Studies in First Corinthiansby Bob Burridge ©2018
Lesson 35: 1 Corinthians 13:5a (ESV)
When we’re growing up there are a lot of rules to learn. Not just the ones about staying away from hot stoves and sharp knives. Some of the hardest lessons have to do with knowing what’s appropriate in different situations.
Not every place is right for swimsuits, and not all require dress-up clothes. At home, little kids might be commended for announcing certain private needs while they’re being trained, but those same announcements would be out of place when they get older or are out in public. But the comments children make are usually innocent socially, not meant to embarrass anybody.
I’m told that when I was very young I made an attention getting comment at my aunt’s wedding. It was a very ceremonial setting in the formal atmosphere of an Episcopalian church. When the minister announced that he was joining the couple in the bonds of holy matrimony. I heard it wrong. The word “matrimony” wasn’t in my vocabulary yet. I’m told that in a very loud and excited voice I reacted saying, “We’re going to get to eat! He said were going to have macaroni!” I didn’t mean to be rude, or to draw attention to myself. It was honest excitement. I’m told that my misinformed announcement caused smiles all around the church. Thankfully in those days they didn’t make videos of weddings so I don’t have to relive that moment.
But when people get old enough to know what’s appropriate and what’s not, some still do things that are openly inconsiderate, rude, and out of place.
We can understand that sometimes we don’t know the rules. But people often behave unbecomingly for very selfish reasons. They might intentionally show disrespect to those around them, or for the situation they’re in. They might want to shock people to get attention, or to impress others.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 lists 16 characteristics of what love really is. Verse 4 begins the list with 5 qualities.
Previous studies examined those. Then verse 5 brings us to the next two of love’s characteristics.
4. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant
5. or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
The first of these in verse 5 tells us that
Love does not act in a rude way.
The Englush Standard Version doesn’t repeat but caries over the “not” from verse 4 and adds “or rude…” in verse 5. The New American Standard Bible translates it as, Love … “does not act unbecomingly”. The King James says love doesn’t behave itself unseemly, and the New King James says love does not behave rudely.
The Greek verb here is “a-schae-mon-e-o” (ἀσχημονέω). It’s a rather interesting word. The root word is the noun “schaema” (σχημα) We get our English word “scheme” from it. A scheme is a formal plan for organizing something, or a plan for reaching some goal. The Greek root word means a form or outward appearance. It’s the word used in Philippians 2:8 when it says Jesus was in a human “form”.
But here in 1 Corinthians 13:5 it’s “a-schaema” (ἀ-σχημα): The “a” sound at the beginning makes it negative. It means something that lacks a good form, or has a distorted appearance.
It’s when people act in a way that isn’t outwardly appropriate. They lack the outward form they should have in the particular situation.
It usually means; behaving in a way that offends people. It’s behavior that’s crude, rude, immodest, immoral, inconsiderate or ill-mannered.
Christians shouldn’t behave that way, not if God’s love is growing in their hearts.
But fallen souls, even redeemed ones, often show a lack of love.
Sometimes people behave rudely because they don’t respect others or certain moral rules. The sin that’s still at work in us, can tempt us to be immodest, inconsiderate, and immoral. But when we love God, respect the things he made, and honor his moral principles, we shouldn’t use language that’s vulgar, indecent, profane, or coarse.
Most importantly, we shouldn’t make careless references to God, the Lord, Jesus Christ, hell, and damnation.Things like that should never be referred to lightly.
Profaning God’s name and holy actions violates the 3rd Commandment. Foul or profane language seldom adds any real meaning to a sentence anyway. People who speak that way usually defend themselves by saying they don’t really mean anything by it. But that’s exactly what it means to use God’s name in vain. It means using words for God or about his judgments without really meaning anything. It shows a lack of a sincere love and respect for him.
It’s sad that the world loves to use foul language, make offensive gestures, tell crude jokes with double meanings and vulgar or sexual innuendoes. But it’s even more tragic when those who say they love God and his ways still use that kind of language and don’t see anything wrong with it.
If we have a genuine love for God growing in our hearts, we will try to keep unseemly or immodest words and crude humor out of our conversation. When it slips in, maybe out of a long embedded bad habit, those who love the Lord will apologize to God, and to those who hear it, and not let the offense go uncorrected.
Of course we don’t want to isolate this one characteristic of love from the others either. If we know believers who struggle to overcome offensive habits like this we shouldn’t be guilty of impatience with them, or become judgmental as if we’re better than them. We need to pray for them, be kind and understanding as our brothers and sisters grow in the Lord.
Rudeness can be a disregard for what’s holy, honorable, and good. Some want to bring God down to a more human level. So worship becomes less solemn, and it’s holy awe is lost. In it’s place is a stage show that’s unbecoming and disrespectful. The call of God’s people to unite together as a church for worship isn’t supposed to be like common entertainment or a sports rally. Worship isn’t described in the Bible as primarily a time to make us feel good. It should be designed to make the believer more worshipful.
We should act appropriately toward God when we come to worship. We should be there on time, dressed respectfully, with a humble attitude of grateful praise, ready to sing and confess God’s faithfulness and mercy,
and to hear his words of wisdom and grace. It’s unbecoming behavior in worship for those in the congregation to be conversing with one another during worship, texting or keeping up with e-mail, going in and out for things that can wait, making notes for shopping trips, or making lists of unfinished chores and other such things.
Some behave unbecomingly toward those who have authority over them. They show disrespect in the home, at work, or in the community.
They are the children who won’t accept the responsibility God gave to their parents. They are the wives who rebel against the headship God entrusts to their husbands. They are the students who make fun of their teachers, the citizens who mock those with authority to enforce the laws or lead their nation, those who make fun of others, or put them down with degrading remarks.
They are the parents who belittle their children, the husbands who become dictators and abuse their wives, the teachers who don’t care if their students really learn, those who lead nations who take advantage of those they’re called to serve. They are the customers who rudely treat those who wait on them and serve them.
In contrast, those who are truly growing in love will be sensitive to what’s appropriate. They treat others with respect, and are careful not to offend. They don’t act in a way that’s rebellious or crude just to get people to respect them. They don’t tell dirty jokes to be accepted or to seem cool. They don’t attack what others say just to make themselves seem wiser or better. They don’t do things that are outrageous to get attention when they aren’t sure how to fit in. And they don’t just put on an outward show of respect, or showy ceremony.
They have a sincere respect for God, his moral principles, and for other people.
There’s a tendency in the lost and in those still not fully sanctified, to be crude, to degrade the good things God made and the honorable ways he established. But the one who grows in godly love will be learning not be rude or act unbecomingly.
The next of the 16 characteristics of love
is that Love does not “insist on its own way”.
The New American Standard Bibletranslates it, “Love does not seek its own.”
It doesn’t mean that those who love don’t take care of their own needs. Those who love God and others are responsible workers, who care for their families, guard their own souls, and care for their own health.
They are wise managers of all God has entrusted them.
But they’re not self-centered in their attitude about things. This godly love isn’t selfish. It doesn’t insist on getting its own way, It doesn’t always do things for its own advantage. It doesn’t claim everything it has a right to have or to do.
Commentator Albert Barnes wrote on this, “there is, perhaps, not a more striking or important expression in the New Testament than this”
A person learning to love as God says he should, is concerned to show respect first for the things of God, and next to serve the needs of others.
What a different world we would live in
if all those God created lived unselfishly.
There would be no lack of friends for those going through times of need. There would be no empty seats in worship, and no need to make it a circus to keep people’s interest in participating in the family of God. There would be no need for governments to take over the care of the poor and needy. Trivial law suits filed for selfish reasons would disappear. Crimes againt others would be gone from our communities.
But we know that this kind of love isn’t going to show itself in the world in it’s present state. So, to keep us safe and to protect God’s kingdom we need the military and home security forces. We need laws to protect us from creative and ruthless predators. Churches will need to exercise helpful discipline over its members.
But the family of God should be displaying something vastly different! Believers should show the transformation Christ brings about in redeemed hearts. They should stand out for how considerate they are of others. They should be known for treating others with respect and for not putting themselves first.
This is the love that should be growing in God’s children. It tries to behave appropriately without drawing attention to itself or by being rude or crude. It looks out for the needs of others because it loves God and his ways above all else.
With this larger way of seeing things, the whole world and all our circumstances take on a different set of values and wonders.
(The Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)