If you’ve ever been to a wedding, chances are you’ve heard 1 Corinthians 13 read or referred to.
Whether those getting married are Christians or not, it’s the go-to passage to have someone read as the couple gazes lovingly into each other’s eyes.
I am 26 and not even close to being married (aka I am incredibly single). But if there is one thing I have learned within my 26 years of life, it’s that 1 Corinthians 13 is about love within a relationship.
I’ve heard many people who are “looking for love” claiming a desire for a “1 Corinthians 13” kind of love.
But while it is not wrong to say that this passage is the kind of love that should be found in relationships, when it is boiled down to be solely about the “significant other,” we have lost sight of what Paul was really trying to tell us.
God is Love
There is a statement made by the Bible that is so simple yet so enigmatic, theologians and pastors alike have been wrestling with it in their classes and churches for nearly two centuries: God is love (1 John 4:8). How can we flesh out this seemingly simple, yet unexplainable verse? What does it really mean to say God is love? We can try to grasp at language to explain it, to work it out—and we should, but we should also reach out and find out what God’s Word tells us about Himself and about love.
If God is love, then when the Bible describes a love that is true and holy, we can replace “love” with “God.” What would God look like if we did this in 1 Corinthians?
“[God] is patient and kind; [God] does not envy or boast; [He] is not arrogant or rude. [He] does not insist on [His] own way; [He] is not irritable or resentful; [He] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. [God] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. [God] never ends” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
All this time, boiling down 1 Corinthians to be about relationships, we have missed out on God telling us something beautiful and amazing about Himself.
How We Love
But it doesn’t end here. Ephesians 5:1 tells us to “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dear children.” God isn’t just telling us about who He is, but about who we are (or, rather, who we should be).
As Christians, we fail at imitating God when we let this kind of love only exist in our relationships. This is our Christian calling toward all of humanity: to truly imitate God, to love everyone as explained in 1 Corinthians 13 (even those we really don’t like).
We should be patient and kind. We should not envy or boast. We should not be arrogant or rude. We should not insist on our own way. We should not be irritable or resentful. We should not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoice with the truth. We should bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things.
As Christians, God is working in us to make us more like Him. In loving everyone in this way, in living in faith, we eventually (in this life or the next) will love like God and “never end,” for we will live eternally with Him.
1 Corinthians then teaches us a lot. It teaches us about who God is. It teaches us about who we should be toward everyone, not just a significant other, and it also teaches us about the love of a significant other.
So yes, I am incredibly single, but no, I am not looking for a lady who exudes a 1 Corinthians 13 type of love just in a relationship. I am looking for woman who exudes a 1 Corinthians 13 type of love throughout her community, to her “enemies” and to everyone she comes in contact with.