Try This Biblical 'Love Checkup' for Hope during a Pandemic

Dear Roger,

Please help me build my relationship with God while I’m isolated from my church and others.

Sincerely, Ronnie

Dear Ronnie,

I would love to help! I’ve put together a checkup and Bible study that will help you analyze the state of your relationship with God and others while quarantined...and really anytime!

Let’s start by reading 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. It says:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

The Greek word Paul uses here for love is “agape.” Writers throughout the New Testament use “agape” again and again to describe God’s love. Here’s a more nuanced definition:

Agape loves the unlovable.

Agape never quits.

Agape gives expecting nothing in return.

Read this passage again and utilize the words “I am” with each characteristic to have a sense of how well you’re doing. (For example, “I am patient; I am kind; and so on.”)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Take a moment to consider these questions: In which characteristics are you doing well? Which need some attention?

Next, note that all of these characteristics are verbal adjectives. Love is not something we just talk about. Love is something that we do. Read this one more time:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Let’s take time now to go through each of the characteristics of love more deeply. Consider how you measure up!

Love Is Patient

This Greek word describes patience with people and not patience with circumstances.

Patience is not pushy. It gives people time to do what they need to do without being pressured or hurried.

Patience is the ability to be wronged and have the power to retaliate—but refuse to strike back.

Jesus never said that if we turn the other cheek we would not get hurt (Matthew 5:38).  What He said was that when we turn the other cheek, we look more like Jesus than at any other time.

Any cat can scratch back. Agape love says, “You wronged me. Nevertheless, I am going to do something really nice for you.”

Love Is Kind

The Greek word means that “love is sweet to all.”

Kindness means to give generously to people while expecting nothing in return. Acts of kindness can be done to meet real needs or, at times, just to have fun!

Surprise acts of kindness bless the heart of others. I love the phrase, “Man doesn’t live by bread alone. He needs buttering up.”

Love Does Not Envy

Jealousy says, "I want what you have!" Envy says, “I wish you didn’t have it.”

The Greek root word for “envy” means "to boil." It refers to that inner boiling of the soul which can lead to that seething over somebody else's success, beauty, possessions or good fortune. You might not even wish you had those things. You just wish they didn’t have it.

Love wishes the best for others, even to the point of helping them achieve or receive things that you would otherwise want for yourself.

Love Does Not Boast

The Greek root of “boast” might be paraphrased as "windbag." This is the hot air that comes out of a proud and conceited person. "Wind bag" is the verbalizing of pride.

Pride is a braggart. True love will always be far more impressed with its own unworthiness than with its own merit.

If anyone ever had something to brag about, Jesus did—but He was the most humble of men:

"For I have not spoken of myself" (John 12:49)

How many of us can say that? 

Love Is Not Proud

Love is not inflated with its own importance, while pride is an over-concern with self.

The idea behind the Greek word “pride” is "puffed-up.” Picture what it takes to “puff up” or inflate something. When we inflate ourselves, either with true pride in our own actions or to look good in front of others, we also become focused on staying that way!

Love recognizes the accomplishments of others, constantly looking out for opportunities to encourage and praise them. 

Love Is Not Rude

Love does not behave gracelessly, pushing others aside or ignoring them in favor of selfish needs.

The Greek word translated as “rude” also means "to behave indecently or in a shameful manner."  Agape love is tactful and will do nothing to raise a blush. 

Love Is Not Self-Seeking

Love does not insist upon its own rights, instead focusing on the rights and needs of others.

What a better world we would have if people would stop thinking about what life owes them and start thinking about what they owe life! And how sweet it would be if people would think less of their rights and more of their duties. 

Love Is Not Easily Angered

Love never flies into a temper.

Agape love never becomes exasperated with people. Instead, love takes time to consider actions after we’ve been wronged. Love resolves issues thoughtfully.

A lady once said:  "I may lose my temper; but it's all over in a minute."  So was the atom bomb.

Love Keeps No Record Of Wrongs

Love does not store up memory of any wrong it has received.

The Greek word used here describes "a mathematical calculation." It is an accountant's word used in keeping a ledger. The reason we write things in a ledger is so that we will not forget them.  Just as God does not keep any books on believers' sins, so we are not to keep books on the evils of others.

Love Does Not Delight In Evil

Love does not rejoice in someone else’s sin or wrongdoing.

Paul is addressing the malicious pleasure which comes to many of us when we hear something derogatory about someone else. It is one of the strange traits of human nature that we often prefer to hear of the misfortune of others rather than of their good fortunes.

Unfortunately, some people are closely waiting for us to fail. Love does the opposite, rooting for success!

Love Rejoices With The Truth

Love catches people doing right and makes a big deal out of it.

Love also picks out good things that are true about someone’s life and talks about them.

In another sense, there are times when we definitely do not want the truth to be known; there are times when the last thing that we wish to hear is the truth. Agape love has no wish to hide the truth; it is brave enough to face the truth.

Love Always Protects

The Greek word literally means “to cover, shelter, or protect.” In 1 Peter 4:8, Peter puts it so beautifully, "Love covers a multitude of sins."

Love will never drag into the light of day the faults and mistakes of others. It would rather set about quietly mending things than publicly displaying and rebuking them.

We hear folks say, "Well, it's the truth!” But that doesn't mean that we have to say it!

Love Always Trusts

Love always believes the best about others. When love notices something questionable, it gives people the benefit of the doubt.

While Jesus saw people for what they were, He was always thinking about what they could be. Consider Jesus Christ and the disciples. They were nothing too hot, frankly. Peter denied him; Judas betrayed him; James and John were inordinately selfish.

Jesus could have scratched His head and said, "Father, I don't know how to tell you this, but our whole deal isn't going to work out. I have twelve losers. If you think I ought to leave and turn this whole thing over to them, I'll do it; but it looks a little shaky to me."

Instead, He said, "They can do it!" So he sent them out into the world, and they did it.

Love Always Hopes

As long as the grace of God is operative—and it will always be!—then human failure is never final.

Love doesn't run out. It doesn't bail out and leave as soon as the first mistake is made. Love waits and believes, and when believing begins to waver, then it starts hoping.

It was the belief of Jesus that no man is hopeless. He never gives up on anyone!

In other words, when other people have given up hope for us, and when we have become absolutely hopeless about ourselves, the Lord is never discouraged.

Love Always Perseveres

Love can endure anything. Always.

“Perseveres” is a Greek military term to describe being in the middle of a fierce battle and hanging in there to the very end.

Love stands in there against incredible opposition and keeps on loving.

Love Never Fails

The word "fail" has two technical meanings.

Classic Greek presents the picture of a bad actor being hissed off the stage. Love is never hissed off the stage. Love lives on the stage of eternity.

The other picture is of a fading flower with falling petals. Love never withers, fades, nor falls away.

In reality, just about everything in life fails. Fame fails. The world passes away. Sometimes business fails. Governments fail. Friends often let us down. Health fails.

But Love never fails.

Let’s Close with a Lovely Illustration of Agape Love

In the first-century Jerusalem church, Barnabas was nicknamed “the Encourager.” He fulfilled the essence of divine agape love.

Barnabas sold a piece of property and brought the proceeds for distribution among the poor and needy.

When Christian-killing Saul (Paul) became a Christian himself, Barnabas vouched for Paul with the early Christians who were terrified of him. Barnabas opened the door for Paul to come into the fold and one day set the world on fire with the gospel of Christ.

In their first attempt to share the gospel, Paul, Barnabas, and the young teenager John Mark, embarked on the first missionary journey. John Mark quit and went home at the first sign of persecution.

When it was time for their second missionary journey, Paul refused to take John Mark. The Bible tells us that the dissension between these two men concerning John Mark was so great that they decided to part company. Paul chose Silas and headed for Turkey. Barnabas took John Mark and sailed to Cyprus.

Many years later, Paul was imprisoned in Rome. As recorded in 2 Timothy, Paul asked Timothy to come quickly to be with him in Rome. He was lonely. Winter was coming soon. He asked Timothy to bring the coat that he left with Carpus, his scrolls and especially his parchments.

Then he wrote:

“Get John Mark and bring him with you, because he is a profitable man in my ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:11)

Thank you, Barnabas. You embodied agape love, and we are all the better for it.

Well, Ronnie, I hope you find this checkup helpful as you reflect on your love for God and others during the quarantine and in the future.

Love, Roger

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Emmanuel Phaeton

Ask RogerDr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his 35-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.

Editor's Note: This Ask Roger article features insights from Roger's daughter, Brie Barrier Wetherbee, a sought-after Bible teacher and conference speaker, author, analyst, and Christian theologian. 

Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at [email protected].

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