Right after my divorce, I wanted to boycott all things having to do with “love.” I avoided Valentine’s Day, Anniversaries (June 10th was wiped off the calendar), Romantic movies and Country music stations. Those things reminded me of the betrayal, pain and failure of my divorce. I even found myself avoiding a certain Bible passage, 1 Corinthians 13, specifically, verses 5 – 8. I didn’t want to read the sappy verses about love being patient and kind, not arrogant or rude, enduring all things and hoping all things. Those were words spoken at weddings and in reference to something I thought I had but lost. Nope, I’d just rip that page out of my Bible and move on.
But recently, I’ve been drawn to those words. I’m not really sure why, maybe because our world seems so lacking of love right now. Or maybe because we keep throwing the word around thinking it will smooth over every wrong in our world. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for more love in this world. We are quick to judge and condemn each other when we disagree or don’t get our way. We are good at stereotypes that promote fear and prejudice. Just a little more love would go a long way to healing our nation and world. But it can’t be the sappy, wimpy love that we have come to accept as real.
The love described in 1 Corinthians 13 is real, hard-working love. It’s a love that rolls up its sleeves and pulls on its working boots. It’s not about feeling warm and fuzzy but about understanding that when things get tough, love has just begun. And if we are really going to live our lives marked by this kind of love, we need to understand it’s not for the weak or faint of heart. Listen to what is required –
- Love is patient and kind – it’s not quick to honk the horn when the light turns green but the car in front of you doesn’t notice. It’s not rude to the salesclerk whose cash register froze and delayed your transaction.
- Love does not envy or boast – it’s not about how impressive of a lunch you packed for your child or about how much money you make. It listens without thinking of a response that one ups another.
- Love is not arrogant or rude – it doesn’t belittle those who are different than you or find humor in another person’s pain.
- Love does not insist on its own way – it understands that I don’t always have to be right or get my way. It doesn’t require instant gratification of every need.
- Love is not irritable or resentful – it finds joy in others success and finds hope in spite of failures.
- Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth – It doesn’t lay in wait for another to fail and then point it out with gusto. It doesn’t manipulate truth to make its point. It seeks the truth even if that truth might not be what we hoped for.
The love that we are called to in 1 Corinthians is anything but easy or romantic. I recently spent time memorizing these words and as I meditated on them, I was convicted about how hard this kind of love really is. When we truly seek to act in this way, change happens. We are changed and the world around us is changed. It is a hard-working love that accomplishes much.
And we can say with Paul, “so now, faith, hope, and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
The greatest and also the hardest. . . what challenges you the most in these verses?