When soldiers and Marines go into battle, they are outfitted with gear that is essential for survival on the battlefield. Though some may seem less important at times, each piece of gear completes him so that he is best prepared to face numerous threats in a chaotic, life-threatening imperfect environment. In Christian warfare, the one piece of gear upon which all the armor mentioned in Ephesians 6:10-20 depends, is love. A warrior cannot survive an imperfect environment without love.
Love and Vocation (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 9-12)
The Scriptures do not say that “love is God,” because we would inevitably worship love as the world does, subjectively and, therefore, without boundaries. In fact, when love is worshipped in and of itself, there is no love in the world—there is only lust and violence. The Scriptures are quite clear:
7 Let us love one another, for love is from God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for GOD IS LOVE. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation (to take the punishment) for our sins. 11 Because if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 19 We love because He first loved us.
Love is not God, but God is love; it is His very essence, His being, His core; therefore, He is love’s source. His behavior reflects love in every way; yes, his love is even seen in His judgments, for judgment provides the way to salvation through the sacrifice, first with lambs and finally with His Son, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of those who put their trust in Him. Love is the foundation for all good behavior and for a just law, which is designed to preserve love. It is from God that one learns true love and is, therefore, able to develop a virtuous life that is worthwhile to oneself and others (see Galatians 5:13-26).
Being productive and profitable in life does not necessarily indicate true success. You might be able to commune with the angels, prophesy coming events, know Scripture from beginning to end, have faith that seems to remove any obstacle, you can be generous and willing to die for a cause, but if these works or accomplishments are not built upon a heart of love (God’s character), there is no love and no blessing from God, but only selfish ambition and arrogance. Without genuine/divine love, our efforts produce nothing. Selfishness may award you to some extent in this life, but it will not reward you fully and certainly not when you stand before the Lord of love and justice. Pride does not produce a joyful and satisfied conscience; it lusts for more and more power. There is no peace and patience around people whose focus is personal power or success. And without patience, there is no self-control.
A small island of people cannot survive on its own. It needs exports and imports (i.e., others) to survive. Such is the case with human beings. We are the work of God’s hands; without love, we jump from His hands into an imperfect world, seek to accomplish our goals, and establish our relationships apart from Him and at odds with His will; a will that is humanity’s safety-net. Our vocations, our dreams, and our relationship end up having no lasting purpose; they are just selfish endeavors. The essential weapon that gives people purpose and protects them on the battlefield of life is AWOL (absent without leave). Ultimately, chaos between individuals, families, towns, and nations ensues. Love is present only when God is present; how can God be present when the majority of the world and those who comprise His church are sadly ignorant of or indifferent to His revealed Word? Ignorance and indifference, with respect to God’s Word, leave humanity short on love and long on dysfunction and despair. Without love, we lose the battle for sanity and our lives become more and more meaningless. Despair (the consequence that fills the absence of God) creates false religion, secular ambition, utopian visions, and ultimately, all manner of violence. History is rife with evidence to support this claim. For Christians, being short on love makes “spiritual performance” pretentious and, therefore, hypocritical. The Gospel is then lost in a sea of compromise. Love, and therefore God, is indispensable to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Love and Behavior (1 Corinthians 13:3-8)
We are all somewhat short on love, but the Scriptures help us improve this loss in two ways: 1) teaching us about the character of God, which is love personified and on display and 2) teaching us about the virtues that are reflections of love and how they are displayed or lived out. The Apostle Paul discloses fourteen (15) behaviors that give the believer the knowledge and ability to arm oneself for the struggle against inborn selfishness (lusts of the flesh) and its vices that seek to destroy one’s hope for a good and meaningful life. When you think of these behaviors, you must always keep in mind that love always enhances personal worth and wholesome relationships. It is the true antidote to loneliness and the psychological disorders that ensue or accompany it. God is love; therefore, a person or a people who know Him and exemplify His character in all things can become the freest and productive individuals in the world. America’s founding generation knew the Secret of Success more than any nation since the fall of Israel in 605 BC, and, therefore, created a society under a Constitution, the success of which demanded a moral and religious people who would embrace Protestant Christian principles (see Samuel P. Huntington’s Who Are We; The Challenges to America’s National Identity, Simon and Schuster, 2005). America is as unique in the world as was Israel in her obedient years. But without God and His love, no nation of people can adequately know faith, freedom, and efficiency. The God of love is the God of lasting and eternal success. He is the source of authentic living. The behaviors or reflections of love are as follows:
1) patient: it seeks to understand each and every situation; therefore, patience is not in a hurry. It does not make and tries to avoid having to make a quick or thoughtless decision. Patience does not react in kind to a wrong done; it hopes for a better result because it takes the time to teach.
2) Kind: it does not verbally insult others or look down upon them. Kindness is encouraging and uplifting; it lends a hand when two hands are not enough.
3) Not jealous: love is not resentful of another’s opportunities or success; it is not inordinately suspicious of other’s intentions or faithfulness. Love encourages and rejoices in the success of others.
4) Love does not brag: it understands that success is a gift from God and is never accomplished without the help and support of many people. It does boast in wisdom, riches, and strength; love boasts in God alone.
5) It is not arrogant: love rejects pride; it does not pretend to be God; love makes decisions in the company of trusted advisors, who also are not arrogant. It does not lord over people; it is respectful and supportive of freedom that requires the presence of the Divine.
6) It does not act unbecomingly: love is mature and reflective of values that represent confidence and restraint; it is not demeaning or disrespectful of others or their property. Love is never indecent; it is morally focused.
7) It does not seek its own: love saves others, it protects, it serves, it gives not for itself but for the joy that comes from selflessness. Love has no need to seek its own in the company of others of like mind. For this reason, a believer can serve others with his gift(s) without resentment because other believers are using their gifts to service him. Unity is a selfless accomplishment!
8) Love is not provoked: it cannot be irritating or be forced to anger or into doing any wrong deed. Love is self-control.
9) It does not take into account a wrong suffered: Love is not interested in getting even; it does not keep accounts of wrongs done. Love forgives in hopes of building trust.
10) Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth: it doesn’t enjoy Modern Family (moral degradation); it not does support injustice as defined by God, not humanity. Love is not tolerant of evil, but it does exude patience and maturity in the midst of it by confronting truth and wisdom; it congratulates well-doing. Love reflects God’s character! Though it makes judgments regarding right and wrong (John 7: 24), it leaves the final judgment of the soul with God.
11) It bears all things: Love knows when to speak and not to speak, and when it speaks, it speaks truth with confidence. Love sacrifices ego for the benefit of those who hurl insults and stones; Love reflects total confidence in God. It does not demand passivity and can include passion, if necessary.
12) Love believes all things: when true love is present between people, trust is evident and easily protected. Believing one another is natural because the mindset in all the parties is the mind of Christ. When doubt creeps into relationships, love is missing. This is why believers must study Scripture, pray together, and serve one another, especially in the bonds of marriage. The point is that love does not lie and deceive. This phrase has nothing to do with being gullible.
(13) It hopes all things: When you have the mind of God, you become certain of His power and promises; love does not despair, it does not entertain doubt. Love deepens faith and secures hope in a world that cannot achieve either.
14) Love endures all things: it endures or holds on because it has hope. Even in sorrow, truth causes the believer to hold on and stay true to what is right and good. It does not let the mocking and belittling from others silence the believer. He does not endure by retreating in silence; rather, he endures in the midst of the struggle in the same way Christ continued His ministry in the midst of disbelief and false accusation. And in the midst of enduring, we pray to our God who is always watching and in control of world events. They do not take Him by surprise and cannot alter His plans and promises in any way.
15) It never fails: though the lack of love fails, genuine or divine love positive results. Love produces unity, not diversity because it reflects the divine character. The more our love reflects the character of God, the more effective it is. Though people might reject love, as they reject God, love will always keep its word and result in blessing. This is why the love of God is a guarantee of salvation or eternal security for His children.
Notice how all these behaviors work to undermine the power of fleshly or natural desires to focus attention on the goal of unity, which produces a singly focused community of millions that accurately reflects God in the world. The love of God does not fail; it makes believers more complete in Christ individually and, therefore, corporately as they serve the Lord and wait for His return. The only reason that love, and every virtue (i.e., goodness, patience) that comes from it, exists in this world is because of the existence and presence of an involved and loving creator God. Know Him well and you will personally know love in this world and be able to adequately battle against any force that threatens you and those you love. Without divine love, there is only power and coercion, as we see in modern government and on our cities' streets. Divine love gives us peace amidst conflict in this world and assures us that not even death can separate his children from the love that we experience because of our faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28-31). Even so come, Lord Jesus!