Do Everything in Love

January 19, 2022 in Man in the Mirror Blog

Amid mistreatment, Paul showed love to the Corinthians and told them to do everything in love. How? In this current era where the “clap back” reigns supreme, one principle can radically change our response to offense, conflict, and anger.

By Patrick Morley 
MIM Founder & Executive Chairman
Winter Park, Florida

Author, theologian, and philosopher G. K. Chesterton said that the New York Times sent out a letter to several famous authors asking them to answer the question, “What’s wrong with the world?” It’s reported that Chesterton wrote back, “Dear sirs, I am. Respectfully yours, G. K. Chesterton.”

What’s Wrong with the World?

Corinth was an international city of great commerce and prosperity. There was a lively sports and entertainment scene that attracted visitors from all over. But there was also a lot of arrogance, division, sexual immorality, and other moral decadence.

The city of Corinth was not unlike most cities in most places in most countries in most centuries, because the root issues in the world—although the presenting problems may change from generation to generation—are pretty much the same everywhere. Sin today is not radically different than it was 100 years ago, 500 years ago, or 2000 years ago, because the natural state of the human heart remains unchanged.

In Corinth, Paul found that the Christian community there had assimilated some of what was going on in the culture—including widespread division, anger, and finger pointing.

Paul’s Prescription
When Paul arrives in the city, he’s not in a very good place. He’d basically been brutalized in Athens before making his way there by boat. He observes all that’s going on in the church there, as well as his own situation, and he writes, “To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless” (1 Cor. 4:11).

In essence, Paul, a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, is being treated like dirt even among his fellow believers in Corinth. Against this backdrop of mistreatment and feeling down, he writes his first letter to the Corinthians, taking time to carefully address the problems he sees and answer their questions.

He then closes the letter with a warm, final greeting: “My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen” (1 Cor. 16:24). As abused as Paul had been, his response was, I don’t need them to love me in order for me to love them. And he wants the church to have that response as well.

The last substantive instruction that Paul gives them is found in 1 Corinthians 16:14: “Do everything in love.” In effect, Paul is saying, “Look, you left me in rags, homeless, hungry, and thirsty. You guys are all mixed up, and the culture is seeping into your lives, taking you away from the truth. But I love you. And I don’t need you to love me. I love you. You, too, should do everything in love.”

What Kind of Love?
In what kind of love should we strive to do everything? Here are five characteristics of love to cultivate when it comes to how we treat people. It’s love that is agape, truthful, forgiving, humble, and faithful.

1. Agape
Agape love is the love with which God loves us and tells us to love others. Paul writes that he is nothing without it, even if he sacrifices, gives of his resources, or prophecies. Drink this in, as Paul describes agape love (1 Cor. 13:4-8a): Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

2. Truthful
When Paul says to do everything in love, he doesn’t mean we should wink at or ignore sin in the name of love. When someone hurts you, love doesn’t mean pretending it didn’t happen.

My tendency, for example, is to be an overlooker. At times, I believe we are called to be an overlooker; Proverbs 19:11 says, “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” But overlooking a person cutting you off in traffic isn’t the same as overlooking a major offense that causes harm.

In Ephesians 4:14-15, Paul talks about “speaking the truth in love” so that we will grow to become, in every respect, the mature body of him who’s the head, that is Christ. Love is truthful enough to address something that needs addressed.

Since I’ve started meditating on the verse, “Do everything in love,” I’ve stopped being a chronic overlooker. I can tell the truth, but without anger or spite. Rather, I can summon up the courage to call something out in truth and in love. In the face of conflict, my framework has switched from trying to exercise self-control in a strong will to operating out of love.

3. Forgiving
Right after the Lord’s prayer, Jesus taught, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15).

If we are to do everything in love, then love must certainly be forgiving.

4. Humble
Just like in Corinth, there is so much pride and arrogance in the world around us—and within us, if we aren’t watchful.

Jesus told a parable to some people who thought they were righteous and better than others. He talked about a Pharisee who went to worship God and said, “God, I’m thankful that I’m not like all those other people. And I do these good deeds and those good deeds, and I’m sure glad I’m not like them.” And then a second man came—a tax collector—and he didn’t even look up at God. He was so humbled by Him. All he could say was, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

And Jesus tells them that the tax collector was the one who went home justified before God. He said, “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:14b).

The way we come before God and the way we come before other people should be marked by humility.

5. Faithful
Proverbs 20:6 says, “Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find?”

Being faithful—to God, to the commitments you make, to your vows, to others in the body of Christ—is a hallmark of love.

A New Foundation
Over the last several years, I’ve noticed my heart has felt so bruised by the meanness and vitriol that people spew out to each other on a regular basis. Then when I was reading my Bible one day weeks ago, I came across, “Do everything in love.” I’d read the verse many times before, but at that moment, I felt like I had 10,000 gigawatts of electricity go through my body. It just struck me anew: do everything in love.

As I’ve meditated on it since, I have found myself changing in profound ways—how I react, think, and view circumstances and people. The truth is that all of us are frail, finite, and feeble. We are human. And humans offend, misstep, and hurt.

Is it acceptable then for us to show love only to those whom we have an easy affection for and who love us in return? It’s certainly natural.

In Matthew 5:46-47, Jesus answered this question: “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”

In the name of Jesus, we can humbly interact, speak the truth in love, forgive one another, and choose to faithfully love—even those who don’t love us.

THE BIG IDEA: I don’t need you to love me for me to love you.

Do Everything in Love?
If you’re in Christ, I believe that when Paul says to do everything in love, he isn’t speaking in generalizations. I think he means everything, with no exceptions.

It doesn’t mean you can’t and won’t get angry. Anger is a natural human emotion. But it means that when you get angry, what you do next matters. I do feel anger. I do get irritable. But it’s what I do next that determines whether I’m acting from a place of love or out of some other emotion.

If you’ve been struggling with anger, irritability, bitterness, criticalness, self-righteousness, or anything else that is making it hard to love people, I recognize it can be difficult to overcome. Jesus said our spirits are willing to do this, but our flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41b).

But He wants to empower you to lay a new foundation for how you treat people. Let’s begin the reset of our lives together with a prayer, expressing our desire to God:

Our dearest Father, we do see the world for what it is. We see that the world has gained a grip on us, and Lord, we don’t want to react the way that we’ve been reacting. I repent of all the ways in which I have acted like the world, and I repent of all the times I have beaten my breast in self-righteousness that I’m not like the world. Have mercy on us. We are sinners.

God, put into our hearts the desire to follow this overarching instruction to do everything in love. Whatever other foundation we’ve been building on, we ask you to rip that up and re-pour love as our foundation, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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