If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
1 Corinthians 13:3-7 the Message
On this day after Valentine’s Day, I’ve been reflecting about the nature of love.
If I was to ask 100 different people what the term love means, I’d probably get 100 very different kinds of answers. We use the term love for everything from ice cream to puppies, from children to grandparents, from our spouses to the weather. But what does it mean? When I say I love you, does that say anything about you, or am I only talking about some warm gut or heart feeling? If it’s only about an internal feeling, then what happens when one of us no longer feels it? When the pressures of life and the ugliness of our own failures and brokenness collide? What happens to love then? Paul is writing to a community in crisis…in conflict. This is how we must treat one another!
Paul talks about the character of love, with a series of 15 verbs. He starts with love is patient, or long-suffering. If that is not hard enough, we’re to be kind too. While patience is the passive aspect, kindness is to show active goodness to one another. Real love shows active goodness to others. When we remember how patient and kind God in Jesus Christ has been to us, then we too can be patient with others.
Then Paul tells us that love does not envy or is not in a competitive type of relationship. If you find that you are often trying to out-position others…or get the upper-hand over them, then you are not displaying love. It is never about trying to be in a better position or to gain the favor of others. Love is also not about boasting or attempting to get acclaim for yourself or your surrogates (such as your children or grandchildren), but rather to think of others. Love is not proud, puffed up or arrogant. It’s also not rude, nor is it self-seeking. All of these things on the list attempt to put one’s self in a better position, while at the same time keeping the other person down. It is the opposite of love, to want to see one’s self exalted over others.
If we find ourselves easily angered by the littlest things then we know that have not been truly patient and therefore not truly loving. And this leads directly to the next thing…Love keeps no record of wrongs.
To live in love together ultimately is to act as Jesus Christ has and to forgive. In the Greek Paul is alluding to the words of Jesus on the cross as he extends his forgiveness to those crucifying him. So too, love for one another is to be symbolized by forgiveness for wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. Love is honest and truthful and leads to speaking and living the Gospel. Love rejoices in the truth.
There is nothing that love cannot face. Love always perseveres, it has a tenacity, buoyed by confidence in the future. Love never ceases to have faith, and it never loses hope. Love perseveres through the worst of times. Love never fails.