Jesus asked Simon Peter, "Lovest thou me," three different times in
John 21:15-17. In each case he answered our Lord by saying, "Thou
knowest that I love thee." My friend, how DOES the Lord know that you
love him? The scriptures teach us that the Lord can see in the hearts
of men (1 Samuel 16:7). The scripture teaches us also that we cannot
look in the hearts of men. We realize how the Lord knows, but how do WE
KNOW that we truly love the Lord, or even if we truly love one another?
The word "love" is one of the most abused words in the world today.
What God calls love and what the world calls love are as different as
night and day. In the world, such sins as envy, jealousy, adultery,
fornication, abusers of themselves with mankind (homosexuals),
effeminate (pedophiles), and other sins are labeled as acts of love
(Romans 1:20-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). We need to understand that the
love we are discussing and are so concerned about is what God calls
Is it possible for us to know that we have the love in our hearts that
God requires of us? Can we know that we really love the Lord and also
love one another? Some think that we can know that a person loves
another by the good deeds we see him do for that other person. Doing
good deeds is very important. But is love for the Lord and others
expressed in just doing a good deed? The apostle Paul says there is more
to it than just that. In 1 Corinthians 13:3 he writes, "And though I
bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be
burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." We can give all
we have to the poor, then even give our bodies to be burned and still
lack the love God wants us to have! Without love as a motive, all the
good we might do is in vain--"it profiteth me nothing."
If we have love in our hearts -- true Bible love -- we CAN know. Paul
teaches us some characteristics about love that will shine through a
persons life, and we will know as well as others (John 13:34-35) that
Godís love is in us and we are his disciples. Let us look at these
characteristics in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and see if we really love the
Lord and one another.
Verse 4 tells us, "Charity suffereth long, and is kind." Are we willing
to suffer long, even if the suffering is unjust (1 Corinthians 6:7)? If
someone were to "smite thee on thy right cheek," could you "turn to him
the other also?" (Matthew 5:39). Peter said, "Yet if any man suffer as
a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this
behalf" (1 Peter 4:16). After we have had a hard day, can we be as
kind as we ought to be?
"Charity envieth not." According to the Scriptures, if we have love in
our hearts there can be no place for envy or jealousy. When someone
else has a reason to weep, do we weep with them, or do we gloat and
rejoice in their misfortune? When someone has a reason to rejoice, do
we rejoice with them, or do we sorrow because of their joy (Romans
12:15)? For a person to claim to have the love a Christian ought to
have and then be envious of others is not consistent. Consider the words
of James: "Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and
bitter?" (James 3:9-12).
"Charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up." Do we ever catch
ourselves telling others about all the great things we have done?
Boasting, bragging, building ourselves up to others (Revelation 3:17)?
Where is the love that Paul is telling us about? Pride should rarely be
a part of our vocabulary and never be a part of our character! We
should never allow our spirit to become haughty or puffed up in any way.
Solomon warns us of this when he writes, "Pride goeth before
destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18).
Verse 5 tells us that love, "Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh
not her own." The love that is within us will show outwardly. Our
behavior will be that which becomes a Christian. With the love Paul
tells us about, our actions, speech, apparel, etc. will be that of
decency (I Timothy 2:9-11; 1 Peter 3:3-4). We should not have a problem
in making sure such things are so, because we are not concerned with our
own will or our own desires. We are concerned about the Fatherís will,
as was Jesus when he said, "Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou
wilt" (Matthew 26:39).
Love "is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil." With this true Bible
love, one of the most difficult things for a person to do is to provoke
us to wrath. As James writes, "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let
every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath" (James
1:19-20). We also will understand completely the words of the wise man
when he says, "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs
23:7). Therefore, "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are
honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure,
whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if
there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things"
(Philippians 4:8). With these things in our minds we will have no place
for evil thoughts.
Verse 6 says love, "rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the
truth." Christians, above all people, have a reason to rejoice. In Acts
the 8th chapter, the Ethiopian eunuch shows us why we are to rejoice.
It wasnít until after he had heard the truth and submitted himself to
it, through baptism, that he went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8:39). His
rejoicing was not in iniquity, but rather he rejoiced in his hearing,
knowing, and obeying the truth. "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth
shall make you free" (John 8:32). Let us always rejoice in the freedom
we have obtained through the truth of our Lord!
Verse 7 tells us it, "Beareth all things." The love we are to have is
to bear all things. Through definition, bear, simply means to protect or
preserve by covering; to bear up against. In reference to this, Peter
wrote, "Charity shall cover the multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8). Our
love helps us to cover the sins of others and not expose them to a
"Believeth all things." Through our love, we are able and willing to
believe all the good that we can about others, as long as it is possible
to do this without betraying the truth of God.
"Hopeth all things." Even though there are those who have waxed worse
and worse, there are none too wicked that we should not continue to hope
and pray that they will come to repentance. Samuel shows this aspect of
love when he says, "God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in
ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and right way..."
(1 Samuel 12:23). Never lose hope, and never, never give up!
"Endureth all things." Endurance is something needed for long term
commitments. And our love for the Lord is an eternal commitment. Paul
tells us later, "My beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable,
always abounding in the work of the Lord" (1 Cor. 15:38). Our love of
the Lord and one another will help us to endure all the trials and
temptations that come our way.
Then verse 8 says, "Charity never faileth." The love God requires his
children to have will never fail. Love is the "more excellent way" (1
Cor. 12:31). In 1 Corinthians 12 and 13, Paul is comparing certain
things that come from God that are finite, which have an ending, with
something "greater" which has no ending, thatís infinite--
A) Miracles will fail, cease, and vanish away, as taught in 13:8, when
"that which is perfect is come"-- perfect law of liberty, James 1:25;
B) In verse 13, faith is not greater than love because it too will end
(1 Peter 1:9), at which time we will receive the salvation of our souls.
Through the Bible definition of faith in Heb. 11:1, we learn that our
faith will desist when the "substance of things hoped for"-- the "things
not seen" (heaven) becomes a reality.
C) Hope also takes a back seat to love because it will cease to exist
when we see heaven and it becomes a reality to us (Romans 8:24).
D) Charity or Love is the "greatest of these" because it has no ending.
Will love cease when "that which is perfect is come" or perhaps when we
inherit heaven as our home? The answer is found in the bible definition
of love, "God is love" (1 John 4:16). When He says, "enter thou in thou
good and faithful servant," we will experience an abundance of Love and
God for an eternity without end. God and this love He teaches us of
truly "never faileth." In view of Inspirations portrayal of love and
itís eternal existence, certainly it is the "most" excellent way. No
wonder Jesus said that on this love for God and our fellow man "hang all
the law and the prophets" (Matt. 22:37-40). If all the characteristics
of this love are in our hearts, rest assured, weíll not let one another
or God down. This true Bible love will prevail.
Knowing these characteristics of love can help us to know if we really
do have true love in our hearts. Do we really love one another? Do we
really love Jesus? We can know that we love the children of God, when
we love God and keep his commandments (1 John 5:2).
If Jesus were to ask you this very day, "Lovest thou me?", my friend,
what would YOUR answer be?