As much of the world just celebrated Valentine’s Day, I thought back to a talk with a friend who told me how 1 Corinthians 13 was his favorite Bible passage. It’s not hard to understand that when we read, “Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs” (1Co. 13:4-5 – HCSB). And truly, so is love; and I love this passage, too.
But as I considered this passage more, I realized that we all want to be loved, this way. We don’t want to have to love this way, because, as TobyMac points out in his song “Love Feels Like” (feat. DC Talk, from the album This is Not a Test, Forefront Records, 2015), “This is harder than I thought, harder than I thought it’d be. Harder than I thought, taking every part of me.” As an example, I consider my responses to my children. I am frequently not kind or patient. I do act selfishly towards them. I am provoked by them and their words and actions. It is hard to love my kids this way! It is hard to love people this way. That is because to love as described in 1 Corinthians 13 is not human, it is divine. Yet it is to be our goal.
Loving as God desires us to love should hurt. It takes lots of effort. TobyMac and Michael Tait point out in the chorus of their song that, “Poured out, used up, still giving. Stretching me out the end of my limits: … This is what real love feels like.” Loving like 1. Corinthians 13 will take us to our limits. Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13 – HCSB).
True love is not pretty. True love can be expressed in flowers and chocolates and jewelry; it can take us to emotional heights unlike any other, but “Like floating confetti, beautiful gets messy when the fallout strikes the floor.” Really loving involves getting down and dirty. It is holding a friend’s hand who lost their parent and mourning with them silently; it is changing your grandpa’s diapers; it is saying that hard word to someone who is being unkind; it is saying “no” when it’s easier to say “yes”. But … but “It’s worth everything you put in.”
So, yeah, we want to be loved like in 1 Corinthians 13, but who is willing to actually get down into the trenches and do the loving? Who, like our Lord, is willing to make the sacrifices necessary for 1 Corinthians 13 to become a reality through him or her? I would like to say that I would, but I know my limitations. Considering that love is the most emphasized part of the fruit of the Spirit (compare Eph. 4:2-3; Gal. 5:21-22; 2Pe 1:5-7), it means that it will take divine intervention to love in this manner. “In the depths of the trenches, are the richest of riches. Love is calling us to more!” Are you willing to let God love others through you? Am I?