Paul did not define agape love as an abstract idea in philosophical terms. He was much more practical. He taught how agape love behaves.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
1. “Love suffers long” (NKJV). It is “patient” (NASB, ESV). Christian love does not quickly or rashly give up on others. Our teaching is to be “with all long suffering” (2 Timothy 4:2). In helping and edifying the saints we’re to “be patient (longsuffering ASV) toward all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
Our homes need a heavy dose of patience. Life is not always easy. However, Biblical love will motivate us to endure.
2. Love “is kind” (NKJV). This word carries the idea of being mild (Thayer). Kindness is connected with being “tenderhearted” and “forgiving” (Ephesians 4:23).
This word is also connected with being useful (Strong’s). It is in this sense that God is referred to as kind in Luke 6:35 cf. Matthews 5:43-45).
We need to learn to be both mild and useful to other people. Christianity is not to be lived in isolation from others.
3. Love “does not envy” (NKJV).
Envy is a terrible thing. It can make one miserable (Proverbs 14:30; 1 Kings 21:1-6). It can lead to malicious behavior (Mark 15:10; Acts 7:9; etc.).
Love is not made unhappy by the good fortunes and successes of others. In fact, Christians are to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).
4. Love “does not parade itself” (NKJV). It does not “brag” (NASB), “boast” (ESV).
Brother J.W. Shepherd commented, “(Love) does not ostentatiously parade its superiority to others (Gospel Advocate Commentary on First Corinthians, p. 197). Every Christian should be careful “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think” (Romans 12:3).
Love (not vainglory or self-promotion) should motivate us to do the right thing. Clearly, men, do at times, do the right thing out of the wrong motive (Matthew 6:1-2, 5, 16 cf. Matthew 5:16; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3). If not motivated by love, our good deeds amount to nothing before God (1 Corinthians 13:1-3; Matthew 6:1-2, 5, 16).
5. Love “is not puffed up” (NKJV). It “is not arrogant” (NASB, ESV).
The original word means, “to inflate, or blow up” in this case with ego or pride. The wording appears six times in 1 Corinthians (1 Corinthians 4:6; 4:18; 4:19; 5:2; 8:1; 13:4), and only once in the rest of the New Testament (Colossians 2:18). Evidently, these brethren at Corinth had a serious problem with arrogance.
May we have the attitude of Paul who said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10). He also said, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).
6. Love “does not behave rudely” (NKJV). It “does not act unbecomingly” (NASB).
There is a need to be considerate of others. Steve Williams commented, “Instead of being rude, love is tactful. Love does not do things with the intent of embarrassing another person or hurting them in any way” (The More Excellent Way, p. 25).
We should not be rude or unnecessarily provocative. Romans 12:18 reads, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” We should strive for peace, and be considerate of, and sensitive to the feelings of others.
7. Love “does not seek its own” (NKJV). It is not self-seeking” (NIV). It “is not selfish” (McCord). It “does not insist on its own way” (RSV).
We, as Christians, are to be concerned about others. We are no longer to live exclusively for self. 1 Corinthians 10:24: “Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well being.” Philippians 2:3-4: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit… let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also the interests of others.”
8. Love “is not provoked” (NKJV). It “is not easily provoked” (KJV). It “is not irritable” (ESV, McCord).
One possessing Christian love is not “difficult to get along with”. Christian love is not overly sensitive, or touchy. Remember, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32). Let us be “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19). May we avoid being the one who walks around “with a chip on the shoulder” ready for it to be knocked off by someone.