The Greatest of These is Charity (1 Corinthians 13.4-7)
This famous portion of First Corinthians gives a full-length picture of agape love in action. The fifteen behavioural qualities paint a beautiful portrait of the Person of the Lord Jesus, himself being the one in whom the love of God has been fully manifested. Consider the following descriptions:
‘Charity suffereth long’ (v.4), that is, love endures injury that is underserved and does not retaliate when it has the moral right to do so. There is the thought of self-restraint in the face of provocation and patience with aggravating people. We are reminded of the Lord Jesus who ‘when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not.’ 1 Pet. 2.23.
Charity is ‘kind’ (v.4), in fact, in early days Christians were known as Chrestiani, i.e. kind ones. Whatever was received in hurt they were quick to repay in kindness. In like manner, the Lord Jesus stooped to wash the feet of those he knew would betray, deny and desert him.
Charity ‘thinketh no evil’ (v.5), or famously rendered, ‘keeps no record of being wronged’ with a view to getting even. Christians are not those who keep an accountant’s ledger of those who have caused them offence. We rejoice today that our holy God has kept no record of our sins; they are forgiven and deliberately forgotten through the precious shed blood of the Saviour.
Charity ‘rejoiceth in (with) the truth’ (v.6). The character of agape love is to delight in what is upright and honest as declared by the word of truth. Certainly, the Lord Jesus ‘delighted’ in the law of the Lord and meditated therein ‘day and night’ (Psa. 1.1-2).
Finally, charity ‘beareth all things’ (v.7). The Greek conjures the thought of the roof of a house which, though protecting what is beneath, also bears the elements that beat upon it. So Christ lovingly bore much affliction in silence. Despite the numerous accusations that were cast upon him, ‘Jesus yet answered nothing’. How Pilate marvelled!
But please note. The qualities of agape love are plainly manifest in Christ but should also be clear for all to see in those who call themselves ‘Christians’ (Christ-ones). We should bear the character of the God who is love.