The description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 is certainly classic, understandably used at weddings as a standard to learn how love carries itself and acts. In context, it is about relationships in the body of Christ, the church, although it certainly carries over to all relationships. It’s like Paul is saying that love is to be the motive behind everything we do. So that regardless of what else we do, no matter how great it is, it’s worthless without love, as this “love chapter” makes clear.
Are we living in love, are our thoughts, attitudes and actions, including words- done in love? Good questions. And considering this, including the entire description of love as given in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ought to make us both aware of how we fall short, and of what our goal should be. The description is relational in nature, in fact it’s about human relationships. One could say that it’s descriptive of God’s love to us, and there’s surely plenty of truth in that, though in its original context, it’s to help a church which was proud and divisive, and essentially thinking and acting like the world.
God’s wrath is shorthand for God’s judgment. Even when anger is clearly a part of it, God’s wrath is always motivated by love; love is at the heart of it. How that plays out in ultimate, final terms is something theologians go back and forth on. What is certain is what characterizes God and all that God does is good, and is done out of love. That should be no surprise since “God is love” (1 John). Love marks everything about God, and all that God does. It should be no surprise that we struggle with all of this, given the fact that because we’re sinners, loving in that way is not a part of who we are. We can see it’s good, but in our brokenness, we at best fall short of it. As Rich Mullins wrote:
We have a love that’s not as patient as Yours was
Still we do love now and then
However in our ongoing repentance and awareness of falling short, we can be growing more and more into this ideal of Christ-likeness. And by the Spirit of God, I really believe that in some true measure we can genuinely possess these qualities as described in 1 Corinthians 13, true gifts from God to us, in and through Jesus.
And so we go on, needing this love ourselves, but no matter what we experience, endeavoring to live out this love to others, in the life that is ours together, in and through Jesus.