So far we’ve seen that love is characterized by its kindness in various ways. It always seeks to act kindly to our neighbors, family and brethren in all things. The next points Paul brings up further that thought:
“doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked, taketh not account of evil;” (1Co 13:5)
What does it mean to “behave…unseemly?” The word here used is the Greek verb ἀσχημονέω (G807), which Thayer defined as “to act unbecomingly.” The same word is used at 1 Corinthians 7:36 by Paul in reference to conduct which might bring a “virgin” into disgrace (Vine’s). Lexham’s Translation renders it “it does not behave dishonorably,” Murdock’s translation as “doth nothing that causeth shame” and the old Bishop’s Bible renders it as “Dealeth not dishonestlie.”
What we get out of this is that Paul was talking about conduct which goes well beyond “rude,” the word used by many modern translations to translate this word. We’re talking about dishonest conduct, more or less on the level of the Young man who goes around putting notches on his belt by seducing the young ladies. It goes without saying that the same goes the other way these days. It also includes being rude, but this is rudeness beyond simple lack of social graces, it is deliberate. We think a word not heard often these days, boorish, is another way to describe what this word is getting at.
That naturally leads to the next thing love is not, selfish, the thought embodied in the archaic “seeketh not its own.” Do we always seek to put our own interests first? Do we try to shove ourselves to the head of the line, both figuratively and physically? Do we have to always come out ahead of others in any exchange or dealings both personal or of a business nature? If so we need to see our motives for what they are and work to replace them with love, which isn’t that way.
Something else about love is that love isn’t provoked.” The Noun form related to this verb is used of the argument Paul had with Barnabas about taking John Mark with them on his missionary trip to Macedonia (Acts 15:39). The argument was so sharp that they parted ways, with Barnabas taking Mark with him to Cyprus, as the verse states. So we understand the word to mean a sharp incitement, as it is used in that sense in a healthy way by Paul at Hebrews 10:24.
So do we get mad if we don’t get what we want, or if others seem to slight us? Are we easily aroused to anger when others push our buttons, trying to make us mad? If we have love we’ll be known as somebody hard to arouse into an argument, if ever. And then only when righteous principles are involved much as what happened when Paul confronted brethren spreading false teachings in Antioch (Acts 15). But as a rule if we have love in large measure we won’t be easily provoked into arguments.
We finally reach the last point we plan on covering in this post, “taketh not account of evil.” Paul, here, is using a business expression to make his point, which is that love isn’t resentful of the harm others may do to us. The Greek means to tally up, or to keep count of harm done to ones self by those around him or her. Such a person doesn’t forgive liberally, or not recognize the wrong as worthy of note in the first place.
A person rich in love will not keep a memory of the sins, or “evil” committed against them in their hearts and even under certain circumstances may ignore them altogether. They’ll liberally forgive the small sins committed against them by family, friends, brethren, and neighbors which happen on a daily basis because they realize that more often than not they simply happen because of natural sin. Given the use of the word, “evil,” they’ll even go the extra mile and not keep dredging up in their hearts some serious sins committed against them. It will be as if they never happened. The word used here goes beyond the garden variety of bad, but stops short at the really gross and extreme. There is a different Greek word for that.
So now we’ve seen some more of the things love isn’t, in the next post we will see the last thing it isn’t, and some of what those rich in love do.