[love …] does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong [suffered],
1 Corinthians 13:5
Love is and does many things, but one of the things love does not do is act unbecomingly.
I looked up the word in the concordance, wondering if there were some other way to understand the meaning and found that it is only rendered as unbecoming. Not terribly helpful. I dug a little deeper and found that the root word actually means deformed, indecent, unseemly. And that, I felt, was getting me somewhere
Then I noticed that the root word is used in another verse — in the preceding chapter, no less. And the root word refers to our less presentable members. Essentially, Paul is speaking about the parts of our bodies which we do not put on display; the parts which a friend of mine once referred to as our uglies.
But this description — ugly — I could latch on to. One of my aunts used to tell her children that they were being ugly when they behaved in an inappropriate manner — when they yelled or acted out or became petulant or groused or any number of bad behaviors. Behavior was how she framed the notion of ugliness and that has lingered in the back corners of my mind for … well, decades now.
Love does not act in an ugly fashion. While standards of decency change and what is thought of as unseemly or unbecoming may vary wildly from person to person and place to place, the idea of ugly behavior varies little. No parent wants their child sassing them. Some parents deserve it, but that is not to the point. No parent wants their child to be disobedient or petulant or complaining or any of the behaviors for which my aunt told my cousins they were being ugly. And love does not behave in these ways.
There are verses in abundance to support this. There is a verse that tells me, as a believer, to do what God tells me to without grumbling (no complaining). There are several verses that tell me not to test the LORD (no sassing). There are verses that speak of obedience as an outgrowth of my love for God and verses that address my pouting about not getting my way. In all, The Bible paints a very clear picture of my Father God wanting me, as one of His adopted sons, to not behave in an ugly way.
If I am honest — and this report card does me no good at all if I am not — I cannot claim to not having ugly behavior. I complain and pout and disobey and so on and so forth. As a father, I want my children to grow into the beautiful people I can see within them, but ugly behavior will obfuscate any such loveliness they might have. Let me pray God that He will change my heart so that my behavior ceases to be ugly toward Him.