Love. What is it? Many people would describe it as a warm, fuzzy feeling, strong affection, or physical intimacy. But that is not how biblical scripture defines it. And there is no better place than 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 to learn what love(aka charity) is all about.
Take notice of the first three verses. This paints a pretty clear picture; we can do all manner of 'good' things, even miraculous or sacrificial things, but if they're not paired with love, they are worth nothing. What does that tell us? That tells us that love is not simply our actions or words, but also in combination with having the right attitude.
Now, let's break down the following verses to dive deeper into what that really means.
Love is long suffering. What does that mean? To love is to be patient. That means that when that cashier at the store is being slow checking out the people in front of us or when our family does things that annoy or frustrate us(put a new roll on the toilet paper holder, anyone?) we are to be patient, not just in outward actions, but in our minds.
Love is kind. This one ought to be obvious. Give genuine compliments, lift up our friends when they're feeling down, lend help where we can. Hold open a door. Share things. There are far too many examples of how we can be kind.
Love does not envy. Since envy is to not only want something that someone else has, but to believe that you deserve that something more than the person who has it and/or to wish bad things on them for having 'what I deserve', just don't do that. Don't matter what that something is or who is it that has has it, seriously, just don't.
Love is not vain, is not puffed up. What this means is that to love is to not view ourselves as greater than someone else. When we are blessed with talent or wealth or nice things, we should never hold those things over someone else's head or look down our noses at those that don't have them. This also goes for the things that we do. It is neither loving nor honoring to God to say or think that we are better than someone else because we're more modest(wow, isn't that an oxymoron? But I've heard it happen) or because we volunteer our time or tithe more or support orphans in a third world country. Humility, pass it around.
Love does not behave inappropriately. So when that person cuts us off in traffic, we should not even think about flipping them off or hoping they crash. That post on "insert social media site"? We shouldn't respond rudely or crudely to it(if at all). We shouldn't insult or belittle the person that thinks or lives differently than we do, even if they do so to us. When we're mad or upset, we should not cuss or throw a fit. Instead, we are called to act and think with maturity and decency.
Love does not insist upon her own way. So when we see that awesome thing in the store and someone else wants it, we ought to let them have it(and not begrudgingly, either). When there is a group project, we should not insist on being in control if someone else wants to be. When we're out with friends or loved ones and want to see a movie, we should not insist on seeing the one we want. Also, when we speak to others about God. In my experience, it does no good to shove the gospel down other people's throats. They just tend to vomit it back up and run away from it, and us. Offer or mention God, but don't insist that they listen.
Love is not easily provoked. We should show grace to those that say and do hurtful things. Not to say that we should accept abuse, that's entirely different. But if someone is rude to us, we should let it go. It also means developing a tough skin to being insulted or having topics we're sensitive to being brought up. Even when we're not having a good day, we should not be irritable(difficult, I know, but not impossible). Even when someone hurts our feelings or does something we don't like, we should not be resentful nor should we be keeping score of hurts or annoyances. If something irks us, we need to stop and truly think about the situation. Most things that we don't like are not worthy of being provoked over. When it comes down to it, we should not let the actions, thoughts, or unlikable habits of others to dictate how we behave. Let it go, let it go!(Yes, I had to.)
Love thinks no evil. We should not hope for bad things to happen to others, fellow Christians or those that are still lost. We should not dwell on impure things. We should not plan to do bad things to others. Etc, etc.
Love does not take joy in doing evil, but rejoices in truth. If we are loving, we should not be happy or smug when we do sinful things, but instead take joy in doing what is right and speaking what is true(in a gentle and kind way).
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. I had to learn this part recently through a hard lesson. Someone I love dearly came to me, telling me about a life choice they made that I cannot possibly agree with. One that goes against God's word and His holy design. But by God's grace, I can choose to keep on loving that person, believing that He can make things right and keep hoping that the person will find their way back to Him. We're called to keep loving, even when it's hard, until the end of the race that is life. There will be days where it seems impossible, but it's then that we must ask God to give us the strength to love and then do it.
Another bit to chew on. God is(among other things) love. Therefore, those who do not love, do not know God.
He is our best example of what love is. So, if we can't imagine(based on what the bible says) that God would do, say, or think something, neither should we allow ourselves to. Don't get me wrong. I'm by no means perfect in any of these areas. But we should all do our best to live up to these instructions on a daily basis.
So, what should you have gotten from all of the above? Long story short, in order to love, we need to actively and constantly choose to put our neighbors(which I firmly believe includes all of humanity, not just literal neighbors or those we like) first, not just with our actions but in our attitudes. Not because we think they deserve it, but because God commands it.
A godly action + a godly attitude = love. Think about it.