When you Google “love is patient love is kind,” you receive 417 million search results – proving that 1 Corinthians 13 is a very popular bible verse. Odds are, if you have ever attended a wedding, you’ve most likely heard the popular bible verse, 1 Corinthians 13, in the ceremony. In fact, according to Mark Woods from Christianity Today, the wedding market has saturated ceremonies and unions by reciting 1 Corinthians 13. What may come as a surprise is the fact that the wedding market has inadvertently portrayed the wrong idea of love.
The love is patient, love is kind verse continues with “…it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” With only that context, the popular bible verse probably seems like the answer to every holy union of marriage. However, if you dive deeper into the words and the theology, you’ll begin to understand that the love in 1 Corinthians 13 is not a romantic love. The Apostle Paul wrote this chapter. Oftentimes chapter 13 is referred to as “The Hymn of Love.” It is a dramatic chapter that doesn’t hold the same meaning once you dissect the true meaning and see the intricacy of God’s design.
In the Christianity Today article, Woods said, “Paul’s “Love is…” list isn’t a statement of the dewy-eyed emotional state in which couples stand in front of the altar. It’s a commitment to a rigorous practice of spiritual discipline in relation to other people in general – and not just to the object of amorous desire.”
Now, as a sidebar, if you are reading this analysis and want to find an appropriate verse for a wedding ceremony, we’d like to suggest Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, Ruth 1: 16-17, Matthew 19:4-6, or Ephesians 3: 14-19. Those bible verses are hinged upon the union of two people and the fullness of God.
With that said, you’re probably wondering, “What kind of love is used in 1 Corinthians 13?” The love is kind verse articulates an agape love.
Agape is one of several Greek words for love. When the word agape is used in the Bible, it refers to a pure, willful, sacrificial love that intentionally desires another’s highest good. Having a deeper understanding of the different types of love can be helpful when differentiating the types of love that exist. For example, your love for your favorite food is different than the love you have for your partner.
In the love is patient, love is kind verse, love represents a selfless love that promotes the greatest good for another. Unlike romantic love, agape isn’t born just of emotions, feelings, familiarity and attractiveness. Moreover, agape requires faithfulness, commitment, and sacrifice without expecting anything in return. Many may argue that the basis of faithfulness and commitment are foundational elements for any marriage; however, relationships are not one-sided, and they require both individuals to sacrifice with the idea that the other will reciprocate.
In 1 Corinthians 13, the verse lays out the definition of agape word for word – patience, kindness, no envy, no boasting, no proudness, only honoring, not self-seeking, not easily angered, and no records of wrongfulness. While the generalities exist in a loving relationship between partners, the romance that initiates a courtship and continues into a marriage is non-existent in the love portrayed in the popular bible verse.
To truly understand 1 Corinthians 13, you must also read Galatians 5:22-23. The verse said, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 advises if you don’t have the fruit of the Spirit, then the gifts of the Spirit are functioning in the flesh. Ultimately, the believer must walk in the Spirit in order to produce the fruit of the Spirit. Thus, out of the fruit of the Spirit comes the gifts of the Spirit operating in the power of the Spirit. Even though the Corinthians had all the gifts of the Spirit, they were exercising their gifts in the flesh and not actually acting as a Spirit.
When Paul was writing this, he wasn’t picturing a young couple. On the contrary, he was writing to a group of Christians, a congregation in the city of Corinth, who were very different people. They had different ideas for the future, opposing ideas of who should be in charge, conflicting passions and different ways of operating and processing the world. As you can imagine, there was a lot of bickering and disagreements.
It is evident that Paul was pleading for the people to adopt an agape love – one that is patient, kind, not envious, and not boasting. 1 Corinthians 13 serves as what we would call today an ‘ah-ha’ moment.
Christians should treat each other, no matter what their disagreements are, with respect and kindness. In this popular verse, love is not a feeling; it is an act of the will. Paul is saying that we should love each other and put each other’s needs first despite our differences and misunderstandings. Love is crucial. Ultimately, love is the thing that takes a gift from God and turns that gift into a blessing for others – without love, the gift has no value.
Now that you know the true meaning behind the love is patient, love is kind bible verse, I hope that you live out your life with an agape love for others. The world can be a much happier place if we all accept each other’s differences and learn how those differences bring out the best in each other.