previously good friends or companions -- as was the case with Barnabas and Paul -- have a disagreement so severe that they become angry with one another. Paul and his new partner, Silas (Silvanus), go on to write several inspired epistles where Barnabas misses out on this opportunity. Barnabas is not mentioned again in the Book of Acts. However, Paul later mentions both Barnabas (though misled by Judaizers) and Mark in positive tones. (Galatians 2:1, 9, 13; 4:10)

There is a good form of PAROXYSM which occurs in Hebrews 10:24, "incite [PAROXYSMON] to love and fine works." Where love may cool it is vital to blast the coals with the oxygen of encouragement. Paul writes this counsel in the context of Christian meetings.

It is true some personalities are given to wearing their feelings on their cuff and have a low boiling point. This is due more to immaturity on the Christian walk, while those who have been Nazarene disciples longer will manifest a calmer and controlled spirit. It is often easier to learn to remain quiet -- and keep opinions within and under control -- rather than struggling to always say the right thing. Once one controls rash speech, anger will become less and less part of the Christian character.

There is one final thought regarding love not provoking others. Being a cause of provocation can bring our Christian friends enormous grief. Consider, how Moses was driven "crazy" (Ecclesiastes 7:7) by the provocation of his fellow worshippers. Psalm 106:32, 33 records, "Further, they caused provocation at the waters of Mer'i∑bah, so that it went badly with Moses by reason of them. For they embittered his spirit and he began to speak rashly with his lips." (Numbers 20:2, 12; 27:14; Deuteronomy 1:37; 32:51; compare Hebrews 3:15)

#9) 1 Corinthians 13:5d -- (Love) does not keep account of the injury.

The Greek is OU LOGIZETAI TO KAKON, literally, "does not keep record of wrongs." Or, "keeps no log on bad things." One can see the English word "log" of "logistics" in the Greek root. The phrase is variously rendered: RSV: (not) resentful; KJV: thinketh no evil; MON: bears no malice; TCNT: never reckons up her wrongs; NEB: love keeps no score of wrongs; PME: does not keep account of evil; NAS: does not take into account a wrong suffered; WMS; never harbors evil thoughts; BECK: it does not plan to hurt anyone; NJB: does not store up grievances.

The Proverbs taught to "pass over transgression." (Proverbs 19:11) The first occurrence of "forgive" in the Bible is that of God. (Exodus 34:7) The Psalmist describe God as "ready to forgive" and the Prophets describe Him as "forgiving in a large way." (Isaiah 55:7)

Perhaps this is one of the hardest challenges in showing love: not only forgiving but also forgetting personal injuries. The Nazarene taught us to pray, "Forgive the debts of others." (Matthew 6:9) Or, let go, relieve those indebted to us. Then, Jesus makes the first commentary on the need for forgiveness when he follows with: "For if you forgive others their trespasses your heavenly Father will forgive your trespasses." (Matthew 6:14) Our Lord puts it simply: if we refuse to forgive others we cannot expect forgiveness from God. (Mark 11:25)

The Nazarene answered the disciplesí question on how many times we ought to forgive. Peter suggested as much as seven times per day. The Lord said, "Up to 77 times" then gave an illustration of such forgiveness in the context of financial indebtedness. (Matthew 18:21-35) Luke 17:3, 4 adds a proviso to this forgiveness: the offending person must come and say, "I am sorry." Paul elsewhere counsels "freely forgiving." (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13) Even if a sinner has brought the congregation into disrepute and has repented, all are to forgive him or her. (2 Corinthians 2:7, 10)

Some persons go through life with a little book in their head. This log contains all the injuries they have suffered at the hands of others. In a heated argument they will bring out this book and recite chapter and verse of all the wrongs done against them. These persons are not loving and therefore really hateful. The mature Christian will be characterized by a forgiving disposition who truly forgets offenses or sins committed against the person. What is helpful in doing this is not taking oneself so seriously and emptying self of egotism.

#10) 1 Corinthians 13:6a -- (Love) does not rejoice over unrighteousness.

The phrase is variously translated: NAS: does not rejoice in unrighteousness; WMS: it is never glad when wrong is done; BAS: takes no pleasure in wrongdoing; NEB: does not gloat over other menís sins; MOF: it is never glad when others go wrong. The idea has two factors: a) love does not enjoy doing wrong things; or, b) love never takes delight in evil which befalls others.

Jealousy or envy may be involved here. If someone dislikes another and that person falls into trouble, or misfortune visits, the jealous person may rejoice inwardly over this bad turn of events. For example, a wealthy person is the object of envy but one day this person looses all their riches. Love will not motivate a person to say to others, "Well, so-and-so got whatís coming to him." This kind of attitude takes many forms. If we find ourselves to be somewhat happy when evil befalls another, we must look inside and see why we feel this way.

#11) 1 Corinthians 13:6b -- (Love) rejoices with the truth.

This phrase is variously rendered: KNX: rejoices at the victory of truth; WEY: joyfully sides with the truth; WMS: always glad when truth prevails; BECK: happy with the truth.

Suppose we hear something evil about another, something slanderous, but later it is made clear that such an untruth was a lie or misunderstanding? If one harbors envy or jealousy there may be a tendency not to rejoice over this truth. Love causes one to rejoice that the real truth is made known, rather than seeking another untruth about the individual.

#12) 1 Corinthians 13:7a -- (Love) bears all things.

The Greek is PANTA STEGEI, or literally, "(love) covers everything." The phrase is variously rendered: WMS: it bears up under everything; NEB: there is nothing lover cannot face; PME: love knows no limits to its endurance; WEY: love can overlooks faults; MOF: always slow to expose. The Greek STEGEI (STEGE) is rooted in the idea of a roof (Matthew 8:8; Mark 2:24; Luke 7:6). STEGO may convey two meanings: a) to cover by silence, or keep a confidence; and, b) to bear up against, or hold out against.

Given the immediate context STEGEI here may mean "love covers by silence" those matters which could be damaging or misunderstood about someone loved. Families do this all the time. So do true and genuine friends who are very reluctant to reveal negative information about a close companion. Peter exhorts to this kind of love: "Above all things, have intense love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins." (1 Peter 4:8) The Proverbs teach the same thing:

"Hatred is what stirs up contentions, but love covers over even all transgressions." (Proverbs 10:12) This thought from Proverbs is likely what Paul has in mind when he says, "Love covers everything."

On the other hand, many translators prefer the other option: love bears up or endures everything. However, Paul is to go on in the same breath to state this, "love endures everything." So, it would appear the former notion of "love covering everything" would be more appropriate.

One of the most unloving things a friend can ever do is reveal a bit of confidential information to those who have no need or right to know it. Such may not be slander, for the subject is truthful, but unknown. It is rather terribly harmful gossip. Many a close friendship has been destroyed by such failures to cover or keep a confidence.

Additionally, love will cover othersí weaknesses or failures by a willingness to explain unchristian conduct. For example, someone reveals an error or trespass on the part of another. Love may cause one to make an excuse for the person rather than multiplying and passing along such gossip. A loving person might defend the person by saying, "Well, perhaps he (or, she) was just having a bad day like we all do from time to time."

#13) 1 Corinthians 13:7b -- (Love) believes all things.

This phrase also may have more than one meaning. The phrase is variously rendered: WMS: it exercises faith in everything; BER: unquenchable faith; MOF: always eager to believe the best; NEB: there is no limit to its faith; PME: no limit to its trust. If the Greek PISTEUEI is viewed more as "trust" then this kind of love always trusts a friendís truthfulness or honesty. This love is not paranoid, distrusting, or suspicious. There is a certain guilelessness in such a loving person. This person has no agenda, is no manipulator. These loving persons take people as they are without judging them wrongly without strong evidence to the contrary.

Translator James Moffatt may have come the closest: "(love) is always eager to believe the best." What a Christ-like attitude to trust and believe that there is some goodness in everyone.

#14) 1 Corinthians 13:7c -- (Love) hopes all things.

This phrase is variously rendered: MOF: always hopeful; BER: hopes under all circumstances; WMS: it keeps up hope in everything. In at least one translation the word "hope" occurs about 150 times. The Bible is a book of Hope. The first use of the word "hope" is by the woman Ruth. (Ruth 1:12) We are not surprised that "hope" occurs most often in the Book of Job (12x) in the Hebrew Bible and in the Letter to the Romans (20x) in the Christian Bible.

Since the context is loveís characteristics and qualities, this "hope" must be in others. I positive outlook regarding our fellows, particularly those who love us less than others. We continue to hope all will come to maturity in Christ. Those who have stumbled so as to fall -- we continue to hope they will recover if love be applied and prayer continue to be earnest.

This "hope" may manifest it self in those parents who long for their children to survive lifeís blows and that evil enemy, Satan. When Christian children become prodigal and wander from the Nazarene path, mother and father continue to hope all will turn out well in the end. And so, the Proverb, "Chastise your son while there exists hope." (Proverbs 19:18)

When this kind of "hope" is missing it becomes very negative. If we do not hope the best for our fellows, then we secretly wish them evil or harm. We want them to fail or stumble. This is Satanic thinking. On the other hand the phrase "love hopes always" is a very positive outlook and lacks that anxiety which is corrosive to mind and body.

#15) 1 Corinthians 13:7d -- (Love) endures all things.

The phrase is variously rendered: WMS: it gives us power to endure in anything; TCNT: ever patient; BER: endures without limit; NJB: to endure whatever comes; WEY: she is full of endurance. Some translations have made it apparent that "love" is being viewed in the feminine. (See Weymouth) Few could argue that a motherís love lastís a life time. Mothers seldom give up on their children. So, they still treat full grown men as their little boys. One may always return to mother; and, often at death "mom" and "God" are final words.

Families must often endure the attitudes or actions of others within the household circle. It takes endurance to continue to love despite the worst. We experience this need for loveís endurance at work, at school, in our daily life. Though Paul has already mentioned "love is long-suffering (or patient)" this endurance must be something different. If love ever ends, or fails to endure, then it may not have been love in the first place. Agape-love continues to the last breath. It never tires of forgiving others because it does not put itself on such a lofty pedestal. Those with a "short-fuse" simply are not possessed of agape-love, but rather self-centered, egotistical arrogance.

#16) 1 Corinthians 13:8 -- Love never fails.

This closing phrase is translated by others: NJB: love never comes to an end; BECK: love never dies; NEB: love will never come to an end; MOF: love never disappears; CON: love shall never pass away. One immediately thinks of that God who is love, our heavenly Father. There will never be a future time where love will not exist in the universe. What a joyous thought! At that future time when finally "God is everything to everyone" then the entire universe will be ablaze with love, lacking any hate anywhere. (1 Corinthians 15:28, Moffatt)

Most translators have preferred, "love never fails." It has been said above that if love ends it was not love to begin. The Nazarene taught that the two greatest commandments involved agape-love: first, love for God; and, second, love for our neighbor. (Matthew 22:34-40) If oneís love should ever cease -- for God or neighbor -- then it started as something else, not love. There may have been another agenda at work -- another principle, wrongly thought, as well as a mistaken motive. If one loves God because of the reward, then both the principle and the motive are wrong.


Jesus said that if we only Ďlove those loving usí we have no reward with the Father. For, even Ďsinners love sinners who love them.í (Luke 6:32-36) It is something "normal" for people to like people who like them. It is easy to love those loving us. The true test for real disciples of the Nazarene is to learn to love those who do not love (like) you. According to Jesus this is demonstrated by several manifestations: a) praying for those who hate you; b) doing good to those are treat you as an enemy; and, c) give charity and money to even the wicked and ungrateful. (Read Matthew 5:42-48; Luke 6:32-36)

We have noticed in Paulís list of loveís attributes he has not mention those emotional feelings we often associate with the English word "love." Actually, agape-love is based on principle and correct motive, not on emotional feelings. Other Greek words are reserved for tenderness or affection. However, it is easy to see in kindness, patience, and giving a high degree of fellow feeling and even tenderness.

Today we rub elbows daily with people driven by hidden agendas. People who only think of themselves first. People who play games. People who manipulate for selfish reasons. This puts the Nazarene disciple at a disadvantage in a "dog eat dog world." But, then, here is where the test enters. The true disciple will be easily recognizable -- even by enemies -- by Nazarene love. This will be a living sermon far grander than the most charismatic preacher. Our best praise of God may be the love we show and thus prove we are disciples of the Nazarene. (John 13:35) It may be accurately said that the love we show is part of our worship. (Hebrews 13:15)

With the disciple of the Nazarene love is not a choice -- it is a command: "I am giving you these commands that you may love one another." (John 15:17 TCNT)

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Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller

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