“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
(1 Corinthians 13:4-8 ESV)
The above passage is very well known, and is frequently read at wedding ceremonies. The reason for this is clear. It describes for us the love to which God has called us.
That being said, the context of this passage speaks to the church. We’re told that we should desire the spiritual gifts that God gives to us. However, if we have the greatest gifts imaginable, but not love, they amount to nothing.
As we consider the description of love given to us in these verses, there are two things for us to consider. There are two ways that we can make use of this teaching. And both of these uses will enable us to grow in our walk of faith and to bless others.
A mentor of mine once said that this passage can easily be used as a confessional. It can be used in this way because, as we read its words, it becomes clear that we’ve fallen short of it in every way possible. Even though we believe ourselves to be loving, these words force us to face the fact that our love in no way measures up to God’s standard. And this is a thought that really struck me.
We can look at this passage and confess that we are not patient and that we are not kind. We can look at it and confess that we are often envious and boastful, that we are frequently arrogant and rude. You get the idea. And as we confess our shortcomings, we can then ask God to forgive us for the many ways we’ve fallen short.
We can also look at this passage and aspire to love in the way it’s described. Recognizing our inability to do so, we can ask God to create within us the love for others we read about in these words. Seeing our selfishness, we can make a conscious effort to resist those impulses, to lay aside the emotions that often hinder our love, and to sacrificially give ourselves to those around us.
We can seek to love others in a way that is not selfish in any way. We can seek to love in a way that seeks not our own welfare, but that of others. And we can do this in our marriage, in the church, and among those who have not yet placed their faith in Jesus. We can seek to use the gifts given to us by God not for our own benefit, but for the blessing of others.
We’ll never master this love on this side of eternity. But, as we seek God’s forgiveness, and as we seek to love others with the compassion he places in our heart, we will grow in this love day by day. We’ll grow in our ability to lay aside our self-love and to serve one another.