Love. It’s the central focus of millions of songs. Countless books, both fiction and nonfiction, delve into the topic. And every Hallmark movie’s main characters are in pursuit of it. The need for love from family and friends is universal and an important part of life. However, it’s something that’s often misunderstood. Together, let’s look into what God’s word has to say about it and what it means for us today.
WHAT IT ISN'T
Before we jump into the meaning of love, let’s first understand what it is not. Love is not a feeling that comes and goes, implying we can “fall in” and “fall out” of it. Considering love as an emotional state of the heart is even dangerous as Jeremiah 17:9 reports, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” So if it isn’t an ever-changing, potentially harmful emotion, what is it? Fortunately, God’s word is quite clear on the matter.
WHAT IT IS
1 Corinthians 13 is often considered the “love chapter” of the Bible. You’ve likely heard it read at weddings as a husband and wife pledge their lives to one another before God. While those beautiful moments make for great photos, the fulfillment of those vows of love are frequently less than picturesque. Love is a difficult, intentional, repeated decision to unconditionally put another before yourself. The practice of love is challenging and uncomfortable, but so very worthwhile as it reflects how God shows His love to us. Let’s dive deeper into the first few qualities as described in Scripture.
LOVE IS PATIENT
Patient: long-spirited, long-suffering, forbearing, tolerant of delays and problems without becoming annoyed or anxious
Think back to the last time you told your kid to clean their room. How quickly are they to respond to your command? And then how efficiently do they execute it? Oftentimes, as our children are learning what it means to be obedient, they can be slow to react and even slower to actually complete what they’ve been told. So mom and dad, how do you react when your kids are slow to obey? There’s always a temptation to be quick to annoyance, even anger. However, love is patient. Patient in correction. Patient in discipline. Patient in the years-long effort of training your child to live a life of honoring the Lord. Patience is not easy. But it gets easier when you consider how lovingly patient your Heavenly Father is with you.
LOVE IS KIND
Kind: Full of service to others, gentle, showing oneself useful, acting benevolently; having or showing a friendly, generous, and considerate nature
If you’ve been married for more than a week, you’ve already realized that kindness isn’t always your first response to your spouse. If he leaves his clothes on the floor instead of in the hamper, the words fighting escape your lips are far from gentle. When she nags you (again) to take out the trash, you’re probably tempted to wait a little longer out of spite. But love would you have you hold your tongue and instead be quick to serve one another.
Think about how Jesus served His disciples. Even knowing that one would betray Him, He still graciously washes the feet of Judas. If the Creator of the world can still extend love and service to one like that, how can we withhold such kindness to the one we promised to always love who’s only just annoyed us?
(Note: If you’re experiencing harm from your spouse, please seek help from a domestic violence shelter. Life 90.5 strongly recommends our friends at Open Gate Domestic Violence Shelter.)
LOVE DOES NOT ENVY
Envy: A feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck
You’re chronically lonely and your friend just got engaged. Your heart aches over infertility and your cousin has announced her third pregnancy. You continue to work hard at your job for a decade and your new coworker just got an undeserved promotion. You struggle to pay rent and your sister just bought an amazing house. You drive a rusted old beater with no air conditioning and your friend just bought a new car with all the upgrades. Have you been in any of those situations before?
If you’re like most people, you feel conflicted when another announces wonderful news. Sure, you feel happy for them, but you’re also terribly jealous that they’re getting “all the good stuff.” Maybe you then get annoyed at their happiness, find yourself avoiding them, or even point out all the trouble that comes with their happy declaration. But that’s not what love does. To truly love your friend is to set aside your envious feelings, celebrate with them, to “rejoice with those who rejoice.”
How could you improve in the area of love? Let us know in the comments!