First Corinthians 13 – frequently known as “The Love Chapter” – is one of the most well-known chapters in the Bible because it is so commonly invoked at wedding ceremonies. Yet, for all its romantic language, it’s quite offensive.
(1) Love “does not brag and is not arrogant.” v. 4. NASB. Everyone loves to be made much of. We love to hear compliments, but we hate to hear criticism. As a result, we either (a) boast or brag by touting our own strengths or accomplishments, or (b) express self-pity by drawing people’s attention to how bad things have gone for us. Either method, however, is arrogant: boasting is the form of pride in the heart of the strong and self-pity is the form of pride in the heart of the weak. In order to show love, therefore, we must kill our desire to be made much of. This death is offensive to our natural selves.
(2) Love “does not seek its own.” v. 5. NASB. Everyone loves their own preferences. Although we may seek happiness as a preference, we should challenge the foundation of our happiness. We should be so deeply transformed in what makes us happy that – rather than being happy based on our own material and limited preferences without respect to what others need – we should be others-oriented and find our joy in the happiness of others. We should kill our love for the dominance of our own preferences. This death is offensive to our natural selves.
Most of us focus on the beauty of 1 Corinthians 13 – rather than its offense – because we see it as aspirational. For Jesus, however, the offense and beauty of love was reality. His love for us took him to the cross for our sins. Rather than being arrogant, he voluntarily took the nature of a servant. Rather than seeking after his own, he became obedient to the will of God – even though it led him to death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-11.
What is your understanding of love? Is it just romantic, or is it also offensive?