For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reading 1 Corinthians 13, the famous “love chapter” of the Bible. Why? Because I’ve needed a refresher on what it really means to love people and to put it into practice. I’ve been reading it in the NLT version (New Living Translation) and let me tell you, it really puts love into perspective. Love isn’t some lighthearted feeling we feel bubbling up inside our chest. In fact, some of the word choices the NLT uses really brings home what love is… and what love is not. Let me show you.
First, I love how Paul talks about all the great things a human could do, and in context, how the Corinthians thought if they could have these more amazing spiritual gifts, they would be something. Instead, Paul says it doesn’t matter if you can speak all the languages of the world, have all knowledge and even know God’s secret plans, be willing to sacrifice yourself, or give all you have to the poor, but if you don’t love your fellow man, it doesn’t mean anything. In modern terms, it doesn’t matter if you win the Noble Peace Prize, broker peace in the Middle East, give all you have to help the homeless, or be the smartest person in the world, but don’t love—I mean really love—those around you, it doesn’t mean a hill of beans. Useless. A waste.
So what does true love really look like? Here is how Paul breaks it down:
Love is Patient. Yeah, that means being patient with the people who cut you off in traffic or drive slower than you do. Or when the Walmart clerk is slow, or someone has more than 20 items in the 20 item line. Patience is a facet of true love.
Love is Kind. Kind to children. Kind to the elderly. Kind to the disabled. Kind to your co-worker. Kind to spouse. Love oozes kindness.
Love is not Jealous. Nope. Instead, it is glad when someone else receives a blessing.
Love is not Boastful. Boasting is saying “look what I have and you don’t.” Love doesn’t do that.
Love is not Rude. Rudeness is a form of selfishness. Rudeness only looks out for #1 and shoves everyone else aside. Love doesn’t do that.
Loves does not Demand Its Own Way. Ouch. I’ve really had to work on this one. I have one way of cleaning the kitchen or loading the dishwasher or folding the towels. Real love gracious allows others to do things in other ways. Most often fights occur because we want our own way, when in truth there are many ways things can be done.
Love is not Irritable. Notice it doesn’t say gets angry. The word irritable makes me think of a small dog who-when you get close to it-starts to growl, then snaps at you. I do that to people, especially first thing in the morning. True love doesn’t do that. It doesn’t let things get under its skin. Next time you want to snap at someone, or feel yourself growling inside, remember love is not irritable 😉
Love keeps no Record of Being Wronged. No back pocket list. No hidden paper with every offense. If you have a list, let it go. Especially toward your spouse. But, but, but… Nope. If God doesn’t keep a list about us, we shouldn’t be keeping a list about others.
Love does not Rejoice About Injustice. We should not be cheering when injustice happens. That is not love.
Love rejoices when the Truth Wins Out. This is truly something to be happy about! Love always wants to the truth to win.
Love never gives up. Have you giving up on someone lately?
Love never loses faith. Have you lost faith in someone lately?
Love is always hopeful. Have you lost your hope recently?
Love endures through every circumstance. Every single one.
Looking back at this list, real loves seems impossible, right? Sometimes I think that. “But God, you don’t know that person. They really get under my skin!” Or, “God, that person hurt me really, really bad.” In some circumstances, there is absolutely no reason a person deserves our love. That is why real love transcends human nature, and why it takes God’s power to love. We can’t love like this on our own. But we can through Jesus Christ. After all, this is how He loves us. Patience, kindness, no record-keeping, never gives up on us, never loses faith in us, always hopes, and endures through everything.
This, my friends, is real love.