Charity [agape love] suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
— 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
As Paul continues giving us the characteristics of agape love in First Corinthians 13, he moves to the next four points in his message. He explains to the Corinthians (and to us) that genuine agape love “beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (v. 7).
The eleventh point that Paul makes in this wonderful text is that love “beareth all things….” The word “beareth” is the Greek word stego, which means to cover, as a roof covers a house. Built within the word stego is the concept of protection, exactly as a roof protects, shields, and guards the inhabitants of a house from exposure to the outside influences of weather. The roof of a house is designed to shield people from storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, rain, hail, snow, wind, blistering hot temperatures, and so on. This protection is vital for survival in most climates, preventing people from either freezing to death or burning as a result of continual exposure to sunlight.
By using this word stego (“bear”), the apostle Paul is giving us a powerful illustration. First, we must understand that there are many different seasons to life, and not all seasons are pleasurable. In fact, some seasons of life are very stormy and difficult. There are moments when external circumstances assail us from without. If we have no shield to guard us during these stormy times, it becomes much more difficult for us to survive spiritually.
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Paul lets you know that agape serves like a protection for you. Like the roof of a house, a friend who moves in the agape love of God will stay near in times of trouble. That friend will hover over you to protect you from the storms of life. Rather than expose you and your flaws to the view of others, a person who operates in this kind of love will conceal, cover, and protect you, for real agape love is always there in times of trouble to lend support.
The phrase “beareth all things” could be translated:
“Love protects, shields, guards, covers, conceals, and safeguards people from exposure.…”
Paul goes on to mention the twelfth characteristic of agape love, saying that love “…believeth all things….” The word “believeth” is actually the word pisteuei, which is the Greek word meaning to put one’s faith or trust in something or someone. The tense used in the Greek text lets us know that this is a constant, continuous entrusting of one’s faith in something or someone — involving a “never-give-up” kind of belief that something will turn out the very best. In light of this, the Greek phrase could actually be taken to mean that love “believes the best in every situation.”
Don’t misunderstand; agape love isn’t stupid, nor is it blind. It sees everything — the good, the bad, and the ugly. But because agape is so filled with faith, it pushes the disconcerting, disturbing, negative realities out of the way. This doesn’t mean agape ignores problems or challenges. It just makes a choice to see beyond the problems and conflicts, to strain forward to see the highest potential that resides in every person.
Let’s apply this to your children. Perhaps it is true that they are having problems right now or that they have done some things in the past they shouldn’t have done. But there is still hope! Today is a new day, and agape simply cannot give up believing that they will turn around! Although the past may have been filled with troubled times, the future is bright for those who believe God! Therefore, agape continually presses ahead full of faith — reaching forward by faith to see the other person whole, sound, healed, saved, redeemed, and right in the middle of God’s will for his or her life.
You see, the agape love of God just doesn’t know how to quit! It hangs on even when the going gets tough! It just keeps believing the very best, no matter what.
So I urge you to take a good, honest look at yourself to see if you are operating in this kind of high-level love. Do you strain forward to believe the best, or do you pick people apart and point out all their flaws and weaknesses? Do you see their potential through the eyes of love, or do you look on them through eyes of criticism? Never forget that love believes the best!
The phrase “believeth all things” could be translated:
“…Love strains forward with all its might to believe the very best in every situation.…”
Paul gives us his thirteenth point about love when he says that love “…hopeth all things….” The Greek word for “hopeth” is the word elpidzo, which depicts not only a hope, but an expectation of good things. This means that rather than assuming failure or a bad result in someone’s life, the agape love of God always expects the best in someone else. It not only expects it, but it is filled with an anticipation to see the manifestation of the thing hoped for.
The phrase “hopeth all things” could be taken to mean:
“…Love always expects and anticipates the best in others and the best for others….”
Next, Paul mentions the fourteenth characteristic of agape love, telling us that love “…endureth all things.” The word “endureth” is the Greek word hupomeno, which we have discussed several times before. It is the word hupo, which means under, and the word meno, which means to stay or to abide. Compounded together, it depicts the attitude of a person who is under a heavy load but refuses to surrender to defeat because he knows he is in his place. Because this person knows he is where he’s supposed to be, he has therefore decided that regardless of what tries to come against him, he is going to stay put and refuse to move!
This means agape never quits or throws in the towel. It simply doesn’t know how to quit. Real agape says, “I’m committed to be here — to stay with you and to work it out, regardless of the cost or the time involved. I am not quitting. I am here to stay!”
You see, that is what the Bible means when it says love “…endureth all things.” This kind of love is completely contrary to the flesh, which says, “I’ve done all I’m going to do. I’m not wasting any more of my life. I’m finished, and I’m leaving!”
A contemporary translation of the phrase “endureth all things” could be the following:
“…Love never quits, never surrenders, and never gives up.”
As you look into the mirror of God’s Word and examine the characteristics of agape love, can you say that this kind of love is operating in your life? Would others say that you have been a “roof” for them — protecting, covering, concealing, and guarding them during the hard and difficult seasons of life? Would others say you believe the best about people, or that you tend to be nit-picky and critical of others? Have you made the decision to “stick it out,” regardless of how long it takes?
When all of these Greek words and phrases are translated together, an expanded interpretive translation could read:
“Love protects, shields, guards, covers, conceals, and safeguards people from exposure; love strains forward with all its might to believe the very best in every situation; love always expects and anticipates the best in others and the best for others; love never quits, never surrenders, and never gives up.”
Today I want to encourage you to do the right thing by determining to learn to operate in this high-level agape love of God. This divine love is already shed abroad in your heart by the Holy Spirit, so now it’s up to you to open up your heart and let this divine river of love flow forth from you to others.
Are you going to open your heart and let God’s love spill out to those around you? The choice is now before you!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I ask You to help me learn to operate in this supernatural, life-changing, high-level love. Please help me to quit judging others for the problems in their lives and to start thinking about how I can protect and cover them in times of difficulty. Holy Spirit, please help me believe the best about them. I also ask You for the strength to remain committed — to stick by their side until the victory has been won and they have become everything You intended for them to be! I am anticipating a new surge of Your power and strength right now to help me get started on this path, and I’ll keep believing and confidently expecting until I see the results in my life that I know You want!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that God’s love operates mightily in my life! Because I walk in agape love, I protect, shield, guard, cover, conceal, and safeguard people from exposure. The love of God in my heart compels me to strain forward with all my might to believe the very best in every situation and the best about every person. This love of God that has been shed abroad in my heart never quits, never surrenders, and never gives up on other people. I bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Have others believed the best about you in the past, even though you didn’t give them much reason to hope for a turn around in your life?
2. Has anyone ever been a “roof” to you — protecting, concealing, and covering you in a time of weakness? What did this mean to you? Have you ever gone to that person and thanked him or her for being such a help in your time of need?
3. Who is the one person in your life right now whom you are believing will make a big change in his or her life? How much time do you spend praying for this person every day?