In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul writes those famous words that have been nicknamed, “the love chapter”. He begins by saying that without love, no matter what we are able to do or be, we accomplish nothing, we are nothing, and we gain nothing. Don Carson’s observation on these verses should raise our aspirations:
“One of the most striking features of this statement about love is how it rules out of bounds one of the definitions of love that still persists in some Christian circles. They say that Christian love does not belong to the emotional realm, but is nothing other than an unswerving resolve to seek the other’s good. That is why, they say, love can be commanded: one may thoroughly dislike the other person, but if one conscientiously resolves upon his or her good, and acts accordingly, it is still love. Quite frankly, that sort of casuistry is reductionistic rubbish. What has just been dubbed “love” is nothing other than resolute altruism. But in these verses Paul firmly distinguishes between altruism and love: “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames” (13:3): her are both altruism and self-sacrifice, but Paul can imagine both without love. So love must be something other than, or more than, mere altruism and self-sacrifice (For the Love of God, vol. 1, September 8).
God’s love is really the model of love, especially as it is expressed in and through Jesus. The love of God is not merely sentimental; it is charged with immeasurable affection and warmth. We wouldn’t want it any other way. When we remember that Paul is writing into a situation of conflict he is actually saying, “What you really are, what you really accomplish, what you really gain is based on your ability to love (with warmth and affection) those who offend you.” Lord, help us love as you love.