February 14: I Corinthians 13:4-8

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;  does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;  does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

This is an often referenced portion of Scripture, and is probably very familiar to us all. It is obviously full of wonderful statements about love, but the thing I’d like to look at more closely is that small little phrase “does not seek it’s own.”  This is very literally “is not zealous for itself”, it is translated in the NIV as “it is not self-seeking”

One of the big confusions of our time is that our lives are a journey to finding ourselves. Especially when it comes to love, we look out to see if we are being true to ourselves.  This is because, at a fundamental level, we want to worship ourselves. We want to be on a spiritual journey to find ourselves. We want to sort through the rubble in our lives and locate the prize at the bottom: us! We want to obey ourselves – worshipping at the altar of our own convenience, our own enjoyment, our own desires, and our own sacrifices. And all this is just a quest to grow closer to our own little god, the self. Many christians do this in our worship also – as though God is simply here to make us feel better, make our lives easier, and flood us all with the warm fuzzies of self acceptance. But the fact is that we are broken, and our “selves” are corrupt.

You can’t have yourself for wanting. Pursuing yourself will always leave you needing, demanding, fantasizing, coveting, fussing, hurting, and bickering. No matter what you do, at the end of the day, if it was done unto yourself it will not be of value. It is not love. Self- seeking is not love. Self seeking in having children is not love. Wanting to fill your own arms with adoption is not love. Relishing the feelings of your own hurt as you reach out to the needy is not love. Watching yourself minister to others is not love. Enjoying your self sacrifice is not love. Embracing the feeling you get when you are not selfish is not love, it is simply a more elaborate way to seek yourself. Focusing on the hurt, the shame, the needs you feel as you try to minister to others means that you are trying to use others to minister to yourself. The reality is that as we seek ourselves, look into our own eyes, pursue our own truths, we are simply being disobedient.

When we love, truly – when it is not self seeking, then we are sacrificing. Then it is our own little uncomfortable selves that we have put on the altar. That is obedience.When we obey, when the driving force in our lives is obedience, then we have become Christ’s own body. Our identity is in Christ, because we are not seeking after ourselves. Pursue obedience to find yourself. Pursue Christ to reach others. Worship God to know who you are. When we obey scripture, when we sacrifice our own little “selves” in obedience to God, we are full of love. But we do not love because it is who we are, we love because it is who He is. At a fundamental level, it is our own identity that changes. This is what is meant by our “identity in Christ.” That is true love.

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8 thoughts on “February 14: I Corinthians 13:4-8

  1. I agree with some of what you say, but I don’t think it’s selfish to do something because it makes you feel good. John Piper is good at explaining this in Desiring God.

  2. Amen! Personally, I have found seeking my own interest to be more exhausting, too. It seems like when I manage to truly love others, more often then not, my energy abounds. In order to keep our little world running smoothly, I really do have to keep my priorities in check or I’ll burn out long before everything that should be done has been accomplished. More reminders I should plaster onto my fridge, I guess. 🙂 Thanks!

  3. i love this post because i think that a lot of christian literature/sermons have started to become more like “Self help” books–using spirituality to find yourself, to make yourself a better self–i love what you say in that second paragraph “our selves are corrupt”

  4. To God be the glory because he made your family, and because He gifted at least three of you,that I know of,with the ability to communicate Truth in such a powerful and clear manner.

    With Thanks.

  5. Sometime ago, our pastor asked us, “What do you worship?” What is your idol? I asked myself,”What is it, what do I care about the most?” Is it my exercise, my food, my money, clothes, friends, and I saw that all the paths my mind raced down trying to find the idol at whose feet I worshiped led to one end – myself. Ewwww! Yuck! Believe it or not, I didn’t think this was true. I never think to highly of myself, I thought, I’m such a worm. But it was true. And I asked Him to help me as He promised and He is.

  6. Thanks for really spelling out what “love is not.” This is definitely a harder post to read but only because of honesty and truth in every word. Lots to repent of and work on!

  7. @Andrea:
    I think the distinction is in the direction of intent. There’s nothing wrong with feeling good while doing good works — Prov 11:25 does say “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” But is my ultimate intent to be a blessing, or to feel good? That good, fulfilling emotion is the by-product in my good works, but it ought not be the goal of my good works. I think that’s what Nancy is getting at here – being able to discern the difference.

    I love Piper’s ideas on Christian hedonism. (I’ve read the articles on his website, but not his book.) But I must also watch that I don’t deceive myself too! =)

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