…I gain nothing if I do not have love. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud. Love is not rude, is not selfish, and does not get upset with others. Love does not count up wrongs that have been done. Love takes no pleasure in evil but rejoices over the truth. Love patiently accepts all things. It always trusts, always hopes, and always endures. Love never ends…So these three things continue forever: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:3b-8, 13 (NCV)
I think about what it means to love, what it means to be loved and, as I read this all too familiar passage written to the men and women of the Corinthian church, I am convicted at the inadequacies of the quality of love I offer to others.
In the Greek, the word that is used in this passage is agape. It means to love unconditionally, to love someone not because of what they do or don’t do, but because of who they are. Unconditional love is the embodiment of God on this earth, and took the form of Christ when He died on the cross to cleanse me of my sins and restore my relationship to Him.
As much as I have a desire to care for my husband, my children, my family, my friends, myself, my God, and even my enemies with these characteristics of love, I often fall short and sometimes completely fail at giving the kind of love I am called to offer to others. I frequently find myself experiencing feelings of offense, frustration, and impatience toward those ones I hope to love. I am occasionally tempted to throw up my hands in defeat and run away from the commitment to walk in love.
Though I want to love all people at all times, I find that cynicism, bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness creep into my modes of thinking. Sin begins to undermine my charity and twist my benevolence. And when I am not loved well by others it adds fuel to the fire and makes worse the cycle.
I want to be a clear reflection of my Savior’s love to others who have only experienced worldly versions of love that neither fill nor satisfy. But, in my selfishness, I often end up muddying the waters more.
In the midst of it all, I am so grateful that my Father is love (1 John 4:8). Because I have put my trust in Him, He is able to shine through me, despite my own shortcomings and failures, to redeem. He is able to move my heart toward compassion and at the same time meet the needs I have in my own heart to be loved.
The Bible tells me that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). That strength comes in the form of His love. And as His love strengthens me, I am able to love others in grace and mercy. I am able to forgive. And in my own restoration, because God first loved me (1 John 4:19), I can in turn love others to life in Christ.
Blessings – Julie, Vadipatti, India (written in the U.S.A.)
Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.