Continuing to establish what love is not, Paul says in today’s passage that love “is not arrogant” (1 Cor. 13:4). We have already seen in the same verse that love “does not boast”—it does not call attention to itself or seek the acclaim of others. Arrogance goes one step further and promotes an inflated view of one’s self. Arrogant men and women exaggerate their accomplishments and develop a view of themselves that says they are smarter, more gifted, more deserving than others. The Pharisee in Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector exemplifies arrogance (Luke 18:9–14). He thanks God that he is not like other sinners, that he has not fallen as far as they have, but in his arrogance he fails to see his true need of forgiveness and grace.
Since love is not arrogant, it is humble. Love performs honest self-evaluation (Rom. 12:3). Loving people “count others more significant than [themselves]” (Phil. 2:3). A disposition of true love leads us to imitate Jesus, who came in humility to meet the needs of others (vv. 4–11).
In today’s passage, Paul also explains that love “is not rude” (1 Cor. 13:5). The idea here is that love observes proper manners and enables people to understand their place, to know when to act and when to do nothing, to understand when to speak and when to remain silent. As John Calvin comments, “Love does not exult in a foolish ostentation, or does not bluster, but observes moderation and propriety.”
People who have this kind of love follow Paul’s admonition in 1 Thessalonians 4:11 to live quietly and to mind their own affairs. Loving people do not insert themselves into matters that do not concern them. They maintain proper boundaries in their relationships. They do not gossip, for gossip involves speaking of issues with which one should not be concerned and exceeding relational boundaries. Loving people observe social conventions where such conventions do not cause them to sin. Matthew Henry writes that love “does nothing indecorous, nothing that in the common account of men is base or vile. It does nothing out of place or time; but behaves towards all men as becomes their rank and ours, with reverence and respect to superiors, with kindness and condescension to inferiors, with courtesy and good-will towards all men.”