The Love Chapter

When the calendar reminds us of Valentine’s Day, it makes me wonder how real love can grow instead of fade. In our fickle society, “love” is misused and motives are mixed…as in this love letter lament:

“Dearest Jimmy,

No words could ever express the great unhappiness I’ve felt since breaking our engagement. Please say you’ll take me back. No one could ever take your place in my heart, so please forgive me. I love you, I love you, I love you! Yours forever, Marie.

P.S., And congratulations on winning the state lottery.”

Marie’s love would last only as long as the cash would flow … However, real, lasting love is described in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13. When I began to read the Bible as a teenager, this passage stirred my heart, and it still does. Today this passage is often read at weddings. Consider again this classic description of real love.

Note that, in the context, the apostle Paul corrected the believers in Corinth who were misunderstanding and misusing their God-given abilities. The Greek word for love used here is agape, meaning unconditional love–the kind of love that God has for us (John 3:16). We can summarize the chapter with these three love lessons.

1. Recognize the indispensable importance of love.

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing” (1 Cor. 13:1-3). [1]

2. Appreciate the virtuous qualities of love.

“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:4-8).

3. Treasure the surpassing greatness of love.

“But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.” [Spiritual gifts are useful, but temporal.]

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known” (1 Cor. 13:8-12). [ As maturity involves setting aside immature things, so the age to come will set aside transitional spiritual gifts.]

“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Therefore, we conclude that, just as love was crucial to healthy, unified Christian fellowship in Corinth, so unconditional love is crucial for you to grow, protect, and heal your relationships today. So ask yourself, To what extent do I appreciate love’s importance, virtues, and greatness?

“But such love is humanly impossible!” you say. Yes indeed. “Then, how am I expected to love this way?” You love this way by being a vessel of God’s love!  Hendley G. C. Moule put it this way: “I will not think of the infirmities of my need, except to lead me to the divine simplicity of His supply.”[2]

Do you remember how Christ instructed the disciples about the overwhelming task of feeding of over 5,000 hungry people? “‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat'” (Matt. 14:16). When the bewildered disciples admitted that this was naturally impossible, the stage was set for the compassionate miracle. The little food that was available was placed in the hands of Jesus, and then it was blessed, broken, and supernaturally multiplied. Likewise, when we submit to Christ and depend on Him, the Holy Spirit fills us as the supernatural resource of unconditional love (Eph. 5:18; Gal. 5:22).[3]

Writing on the nature of love in marriage, C. S. Lewis observed,

“Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing … Love … is a deep unity maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habits reinforced by the grace which both partners ask and receive from God … On this love the engine of marriage is run; being in love was the explosion that started it.”[4]

So, reflect on this Scripture to discern the nature of real, lasting love. Entrust yourself to Christ and discover how He–the ultimate manifestation of love–can express His love through you. As you abide in Christ, God will write another “love chapter” in your life’s journal.

[1] Note the allusion to the gifts of tongues, prophecy, knowledge, and faith. See 1 Cor. 12:4-11.

[2] Quoted in His Victorious Indwelling, ed. Nick Harrison.

[3] “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Rom. 5:5

[4] See his book, The Four Loves

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Copyright 2009 by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial use. Please credit Scripture quotations (unless indicated otherwise) are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Honorable Mention

A profound, practical study on divine love is The Way of Agape, by Nancy Missler. See the book, study guide and video seminar at