As we continue our study of 1 Corinthians 13 and its teaching on love, today we come to verses 4 and 5. Love, Paul tells us, “does not insist on its own way,” and thus we see the selflessness of true love.
One of the most important characteristics of love is generosity, which is the opposite of selfishness. Love seeks the well-being of others, and this involves the giving of the self for the sake of others. The Lord loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7) precisely because He wants to see us love others just as He has loved us. When God loved us, He did so by giving — offering up His only begotten Son for the sake of our salvation (John 3:16).
Part and parcel of selflessness is courtesy. Verse 5 informs us love is not rude. Love does not behave in an unseemly manner; rather, it is manifested when we are polite and respectful to other people. When we truly care about others we will not be rude to them but instead go out of our way to be courteous. If we are disrespectful or demeaning towards other people with our thoughts, language, or time, we are not loving others as we ought.
Moreover, in addition to being courteous and generous, Christian love is not easily angered. For love “is not irritable or resentful” (1 Cor. 13:5). This does not mean love never gets angry, for God, who is Himself love, is angered by sin. Instead, love that is not irritable or resentful is a love not easily provoked.
The Word of God calls us to have self-control (Gal. 5:22–23). When we get angry at every circumstance, we are not controlling our emotions. To love others means we work hard to avoid getting angry over petty things. It also means we learn not to get upset at situations over which we have little control. It is so easy to get discouraged in life and consequently take out our frustrations on other people. We should be concerned to understand our own idiosyncrasies and frustrations so we can rightly assess our situation, maintaining self-control and responding appropriately to the different circumstances we face. Love does not explode in anger every time something goes awry.
The hardest people to be courteous to are the people who know us the best. How often are we rude and irritable with our spouses and children even as we exercise a great deal of self-control with those who are only barely acquaintances? How have you treated your family and close friends today? Have you blown up in anger or been rude to them? If so, go and apologize to them and endeavor to love them selflessly at all times.