Christians everywhere love to love the “Love Chapter” in the Bible. That is what 1 Corinthians 13 is commonly called. We tend to be particularly enamored with verses 4 through 7:
” 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
You will hear these verses quoted over and over, particularly at weddings and bridal showers, and are the favorite verses of many a priest and pastor. Being loving, kind, patient, etc. is the epitome of Christianity and virtues all Christians should pursue. It is a noble endeavor striving to become truly loving, an impossible goal we imperfect humans can never quite reach.
All of which I tend to agree with.
The preachers will then often go on to quote 1 John 4:8 ” Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
And everyone makes the natural, logical connection that therefore God is patient, God is kind, God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud, etc.
And everyone says, oh, yes, of course, and nods wisely. Yes, that’s the God I know. That’s the God I worship and follow. The God of Love.
And the preacher spends the remaining 20 minutes of his allocated sermon time describing all the ways God demonstrates His love for us.
The end. And we all give a resounding AMEN!
Another feel good sermon under our belt. And all the rest of God’s many attributes are dismissed, ignored, and marginalized, as if all He is Love.
I can’t tell you how many times while in the midst of such a “God is Love” sermon, I’ve wanted to politely raise my hand and say: “Ahem. Yes, God is Love. We all know that. But what else IS HE?”
And then I’d LOVE (yes, I would) to have the preacher go through the description of love given in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and give us some cautionary warnings.
Yes, God is patient. But He is NOT infinitely patient. There is an expiration date to His patience.
James 5:7-9 “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!”
God isn’t just the God of Love. He’s also the God of Justice. When Christ returns, He will return as Judge, and there will be no more patience from this loving God for the unrepentant evil doer.
Yes, God is kind, but infinitely so only to a select few. I seriously doubt the following people, who will face His wrath, will be praising God for His “kindness”.
Revelation 19:17-21 “And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great. 19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. 20 But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. 21 The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.”
The God of Love will return as Warrior and King and He will slaughter, without hesitation, all His enemies. There will be no “kindness” in Him for those who follow and support evil.
1 Corinthians 13:4 says that love does not envy. No, God is not envious of anything you’ve achieved nor does He covet your possessions. But He is a jealous God and He will not tolerate any other gods before Him.
Exodus 34:14 ” Do not worship any other god, for the LORD , whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”
Do not ever think that because God is Love that He will look the other way as you chase after other idols. He must be the sole recipient of your worship, nothing else can own your heart. Joshua is quite blunt in warning the Israelites of what to expect if they ignore his warning about idolatry:
Joshua 24:19-20 “Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD . He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. 20 If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.””
1 Corinthians 13:5 says that love keeps no record of wrongs. Ah, but God DOES keep a record of wrongs – for those whose names are not written in the Book of Life.
Revelation 20:12-15 “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, your name is written in the Book of Life, and the other books (those that record the deeds of this life) have no power over you. If you’ve rejected Christ, you have removed yourself from the saving power of God’s love and you will be judged by the wrongs recorded in the books.
There is much more I could say about how the Love Chapter needs to be at least periodically preached in the overall context of the Bible and not just taught in isolation, but I think I’ve made my point. As Christians, we need to always remember that Christ came first as the Lamb, but when He returns, He is returning as the Lion. He is the God of Love, but He is also the God of Justice. He is the God of Mercy, but also the God of Truth. You can not deliberately, intentionally, and willfully choose to sin and live in rebellion and expect to be covered by the attributes of love described in the Love Chapter.
In the end, He is only the God of Love for those who love Him.
He is the God of Justice and Wrath for everyone else.
Compton’s Interactive Bible NIV