Among other descriptions, the Bible characterizes the love among church people as “not envious, or boastful, or arrogant” (1 Corinthians 13:4). At first glance, we may surmise that the three words are translators’ style of explaining the same word in the original language of the Bible. But they are individual renderings of three different words. Arrogance means swelled-headedness, boastful expresses self-importance, and envious implies being jealous of others’ advantages. We can lump their meanings together to show a gradation of negative quality. Envy makes one boasts about his importance. When self-importance is left unchecked, it gives way to arrogance, the blazing tip of pride. Looking at the harmfulness of the triumvirate, we now understand why the Bible describes love between Christ’s disciples as being void of them.
Jesus shows us love without arrogance
Our Lord Jesus does two things to make us able to love others. He shows us how. Then, he empowers us to do it. HIs command for us to love each other as he loves us is doable (1 John 4:21, John 13:34)
The Apostle John writes, “God showed us how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins (1 John 4:9-10 NLT). Our Lord Jesus’ love is free of any stain of envy, self-importance and arrogance. He put us first over himself. Pastor Max Lucado beautifully penned it this way: “He swapped spotless castle for a grimy stable. He exchanged the worship of angels for the company of killers. He could hold the universe in his palm but gave it up to float in the womb of a maiden. . . He went from commanding angels to sleeping in the straw. From holding stars to clutching Mary’s finger. The palm that held the universe took the nail of a soldier. . .Content to be known as a carpenter. Happy to be mistaken for the gardener. He served his followers by washing their feet.” He loves us that he puts us above everything. We are of prime importance to Him.
The Bible encourages us to clothe ourselves with the same attitude that Christ showed. “Have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Although he was in the form of God and equal with God, he did not take advantage of this equality. Instead, he emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant, by becoming like other humans, by having a human appearance. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-8, GW). No doubt, the Apostle John had this in mind when he wrote, “And he (Jesus Christ) has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers” (1 John 4:19).
God has changed us so we can love without envy
By nature, we don’t have this ability to love. But He empowers us. He changed our nature. The Bible exclaims, But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, . . .He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior (Titus 3:4-6, NLT). With this work, He has enabled us to love God and others (Romans 5:5).
This love that does not envy or boast or arrogate may be expressed in putting others before one’s self (Phil. 2:3). It also expresses itself by not having an exaggerated self-importance (Romans 12:3). And, it can be shown in applauding the success of others (Romans 12:10, 15).
If everybody in our church or our homes loves others this way, we will continue to be a loving community where unbelievers and wayward brethren will experience Christ’s love for them. And, we will be a victorious and happy church.