1 Corinthians 13 Part 8: Love Does Not Act Unbecomingly
1 Corinthians 13:5a Don’t be monstrous!
“Love…does not act unbecomingly;”
1 Corinthians 13:5 NASB1995
It’s interesting how the Holy Spirit works in a believer. I decided to tackle this well-known and revered chapter in 1 Corinthians 13 about love and have been virtually smacked across the face multiple times about how I commit the sins that inhibit love. In fact, I was in tears last night and this morning thinking about this particular passage that I am now analyzing. I can’t help myself - I decided to create one of those popular “Batman and Robin” memes that is perfect for this, just to have a little humor and a lot of truth. The Holy Spirit is always loving in His course corrections, but can convict us in very painful ways and open our eyes as to how we sin in so many ways and also make us realize we are not and never have been “noble and lovely”. And, no, for those who are very literal-minded, I am certainly not comparing the Holy Spirit to Batman.
So what in the world does Paul mean when he says that love does not act unbecomingly? The picture at the top for this devotional says it all; a few years ago I would have loved to exhibit a coffee mug like that just to get a point across. We act unbecomingly when we are rude, coarse, indecent, unmannerly, imperious, or blithely acting on our arrogance or perceived “superiority”. “Unbecomingly” is from the root Greek word aschemon, according to the Blue Letter Bible and has the following definitions:
I find both definitions to be relevant. When we act in an unbecoming way, we are deformed or distorted or misshaped in our form that we should have, besides being indecent and unseemly. A Synonym of deformed in modern usage is monstrous! A person who is unbecoming does not care for people around him or her and also cares nothing for their feelings and sensibilities.
I had a reputation in my working years for being exceptionally honest. In fact, it was often described as being “brutally honest” and “direct” and it was admired by my bosses and our customer but often despised by my peers because I could be hurtful in my desire to be a truth-talker. In fact, I was told by a person who gave me a polygraph for a security clearance that I was almost too honest and likely could not effectively deter curious outsider questions about programs that I would be working on (a characteristic of evasiveness, silence and even a little mild dishonesty was sometimes called for with those clearances so that secrets were not spilled).
Because I’m an extrovert and like to talk, this can pair in a negative way with blunt honesty. Integrity truly begins with honesty, but can morph into unseemly behavior when you are rude about it. As Paul is trying to say, it is all about how you state the truth, not just being aggressive about it. The end does not justify the means, unless the means are done with love. I confess that I have also been a very rude person to strangers, especially those who are trying to help or explain why something (often adverse) is happening; I would cut them off when they are talking (not listening well) or I would get hot under the collar and start arguing.
Steve and I also developed a bad habit in our wandering years of unbelief of using lots of crude language and gestures. Perhaps it wasn’t taking the Lord’s name in vain (well, that happened, too), but it often relied on an old English epithet that starts with an “f”, plus a few other fine curse words and digit reinforcers. Bad language is everywhere - music videos, movies, books, television shows, internet conversations, you name it. It is a crude and coarse and unseemly cultural trend and there is no excuse for it. Immediate repentance happens now if we catch ourselves saying coarse things, but we have a long ways to go. Precept Austin has a commentary excerpt about language that shows how John Wesley handled that situation:
John Wesley once had for a traveling companion an officer who was intelligent and agreeable in conversation; but there was one serious drawback—his profanity. When they changed vehicles, Wesley took the officer aside and, after expressing the pleasure he had enjoyed in his company, said he had a great favor to ask him. The young officer replied, "I will take great pleasure in obliging you, for I am sure you will not make an unreasonable request." "Then," said Wesley, "as we have to travel together some distance, I beg that, if I should so far forget myself as to swear, you will kindly reprove me." The officer immediately saw the motive and felt the force of the request and smiling said. "None but Mr. Wesley could have conceived a reproof in such a manner." It worked like a charm.
Love is self-control and gentleness. We can tell the truth and still make the listener believe that they have heard angels. We can be gentle and clean up the words that leave our lips. We can ban rudeness from our lives, with the help of our Lord, and not react to rude people that we meet with retaliation. I thought that another Sermon example from Pastor Steven Cole would be a good way to end this devotional and give you food for thought:
I read of a man who was generally lacking in manners. He never opened the car door for his wife. “She doesn’t have two broken arms,” he would say. After many years of marriage, his wife died. At the funeral, as the pallbearers brought her casket out to the hearse, the husband was standing by the car door. The funeral director, who knew the husband by name, called out to him and said, “Open the door for her, will you?” He reached for the car door and then, for one second, froze. He realized that he had never opened the door for her in life; now, in her death, it would be the first, last, and only time. A lifetime of regret came crashing down around him. Love is not rude.
My next devotional examines 1 Corinthians 13:5b Love does not Seek its Own
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father - Please guide me into conduct that is gentle and full of self-control and unselfish love. Please help me banish rudeness, crudeness and uncaring behaviors towards others in my life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
Steven Cole sermons on Bible.org and Precept Austin are copyright 2021.
Barb same as you I am convicted with each verse on the lack of showing the fruits of the Spirit in my life and especially with Love and times I believe I need to be tough
Barb, I appreciate very much your story since I'm also known as the 'brutally honest', 'tactless', 'insensitive' one.(although not so much as my younger days. if one of the kids looks at someone like that person is stupid it is still known far and wide as 'the Jon look'.) The way that this chapter kicks us teaches us something very important. Very very important.
For us to be loving, to match these descriptions that Paul gives us of Love, is the Law. It is the Greatest Commandment and the Second that is like it. It is our duty. Us being loving is Mosaic Law. It is not the Gospel. And that is very Good News. The worst thing about years of trying and failing to be loving was the thought that this was a requirement of Christ's Gospel. It isn't.
His Gospel is that He loves us in this way. His love for us is patient, is kind, is gentle. His love is not so monstrous as to reject us for being monsters. His love gives and never expects a return on His investment, does not seek its own. Which is good, because we can never give a return on His investment. We are all moneypits, lost causes. But His love never fails. And someone will read this and say, that by freeing men from the yoke of trying to be loving, by telling them that there are no consequences to their failure(There are no consequences to your failures Jon, Barb, and Joe and whoever else. Because your Substitute's Love doesn't fail.) I encourage them to be unloving and loveless the simple answer is that when people receive Love like that they don't need consequences or fears to make them loving, not like all of the consequences and fears have been doing a good job anyway. It is Free Grace that changes men, though it is not proud or puffed up or something great to look at.