â€œCharity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.â€ (1 Corinthians 13:4)
It is well known that â€œcharityâ€ in this famous â€œlove chapterâ€ is the Greek agape, which is translated â€œloveâ€ three times as often as it is translated â€œcharityâ€ even in the King James Version. Why then did the scholarly translators prefer to use â€œcharityâ€ in this chapter, of all places?
Possibly it is because 1 Corinthians 13 emphasizes what love does rather than what love is. Love is described in this chapter, not with adjectives or adverbs, but with verbs! â€œCharity,â€ in the Old English sense, was not merely giving to feed the poor (note v. 3) but meant agape loveâ€”an unselfish, enduring, and active concern on behalf of others.
In this passage (vv. 4-8, 13) are listed 17 actions which love, or charity, does or does not engage in. Love acts with patience and kindness; it does not envy others or seek to impress others, neither does it exhibit arrogance or conceit. Love is never rude, does not seek its own way, is slow to take offense, and bears no malice or resentment. Love does not gloat over the sins of others and is delighted when truth prevails. Love will bear up under any trial and will never lose faith; it is always hopeful and unlimited in its endurance.
Finally, genuine love will be eternal. Even faith will cease when it is replaced by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), and hope will finally be fulfilled (Romans 8:24), but love will abide forever. Love, of course, is eternal because Christ is eternal, and Christ is God, and God is love.
This classic passage, describing genuine Christian love, could in fact be read as a beautiful description of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. That is, â€œChrist suffereth long, and is kind,â€ and so on, finally climaxing in the great truth, â€œChrist never faileth.â€ Jesus Christ is, indeed, love in action! HMM