The amazing hymn of love is one of the more misused and misunderstood passages in the New Testament. We read this at weddings -- a very appropriate passage to read at weddings -- but because we misunderstand what Paul means by "love." We turn it into sweetness and hearts and flowers and miss the deeper meaning.
The Greek New Testament uses three words that get translated into the English word "Love". The first word is Eros -- which is love in all its physical forms, including sexuality, a long walk or enjoying a meal -- which is where our diluted word erotic comes from. The second word is philios -- which is love in all its relational forms including friendship, affection, companionship -- and is the heart of the name of the city of Philadelphia (city of brotherly love). The third is a rarer word and is agape -- love that is a gift or is giving -- and is the word that Paul is using here in 1 Corinthians 13. The Latin translation of Agape is Caritas (where cardiology comes form) and the King James translated Caritas/Agape (love that is a gift) to Charity. In King James time Charity meant love expressed in giving. It has come to mean in our own time the gift itself.
I wonder if all those brides and grooms who used 1 Corinthians 13 knew what they were not just reading a sweet passage but were actually committing themselves to fully and freely give themselves not just to each other but in the same way God gives -- service to the world. If I have spiritual gifts and understand the deepest mysteries and have amazing faith but do not understand that the love of God is poured through me in service to the world . . . I gain nothing.
Love that gives never quits, it is patient, it is kind, it is not irritable. . .
Love that Gives is eternal -- everything else is temporary. Abilities, good looks, youthful energy are all fleeting. But love endures. I think in verse 11 Paul is gently saying to the Corinthians -- it is time to grow up and stop behaving like Children. The time is coming when we will be able to Love as fully and freely as we are loved.
This love transcends feeling and affection. This love transcends physical attraction and desire. This love is an act of will that chooses to build up and not tear down. This love is a choice that will always seek what is best for the other. This love is a gift that never (EVER) stops giving. When all else fails -- when we are old and in our decrepitude -- this love continues to give.
May you live into the Agape of God who is Agape!