Sunday, April 27, 2008

Love - Part 6: Does Not Act Unbecomingly

Love . . . does not act unbecomingly;”
1 Corinthians 13:5

When thinking about 1 Corinthians 13, this aspect does not seem to stand out as much as say, patience. But when closely looking at it, it is a vital aspect of love. The opposite of this “acting unbecomingly” is also specifically commanded to be portrayed in the lives of women who are followers of Christ (as will be seen later in this writing).
Unbecomingly refers to a person’s behavior and how it is expressed in their lives. But what does ‘unbecomingly’ and like words mean?

Unbecomingly: in an unsuitable manner; indecorously*

Unseemly: indecently*

Indecorum: impropriety of behavior; that in behavior or manners which violates the established rules of civility, or the duties of respect with which age or station requires; an unbecoming action. It is something synonymous with indecency; but indecency, more frequently than indecorum, is applied to words or actions which refer to what nature and propriety require to be concealed or suppressed.*

This aspect of love, not acting unbecomingly, is to be the opposite of the above and to instead, “like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy for I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:15-16). As God is holy, so should we be. As He is all-loving, so should we be. He is our example. He is the one whom we should strive to imitate in all our behavior—every moment of every day.

In 1 Peter 3:1-2, a like admonition is given specifically to wives (though the character principles can also be applied to all women) “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” Chaste and respectful behavior. A heart condition expressed outwardly through behavior. Paul in writing to Titus exhorts that women are “to be reverent in their behavior” (Titus 2:3).

We can thus conclude that:

1) Women are to be noted by their respect.

Respect is: “Regard; attention. That deportment [how one carries themselves] or course of action which proceeds from esteem; regard; due attention; as, to treat a person with respect".*

Respect is a vital aspect of godly character especially towards one’s parents and elders. Unfortunately this quality is woefully lacking in today’s society. This is illustrated in the lack of things as simple as responding to others with a “Yes, sir” or “No, ma’am”; to parents with “Yes, Mom” and “Yes, Dad”; to speak to one’s elders with Mr. and Mrs.; to not interrupt when others are speaking . . . but all of this has changed. We as a society have lost the essence of respect and concern for others. Self is what is lauded. Self is what is to be appeased and satisfied. We are told that we must have ‘self-respect’ and ‘self-worth’ and often this is at the expense of others. How different, though, this is from the true and godly love that is spoken about here in 1 Corinthians chapter 13!
2) Closely related to respect, and yet with a much deeper meaning and connotation, is the beautiful quality of reverence.Reverence is defined as “Fear mingled with respect and esteem”, with reverent being “ Expressing reverence, veneration or submission. Submissive; humble; impressed with reverence”.* This quality of reverence is a topic in and of itself as it covers the vitally important, but often sadly lacking, heart attitude and fruit of submission. (Prayerfully an article on submission will be written sometime in the future.) (Closely tied with this topic of reverence is the quality of a gentle and quiet spirit which has been written about previously. I encourage you to also read this article [part 1 and part 2] in conjunction with what is written here as it adds more completeness to the discussion).As followers of Christ, specifically as women, we must exhibit these aspects of “not act[ing] unbecomingly”. We must give respect and reverence to our fathers, and for those who are married, to their husbands. In addition to this, respect and reverence need to also be exhibited at all times in our lives, to all people. We should be characterized by behavior that is reverent and respectful.

3) Women are also to be chaste in all their behavior

Chaste: “free from obscenity. In language, pure; genuine; uncorrupt"* [also can refer to physical purity]. This is another beautiful, inward adornment of godly womanhood. Purity in heart which bears fruit to purity in action and word. Purity that is free from vulgarity and “filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting” (Ephesians 5:4); free from falsehood and deceit as it is genuine and true.

All of these, reverence, submission, respect, chastity, are expressed through our words, our actions, and our behavior. But it begins as a heart condition. If our hearts have learned wild, independent, disrespectful, dishonoring character/behavior, that is what will be expressed no matter how hard we try otherwise. One example in Scripture is in regards to the words we speak: "For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. " (Matthew 12:34b) If, however, our hearts have been trained in love that does not act unbecomingly, this is what will be seen by others.

May we all strive to “put on love" (Colossians 3:14), this “not act[ing] unbecomingly”, making it part of our character so that it becomes so ingrained into us that it becomes who we are. Women who have adorned themselves not with outward adornment (1 Peter 3:3), but with inward adornment that is expressed outwardly (1 Peter 3:4). Reverent, respectful, chaste and pure, pleasing in the sight of our Lord.

*All definitions taken from Noah Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language

-Posted by Sarah

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