What’s Love NOT to Do?

According to Psychology Today, “When doctors and therapists teach patients to turn negative thoughts and worries into positive affirmations, the communication process improves, and the patient regains self-control and confidence. But there’s a problem: The brain barely responds to our positive words and thoughts. They’re not a threat to our survival, so the brain doesn’t need to respond as rapidly as it does to negative thoughts and words.1 So, why is it that God specifically gives us negative “don’t” instructions in His Word? I can think of a couple reasons, in response to this. Do you notice how the quote says, “the patient regains self-control and confidence,” through positive affirmations? “Self-control” is meant to be produced in cooperation with the Spirit of God, Who empowers us to do things outside of what we can do on our own; this quote gives the false hope that we ever had or can have self-control through our own manufacturing. Also, if our “brain barely responds to our positive words and thoughts,” God knowingly, as the Designer and Creator of our physical form, wanted to give us parameters for our behavior in order to be a proper reflection of Him; and negative words can encourage a quicker reaction to what He’s said.

We’ve already spent a good chunk of time, looking at what love is (if you’ve missed it, feel free to look back at the last three posts). In order to gain a full understanding of love, we need to expose what it isn’t. Verses 4-8 of 1 Corinthians 13 inform us of what love doesn’t do. Let’s take a look at several of them.

Love Doesn’t:

  • Envy (Vs. 4). In Greek, this word is onomatopoetic (yeah, don’t strain yourself; I can’t pronounce it easily, either). It means that the word sounds like what it means. In this instance, it sounds like boiling water, which is similar to its meaning–getting piping hot and boiling over. While the Greek word it comes from can be used positively (zeal) or negatively (jealousy), this context is negative; it’s an active word (verb) that is moving, just like those bubbles in the boiling water; however, in this case, it’s being moved by envy, hatred, and/or anger. Just like watching water, as it begins to boil, the bubbles start out few and small, but eventually, they come to a “rolling boil,” where the bubbles are large and hot water can splatter all over the place, if the heat isn’t turned down.
Photo by Derek Story on Unsplash
Have you ever felt like this? Admittedly, I’ve been there too many times! My issue tends to be anger. I’ve had instances when I was absent from a group of people for months, even years, due to my health. When I was able to be with them, again, there were a couple different people who made some pretty insensitive remarks. I was boiling on the inside (probably the outside, too; I’m not very good at hiding my emotions)! Did I have a right to be angry because of their hurtful words? Yes! Sin is a hurtful thing, but what was moving me was anger, not true love. I was angry at them, not the sin. I didn’t remark, afterward, “I wonder what’s going on in _____’s life that ___ thought that comment was appropriate to say. Was _____ just uncomfortable and didn’t know how to talk about what was facing our family?” I didn’t give them the benefit of the doubt. I was all hot water, and words soon splattered all over the place, when they weren’t in earshot. The LORD is showing me, even as I type this, that I was fueled by a desire to be missed…to know I and my family weren’t completely forgotten about…to have someone say, “We’ve really missed seeing you guys! I’m glad you’re feeling well enough to be here.” That would’ve been an agapé love response, but even though that lacked on their end, their actions or words don’t justify my own. I’m thankful God’s Spirit closed my mouth in both instances to keep me from giving them an earful, but my reaction and words afterward (even months afterward) has a ways to go to show agapé love.
If you remember from the “Love: The Key Ingredient” post, love intensely and passionately acts against sin, but doesn’t sin in the process. It’s displaying patience when others offend or hurt you, being unhurried at “getting back at them.” While I may not have verbally gotten back at them to their faces, my heart, harboring the hurt and resentment and talking about it with others, but not them, is sinful…and the complete opposite of what love is. God has brought me, through writing this, to forgive them and to think of ways to properly respond, if ever in that situation, again.
  • Act out of shape (Vs. 5). No, we’re not talking about our weight or level of physical exercise. We’re talking about acting improperly. Your version of the Bible may say, “dishonor others, act rudely/unbecomingly/improperly/disgracefully…” All of them mean that if we’re God’s kids and aren’t conforming to what God prefers (agapé), our behavior or language doesn’t fit our character or status as God’s child. We’re out of shape. May I refer you, again, to the previous example (in a number of ways)?!?
  • Seek after himself/herself (Vs. 5). Here we are, again; the “seeking” or “striving after” isn’t the bad part; the object of our affection is! In my story above, I was seeking myself out of pain, rather than striving after GOD and what HE prefers. The Greek word for “seeking,” here, is really about getting to the bottom of something by asking questions in order to gain an understanding.
When was the last time you asked yourself those hard questions, to understand who the object of your affection is, in any given circumstance?

“Do not seek your own good, but the good of the other person [the one who is different from you].”

1 Corinthians 10:24 NETB
  • Jab Others (Vs. 5). Your version may refer to it as being “provoked.” “Jab” has a picture, here, of being close beside someone and cutting them sharply in order to trigger their feelings (emotions). Maybe it’s to get a rise out of someone or just plain ‘ole wanting to hurt them the way they hurt you.
  • Regard someone as guilty of being nasty on the inside with awful, tainted character just because he or she shares a similar quality to someone else (Vs. 5). I find this interesting, as this, too, has a possibility of being used for good, as we can regard someone as having beautiful character, because he or she shares a similar characteristic as someone else we know. It’s certainly easy to assume things about people, based on past experiences. We see, here, that making someone responsible for a corrupted identity, which belongs to someone else, as a result of our false association, is not love.

I’m going to stop here. Not only is this enough to take in, but the LORD is hitting me with an ample amount to confess and work through! We’ll pick up next post on the rest of the “don’t” list.

This is as real as it gets. Is there anything related to this “Don’t” list that the LORD is stirring inside you?
Photo by Randy Laybourne on Unsplash

1 Newberg, Andrew M.D. and Mark Waldman. “Why This Word Is So Dangerous to Say or Hear.” Psychology Today, 1 August 2012, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/words-can-change-your-brain/201208/why-word-is-so-dangerous-say-or-hear.

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