Paul gives a fourfold list of actions that love consistently does. The tense of all four actions is in the present, active sense. That means when one states he or she loves someone, there is going to be a consistent and growing pattern of behavior that is present.
What are these consistent actions that Paul lists? First love bears all things. This term has a variety of uses but it involves, in nearly every aspect, the covering of something for protection. As touching love here, it means to cover something that is threatening. It has the idea of holding up what has the potential of falling because of adversity. It also means to hold out, bear, or forbear. (Strong’s Concordance)
True love is always seeking to protect, hold up, cover, and bear against anything threatens. It isn’t some fairweather, fleeting emotion that may or may not be around based on changing circumstances. Love is lasting and seeks to protect its object.
Paul states secondly that love believes all things. Is love naive? It is plagued by being gullible? NO! The word for believes is a form of the same Greek word used for faith. It refers to an active trust because of the worthiness of the object of faith. True loves entrusts itself to the one loved. It loves and believes because of the beauty and character of the one loved.
How different are people in our day that always seek to hold back love from others for fear of being hurt? Love in the highest form seeks to entrust itself to the one loved. It is having confidence and not suspicion. It is a reciprocal relationship because it is giving and doing for the good of the one loved as well as entrusting itself to the other. If love, goodness, and affection are only directed one way, there is no real relationship.
Thirdly, Paul says that love hopes all things. Hope in the Bible isn’t some blind desire for anticipated results. We may have big plans for a weekend trip and say, “I hope the weather cooperates.” We express a desire, but we use hope as a statement of what we would like to see without true, real confidence that it will occur.
In Scripture, hope is used to express a confident expectation for the future. Hope is patient and expectant because it takes into account the one making the promise. This is the use by Paul in Romans 8:24-25. He expected God to bring to pass His promises, and because Paul had confidence in the character of God, he could hope patiently.
True love isn’t so nearsighted that hope is lost. Instead it clings to a confidence expectation because of the trust and fidelity of the object of love. This is what real, true love looks like.
Lastly, Paul states that love endures all things. Endure means to tarry, stay, hold up under difficulties and pressures. Love endures the difficulties and storms. Its character is seen by its staying power. It, as was alluded to earlier, doesn’t “throw in the towel” as the first sign of difficulty.
Did you notice how there were two pairs in this fourfold list? Love bears and endures; it also believes and hopes. Those terms have synonymous ideas behind them and correlate. Paul is using all of these terms to give the fullest, clearest portrait of true biblical love to this church at Corinth.
I can imagine the chaos in that church over the misuse of spiritual gifts, the factions and divisions, the blatant sin, etc. Can you not imagine how people would have been suspicious of each other, lashing out at one another, and tempted to stay away from such a volatile environment? It wasn’t like our day. You couldn’t join another church; it was the ONLY church. The people had to learn to relate to one another in a loving, scriptural way.
This is why Paul emphasizes love in this chapter. This congregation in Corinth should be different than the world, and this would be most indicative as they related to one another in ways that resembled the love of Christ shown to them.
How might our churches, families, and personal relationships look differently to the world if we only sought to live out the truths in the power of the Holy Spirit? Instead of quitting, giving up, or abandoning relationships at the first sign of difficulty, followers of Christ should desire to resemble the love of Christ.