Love is not irritable or resentful. Love is not easily annoyed, nor is it bitter or indignant. We could add that love is not cynical either, in that cynicism is closely related to irritability and resentment. This means that these characteristics are expressions of faithlessness. Faithlessness often expresses itself as irritation and resentment. Faithlessness is often bitter and indignant, and conversely, to be bitter and indignant are expressions of faithlessness. Of course, those who are bitter and indignant often slide into cynicism, which is a another expression of faithlessness.
Interesting, Paul may have had the ancient Greek Cynics in mind when he penned this verse. Cynicism originated in the philosophy of a group of ancient Greeks who rejected all conventions, whether of religion, manners, housing, dress, or decency, and advocated the pursuit of virtue in a simple, unmaterialistic lifestyle. The ancient Cynics almost sound spiritual to our Modern ears, but not to Paul’s. Paul rejected the cynical rejection of the world. Christian spirituality is not a matter of rejecting the world. Christianity is not found or expressed through a rejection of the world. Of course, Christians reject sin, but not the world. God loves the world. Life as we know it is not possible apart from the world.
When we think of the world we think of John 3:16, and yet to really understand John 3:16 we need to hear it in context.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God” (John 3:16-21).
We are not called to hate the world — sin, yes, the world, no. We must remember that God intends to change the world by eradicating sin. So, we must not become cynical, even in the midst of a world where there are very good and sound reasons for cynicism. Cynicism, not the world, must be rejected. Christian love is the antidote to cynicism. Christian love is not irritable or resentful, even in the face of irritability and resentfulness. It is not cynical, even in the face of cynicism. Love turns its back on irritability and resentment, and refuses to engage or express them, regardless of our personal feelings.
Love, as Paul has defined it here, is not a function of feelings. Christian love is simply not subject to human feelings. Rather, love is a commitment, a commitment to Christ first and foremost and then to His people, come what may. Love is commitment to biblical principles regardless of how we feel in the moment. Love understands that its commitment to these things — to Christ, to God’s people and to Scripture — is greater than life itself. Love understands that commitment to Christ will survive this temporal life and continue into eternity.
Paul goes on to say that love “does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6). Other translations translate the Greek word as “unrighteousness” or “iniquity.” Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness. Love does not rejoice in iniquity. The word literally means injustice. Love hates injustice, unfairness, unrighteousness and iniquity. But love loves truth — verity, equity, fairness, justice and righteousness. And how could it be otherwise? Because true love loves Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ is the manifestation of verity, equity, fairness, justice and righteousness. Because Christians love Christ first and foremost, they love these things — the things of Christ — first and foremost, more than other things. Christians rejoice in these things. These things provide joy for those in Christ.
This great Love Chapter provides a call to faithfulness that cuts through the fog of theology and doctrine without denying or belittling theology and doctrine. It makes Christian love real, more than words, more than feelings, more than commitment to an ideal or a cause. “And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments” (2 John 1:6).
About The Author
Author and pastor, Phillip A. Ross founded http://www.Pilgrim-Platform.org . Demonstrating the Apostle Paul’s opposition to worldly Christianity, he published an exposition First Corinthians in 2008. Ross recounts how Paul turned the world upside down in his book, Arsy Varsy — Reclaiming the Gospel in First Corinthians.