Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails… (1 Cor 13:4-8a).
How many times have you heard this passage? I think I have heard it at every wedding I have ever attended. Even non-Christians have heard it and can probably recite at least the first sentence or two. There have been countless sermons and books written about it. In a way that is a shame because the more familiar we are with something, the more we are likely to take it for granted.
I had to look at the “Love Chapter” again, more closely, almost a year ago. My sweet girl and happy boy (then 7 and 5) memorized this verse and I had to explain each phrase to them as we worked on it. That is yet another good reason the Lord gives us children – to keep us from hypocrisy! As we talked about it, I was convicted…was I teaching them this verse daily by my actions or just with my words???
Many of us can look over the “love list” of do’s and don’ts and feel okay with ourselves…but there is usually at least ONE thing that we get tripped up on, sometimes more. So this is a good checklist to go through at the end of the day, to evaluate our behavior and look for the things that may drive a wedge between us and God.
We are commanded to love, this is not to be our plan B option, but our first choice. A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:34-35). In other words, we honor God and show our love for Him, when we love others unconditionally, without placing quid pro quo conditions on our love (like, I will be patient with you if you don’t drive me crazy…).
Interestingly, the World really counsels us against God’s way. You know….put yourself first in everything; be proud of yourself and your accomplishments and don’t be shy about telling others about the good you do; and, of course, don’t put up with bad treatment from others – after all, you’ve got to protect yourself, and it is a good thing to see a bad person get what was coming to them…listen to the world long enough, and there will be no room in your heart for love since it will be filled with animosity, revenge and grudges (like some reality TV show).
This “love list” is also a good checklist to go through when we are in conflict with someone else too. Sure, if we choose, we can use it to find fault with them…maybe they are not showing love to us…perhaps they are being self-seeking or demanding of their own way; maybe they have been easily angered or are holding a grudge, or just plain violating our boundaries and hurting our feelings. On the other hand…You have heard that it was said ‘Love your friends and hate your enemies.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? Matt 5:43-46.
So we can choose to use the love checklist to respond in a better way to the difficult people God has placed in our lives. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17). In the interest of self-disclosure, I must admit that God is working in my heart right now on this very topic! I have realized that God has placed some difficult people in my life because He wants them to sharpen me, that they are a way to make me better (if I choose His to-do list in 1 Cor 13)…so I am making a conscious effort to thank HIm for wanting me to be a better person and to turn my heart to follow His way, rather than the World’s. I pray we all may be able to do this!