Love's Faith, Hope, and Patience

by Spiros Zodhiates

The Nature of Love-Part 5

The Nature of Love-Part 5

Editor's note: Dr. Zodhiates continues to elaborate on the Apostle Paul's powerful description of love as the supreme Christian evidence.

"[Love] beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things" (1 Cor. 13:7).

Are we to believe everything that others tell us? Is the Christian to be a credulous, gullible sort of person, who allows himself to be fooled by every rogue that comes along? Is he to pretend to believe that black is white, or white black? By no means!

Love that tolerates evil and accepts falsehoods is a highly selfish love and is therefore not God's love. It sacrifices the best interests of others for the sake of a false peace. We cannot take the individual verses of Paul's great love chapter in isolation but must consider them as a whole. The love that "believeth all things" (v. 7) must be consistent with the love that "rejoiceth together with the truth" (v. 6, a.t.). Love believes all things that ought to be believed-all things that are true.

Love inspired by God serves the good of the other person. You benefit no person by allowing him to think he has succeeded in his deceit, for instance. You do not help a disobedient child by pretending to believe his lies, for this is to give tacit approval to his evil ways. This may seem the easiest way to attain peace-by avoiding conflict-but sooner or later your false quiet will be disturbed, as evil unchecked grows to alarming or perhaps uncontrollable proportions.

This is certainly not the kind of love that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians chapter thirteen. The love of which he speaks "seeks not its own." "It does not indulge in the easy optimism of cheap delusions" (Ainsworth, The Silences of Jesus and St. Paul's Hymn to Love, 190).

Love does not believe lies but endeavors to correct them. Love will not coexist with evil nor cover it with a mantle of acquiescence, for to do so would be to prolong its devastating work. "[Love] does not merely invest life with the bright garment of a kindly judgment. It looks with its clear, wise eyes into things" (ibid.). No matter how great the darkness it discovers, it realizes that there is the hope of heaven for the blackest sinner.

Observe that Paul immediately adds, "Love . . . hopeth all things."

"Hope is the characteristic of the gospel. Again in the case of the verb "hope," as with the previous two verbs, the adjectival noun pánta (all) may be used adverbially. This would make the expression "Love wholly hopeth," that is, does not partly hope but fully and in all respects. There is no situation that divine love within the human heart cannot face with full hope.

"How to be true to our own sense of truth and yet at the same time to keep hope alive is sometimes one of the most difficult of problems. As you read the life of Jesus, you are amazed that never was He less than perfect truth. Never was man so faithful as the Lord. Never one who could so pierce the depths. He never uttered a single word of compliment. He never said anything because it sounded kindly. Nevertheless, poor women who had fallen to the streets began to hope again; the thief on the cross dared to feel that he might be remembered. In the very hour that they were self-exposed and found themselves judged as man had never judged them, they began to hope. That is always the wonder of Christ's hopefulness. It sees the vilest, and yet does not despair. It knows the worst and yet it hopes for the best" (ibid. 230-31).

Throughout the teaching of our Lord we find this spirit of hopefulness exemplified. He tells the stories of the coin that was lost, of a sheep that wandered off into the desert to almost certain death, of a prodigal son who recklessly cast off the ties of home and was headed for ruin. Each was found again.

Paul closes his quartet concerning the optimism of love by saying, "Love…endureth all things." The verb that he uses here is not the same as that in verse four, in which he states that love is "long-suffering." Makrothumía (long-suffering) used in verse four, expresses patience in respect of a person, while hupoménei (the verb used for "endureth" in v. 7) expresses patience in respect of things. When love has done everything in its power to provide a cover for its work in others, when it has drawn out all truth, when it has exercised every hope and still has not achieved its aim, it will suffer patiently and optimistically. The word actually means to hold on under a burden. The things that crush everything else will never be able to crush God's love in us. Even when hope has given up, love (agápe) still remains alive. "Love is able not only to stoop beneath the burden of life and lift it, but also to carry that burden up to the very throne of God" (Ainsworth, Silences).

© From To Love Is to Live, an exegetical commentary on 1 Corinthians 13, 1967, revised 1998. Available from AMG Publishers.