1 Corinthians 13:4–8a (NASB95)
4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8a Love never fails.
Melissa and I used to work tirelessly once a year to put on a Valentine Banquet for our youth group. It was easily our biggest event of the year and took the most out of us. They would come “dressed in their best,” and we would have a fun night of food, funny videos, and talking about true love as God describes it (which is as true as love can get). You might ask, “Why hold a banquet for a holiday that celebrates romantic love, yet talk about God’s kind of love?” The answer would be that we get love wrong too often. Our world regularly creates love songs and movies that get it wrong. They enter relationships under the notion of a love that is bogus and not even worthy of the name “love.” What is equally disturbing is that many Christians, if not wholly at least partially, buy into this same notion of what love between a man and a woman should be.
The common notion of love is not patient; it is quick and easy. The idea of sticking it out when my needs are not being met in order to meet the needs of the person being loved is crazy to most. Instead, it is: “Why would I stay with a guy who _________.” God’s love is kind at all times. It not only does good when the other is nice, but it expresses kindness when the other is being needy or downright mean. Common love is perpetually jealous for the other’s time and affections. When other pursuits or interests start to crowd in, this love will cause a person to do anything to draw the attention back to themselves. And if that doesn’t work, then it is time to move on to someone who will pay more attention to me.
God’s love doesn’t try to one up the other in order to bring the attention to themselves (brag). Common love looks to the kind of person they connect with in order to increase or at least maintain their status. Common love finds doctors and lawyers, the rich and powerful, and the attractive far more easily because of this. When needed, rudeness (acting unbecomingly) can be a fine manipulator and is in common practice by some who have learned to use it in relationships. At the very heart of common love is self-seeking. Love relationships for most of us are essentially about us. Of course, why would I ever seek to maintain a relationship with someone who isn’t meeting my needs? While many dream of a relationship in which all of their own wants and desires are met by someone else, most of us realize that we have to at least pursue the “give and take” relationship. The ideal relationship is 50/50, right? We only have to look to Christ’s example of love to see that true love requires total sacrifice. By the way, husbands are called specifically to this model of love in Ephesians 5:25.
Common love can cause someone to be touchy (provoked) at times; true love does not cause others to walk on eggshells. Common love brings up past mistakes (take into account a wrong), if it can help manipulate a situation; true love is forgetful. Common love likes to play near the edges of what is right; true love always seeks the best for the one loved. Common love only lasts as long is the feelings remain; true love persists regardless of the situation. Common love tends to investigate suspicious behavior in the other; true love believes the best of the other and hopes for better things to come. Common love is fragile because it is based on the one loved; true love persists because it is based on the God who loved us at our worst. And it is only by His Spirit living in us that we can love in this totally unnatural way.
May we choose to ignore the false message of love that we are sold every day, and instead choose to give ourselves over to the truest form of love because Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us.