Ice-Cream Love—Part Two (1 Corinthians 13)
Updated: Jan 5, 2020
1 Corinthians 13 contains the defining verses when it comes to Christian love. Part One of this series focused on the first four characteristics of love as described in 1 Corinthians 13: patience, kindness, not envious, and not boastful. In this edition (Part Two), I discuss the next four characteristics: love is not arrogant, rude, or irritable, nor does it insist on getting its own way. But first a quick review of all of the characteristics of love listed in 1 Corinthians 13:
Love is patient
Love is kind
Love is not envious
Love is not boastful
Love is not arrogant
Love is not rude
Love does not insist on getting its own way
Love is not irritable
Love is not resentful
Love does not enjoy indulging in wrong doing
Love is truthful
LOVE IS NOT ARROGANT
Arrogance is an attitude of superiority. To be arrogant is to exalt yourself above others. Worse yet, it is to exalt yourself instead of exalting God. An arrogant attitude tells others, “I am better than you.” Arrogant people look down their noses at others and are often condescending toward them. The first and most obvious problem with arrogance is that it runs counter to the teachings of Scripture. Isaiah 2:11 warns that proud looks and lofty attitudes will be humbled, but the Lord will be exalted. Isaiah 13:11 makes clear the arrogant, proud, and haughty will be brought low and punished.
We live in a country founded on the proposition that all people are created equal, but we live in a fallen world in which few people are satisfied with being equal. Rather, it is in the nature of the fallen human beings to want to be superior. Consequently, we look for ways to feel superior to others. For example, racism is a form of arrogance because it means people of one race think the color of their skin somehow makes them superior to people of other races. Likewise, people from certain neighborhoods think of themselves as superior to people from other neighborhoods. Graduates of a given college often think they are superior to graduates of rival institutions.
There is no end to the foolish reasons people can come up with to satisfy their sinful need to feel superior. But in the eyes of God, this is just majoring in minors. God is more impressed with what’s in our hearts than where we live, what college we went to, what we do for a living, or any other form of worldly status. God is more interested in your heart than your worldly pedigree. I often wonder about the reception European kings and queens from days past received in heaven, provided they even got there.
One problem with arrogance, among many, is that it displeases God. Consequently, you cannot walk worthy of your calling or live a life of significance and be arrogant. In fact, in the eyes of God, arrogant people are playing with fire. In Daniel 5:20, the king is deposed because of his arrogance. I have not seen a king or queen deposed because of arrogance, but I once saw a prosecutor humbled by his. Years ago, I served on a jury for a trial in which the prosecutor was the most arrogant attorney I had ever witnessed. He dressed impeccably, his hair was styled, coiffed, and perfectly in place, and his condescending attitude practically screamed “I am superior!” His counterpart for the defense was just the opposite. He looked rumpled, disheveled, and disorganized. I overheard the prosecutor whisper to his assistant, “This is going to be a cakewalk. Look at that rube. He probably got his law degree from a correspondence school and he talks like Gomer Pyle.” The prosecutor’s attitude toward his counterpart was not just arrogant, it was dismissive.
It was apparent to me that several of my fellow jurors felt the same way. But once the trail began, things changed quickly. The “rube” with the thick country accent and rumpled suit was well-prepared, smart, and a master of courtroom tactics. While the prosecutor strutted around the courtroom like a peacock, the defense attorney came off as a down-to-earth, believable sort who could be trusted. I could sense that the jurors liked him. To make a long story short, he cleaned the clock of that arrogant prosecutor. His client got off and was set free while the arrogant prosecutor sat fuming in the corner wondering what happened.
LOVE IS NOT RUDE
Rudeness means behaving in ways that are deliberately disrespectful, inconsiderate, impolite, impertinent, or discourteous. Many people believe we now live in an age of rudeness and incivility. People talk on cell phones at inappropriate times, interrupt during conversations, talk over each other, and fail to show an appropriate level of respect to people in positions of authority. Then there are the problems of road rage, sideline rage, ubiquitous profanity, and rampant incivility. It is easy to wonder whatever happened to good manners in this country.
I grew up in an era when the social norms of etiquette were taken seriously by society. For example, when I was a child it was considered a major social faux pas for a man to wear a hat indoors. Removing a hat before going indoors was viewed as a sign of respect. Now it’s rare to go anywhere where men aren’t wearing hats indoors. I have even seen people wearing baseball caps backwards in church.
When speaking to adults, children of my era were expected to say “yes sir,” “no sir,” “yes ma'am,” and “no ma'am.” When asking for something, the request had better include the word “please” and upon receiving the requested item the words “thank you” were not just expected, but mandatory. In a shopping mall recently, I was chatting with the security guard, an adult around 50 years old. A young boy about 12 years of age walked up to us, interrupted, and said to the security guard, “So, dude. Where’s the food court?” After the security guard gave him directions, the kid just walked away. He didn’t say “thank you” or even acknowledge the help he had been given. Nor did he apologize for interrupting.
Manners are the oil in the gears of social interaction. Good manners tell other people they are important and respected. They are also a sign of self-respect. Rudeness on the other hand is inconsiderate, dismissive, and even confrontational. So important were the rules of good manners when I was a youngster that as punishment for childhood indiscretions, our elementary school teachers made me and my fellow miscreants copy page after page out of Emily Post’s tome on etiquette. By the time I finished sixth grade, I knew the book by heart. What I learned as a youngster about manners has come in handy many times as an adult.
The mavens of social media would do well to familiarize their users with Emily Post’s book. Rudeness on social media has become ubiquitous. In fact, it occurs so frequently many people now consider it normal. Rants, raves, name calling, and trash talking are now so common on the Internet that people who indulge in this kind of behavior have their own names. They are called “trolls” and “flamers.” Social media has no filter. Users don’t have to look into the eyes of the people they treat rudely. Many feel empowered by the relative anonymity of the Internet to say anything they feel like saying anytime to anyone. The Internet has eliminated any concern for discretion, self-restraint, and good manners.
In years past, people were taught they shouldn’t say or do something just because they felt like it. Self-restraint was considered a mark of character. Unfortunately, self-restraint is becoming a thing of the past. How many times have you seen flaming emails or over-the-top angry comments on social media? Worse yet, what is now common behavior on the Internet is becoming common in face-to-face situations. For example, I recently observed a scene in the parking lot of our local grocery store that is illustrative.
An elderly man was—quite appropriately—driving slowly through the parking lot headed for an open parking space. An obnoxious teenager pulled right up on his bumper and started blowing his horn continually. Once the older man pulled into a space and got out of his car, the teenager pulled up beside him and yelled, “Hey, you old jerk! Maybe you have all day, but I don’t.” I could tell the elderly man was shocked by the teenager’s ill-mannered outburst. He looked bewildered and a little frightened. I asked him if he would like me to walk him into the store, and he readily agreed. As we walked, he looked at me and said, “Shame on that young man’s parents for not teaching him manners.”
Walking worthy of your calling and living a life of significance require, among other things, loving your neighbor as yourself. You cannot treat people rudely and love them as yourself. Further, rudeness is neither kind nor patient. It is just the opposite of these characteristics of love from 1 Corinthians 13. God is pleased when you are kind and patient to other people, particularly those who are not kind and patient to you. He is pleased when you employ self-restraint to avoid saying or doing what Satan encourages. Satan wants you to be rude, God doesn’t.
LOVE DOES NOT INSIST ON GETTING ITS OWN WAY
Have you ever known someone who had to get her own way, no matter what the situation happened to be? Have you ever known someone who had to be right, even when he obviously wasn’t? Have you ever worked with someone who insisted her recommendation be accepted even when other recommendations were obviously better? God knew that the fallen nature of human beings would make us susceptible to this kind of selfishness. This is why 1 Corinthians 13 makes clear that love does not insist on getting its own way.
Insisting on getting your own way is a manifestation of selfishness, something clearly proscribed in Scripture. For example, Philippians 2:3 reads: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Insisting on your own way all the time is the opposite of counting others more significant than yourself. You cannot love your neighbor as yourself and insist on always getting your own way. Further, you are not walking worthy of your calling when you insist on always getting your own way.
People who insist on always getting their way tend to be manipulative and dismissive of the ideas, opinions, recommendations, and feelings of others. They expect others to do, say, and think what they want them to. In other words, they set themselves up as little gods. Growing up, I had a friend who had to get his own way no matter what the situation happened to be. If we discussed going to a movie, it had to be the one he chose or he wouldn’t go. If we played a game of pick-up football, he had to be the quarterback and call the plays or he would stomp off in anger. When his mother asked for suggestions for supper, his had to be accepted or he wouldn’t eat. You have probably known someone like this. If they can’t get their way, everyone else has to suffer.
Sumiko was a student in one of my business classes. She already had a degree in engineering and was now pursuing a second degree in management. When she approached me for counseling, Sumiko was struggling with the issue of getting her own way. Sumiko is more than smart, she is brilliant. In fact, in Japanese her name means “smart girl.”
Unfortunately, smart and wise are not the same thing. Consequently, in workplace discussions, her ideas, opinions, and recommendations are often the best. But often does not mean always.
When problems cropped up at work, Sumiko was so accustomed to having the best ideas and recommendations she had come to assume hers were always superior to those of anyone else. Worse yet, Sumiko seemed to need to get her way in any discussion. Consequently, she was impatient with alternative suggestions and could not abide someone questioning her proposals. Sumiko actually became angry if a coworker offered a counter proposal to hers. In a meeting once, a colleague—frustrated with Sumiko’s need to have her way—stomped out after shouting, “Let me know when we can meet without Sumiko so we can focus on the solving the problem instead of stroking her ego.” What shocked Sumiko is that everyone else in the meeting seemed to agree with this disgruntled colleague.
I asked Sumiko one question: “What is more important to you—finding the best solutions to problems or having the team adopt your solutions?” She was quiet for a long time. Finally, Sumiko said, “I understand.” With that she got up and walked out. A week later after class I asked Sumiko how things were going at work. She smiled and said, “Better. I am adjusting to not getting my way all the time and my colleagues are adjusting to the shock.”
Walking worthy of your calling is not about getting your way all the time, particularly when the need to get your way is based in “selfish ambition or conceit” (Philippians 2:3). Even if what you propose is truly the best recommendation in a given situation, God expects you to advocate for it in ways that are open to and respectful of other opinions. Wanting your opinion to be accepted because you sincerely believe it represents what is best is one thing, but wanting it to be accepted out of “selfish ambition or conceit” is quite another.
LOVE IS NOT IRRITABLE
People who are irritable are easily annoyed. The slightest thing can make them angry. I once worked with the most irritable person imaginable. Any interruption to his well-planned day would send him into a fit of temper. I was serving in the Marine Corps at the time and this individual was a company’s First Sergeant in our battalion. His nickname, appropriately, was “Mad Max” and the word “mad” meant angry. I got a call from a friend at division headquarters giving me a heads-up that the commanding general would be stopping by our battalion shortly with an important politician in tow. We were warned to “look sharp.”
I knew immediately this wasn’t good news. Our company had just returned from the field and we were still in the process of cleaning up. The company compound was a cluttered mess of muddy uniforms and disassembled equipment. The First Sergeant needed to know and quick, but who was going to risk the wrath of Mad Max? We drew straws and the dreaded duty fell to me.
I knocked hard on the First Sergeant’s office door. He yelled, “Go away!” I knocked again even harder. This time he threw something at the door. I don’t know what it was, but it hit the door with enough force to break the small window in it. Clearly, Mad Max did not want to disturbed. Finally, I yelled through the newly broken window, “First Sergeant, I need to talk to you, it’s important.” He was yelling obscenities as he opened the door. Mad Max stood there wearing one boot. The other boot was apparently what he had thrown at the door. This is how things stood when the commanding general and the politician walked in. Within days, Mad Max was out as a company First Sergeant. He failed to heed the warning in Proverbs 29:11: “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”
The message irritability sends to others is this: You are not important and I don’t want to be bothered with you. It is a demeaning message. Sending this kind of message to people is no way to love your neighbor as yourself. Irritability is hurtful to others. Just think about how you feel when someone snaps at you for no good reason. Irritability will undermine your efforts to walk worthy of your calling and live a life of significance. At a funeral once, a fellow attendee leaned over to me and whispered, “I hate to speak ill of the dead but dealing with him was like trying to reason with an angry rattlesnake.” This is not how anyone should be remembered.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press and Christians on the Job: Winning at Work Without Compromising Your Faith, Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019: www.david-goetsch.com