Love is not arrogant or rude (v.4-5).
Winston Churchill was an awesome person. Don’t believe me? One day, the dramatist George Bernard Shaw (of “Pygmalion” fame) invited Churchill to attend the opening performance of one of his plays. He sent two tickets with the message: “one for yourself, and one for a friend—if you have one.” Prime Minister Churchill was not to be outdone. He sent back that he could not attend that night, but asked if he might have tickets for the second showing—“if there is one.”
It takes fine talent to mix rudeness with wittiness—but a lot of that was going on in Churchill’s era. Shaw and Churchill were engaged in a sort of battle of wits over their own egos—a series of moves and countermoves with terse statements that jabbed like a fencing match. The loser of the match would have his ego deflated by a final jab. I think Churchill won this one.
But according to 1 Corinthians 13, love never gets into a battle over egos. It doesn’t go through a series of moves and countermoves. In fact, the second of our next two traits says that love is not “rude” at all! Literally, love doesn’t ever act “unseemly” or “indecently.” Mr. Agape doesn’t do things that will offend other people. Things that will deflate people’s ego in shame or embarrassment. No matter how witty they may be.
And that’s the first trait: love is not “arrogant.” Literally, “puffed up” or “inflated.” Mr. Agape does not get his bicycle pump and inflate his ego to the size of a hot air balloon! Things that are “puffed up” are easily popped by “unseemly” comments. If you have a big ego, you can be easily offended by rudeness.
But love pops its own ego! It doesn’t revel in its own greatness—in its talents, opportunities, importance, or good actions. Love doesn’t inflate itself nor deflate others. It isn’t arrogant or rude.
Kinda like Christ. As I said last time, Christ did not go around pushing his own brand. He wasn’t trying to make a name for Himself—He was just trying to serve and save the world! If God walked on earth—the One to Whom all glory belongs—and didn’t inflate His ego, how dare we think that we can be justified in thinking we’re so important!?
Christ also didn’t go around bursting people’s bubbles. When the chief priests and Pilate put Him in an unjust trial, He did not lash out against their hypocrisy and cowardice. The Sanhedrin conducted a trial for Jesus that was against their own law! But you don’t read Jesus pointing this out to them. Instead, He stands mostly quiet as people punch Him in the face from every direction. As they tear His beard out. As they tear through his muscles with a whip, all the way down into his internal organs. As they shed His innocent blood.
Yet we, every time someone says something rude to us, are always ready with a rebuttal. Move and countermoves. Our churches look a lot like a fencing match—when someone tries to poke at our inflated ego, we’re ready with our sword to try to pop theirs. It’s like that game where you tie a balloon to your ankle and everyone has to try to pop each other’s. We as a church are playing that game every Sunday in the way we try to stomp on each other with our words, all the while protecting our own ego “balloons.” Church, this isn’t a game we should be playing!
When someone pops your balloon, oh well! It’s probably for the best—don’t try to inflate it again. Don’t try to pop theirs. Even when they call you names. When they talk about you behind their backs. When they accuse you of being a legalist. When they deride your child’s action and your parenting skills. When they wonder if you have any friends. Oh well. Don’t respond on their level. Instead, do something crazy.
When they poke a hole in your balloon, let them poke another one. Turn the other cheek. Live like Jesus did. Live without a countermove.