“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 13:4-8a
This treasure of a passage sandwiches what love is not between what love is, and we would do well to bite that sandwich daily and crush the middle. Active practice of the positive qualities of divine, Spirit-fueled love will do away with all it’s not, but it takes commitment and self-surrender to do so.
When we start with patient, we take a breath and exhale self. We inhale the divine, and our focus adjusts with Christ’s perfect vision. We see others as He does, fellow image-bearers who are sinners like us in need of a Savior. Our hearts beat with compassion and expand with forbearance as we recall God’s long-suffering toward us. A swelled heart is a kind heart, and acts of kindness are contagious as they catch fire within, consuming our energy. (Ephesians 4:2-3)
Such others-centered living has no room for envying, because it is caught up in outward giving, not sidelong glances, in bestowing benevolence, not hoarding comparisons. It also allows no boasting, because genuine kindness flows from Christ’s wellspring of blessings within, not self-effort. The richer the flow of patient, generous kindness, the cleaner the conduit from any hint of arrogance or rudeness. Love flushes that poison away. (Ephesians 1:3)
A loving life yields to the Lord’s sway over emotion and desire, having learned never to insist on self-derived motivation. It delights in pleasing and preferring others for their benefit and upbuilding, and does not chafe at their choices or hold against them successes, or failures. It wants only the best for them, and rejoices at the truth of God’s redemption and grace. (Romans 12:9-19)
Love is large, measureless in its reach and limitless in its power. It is strong enough to bear all pain, and grief, and offense, and to undergird others with burdens too weighty to bear alone. It believes in the best, and that God is able to bring about that best, no matter what. It hopes in redemption’s promise, and God’s possibles, and eternal glory. It endures all things with grace and profound, abiding joy, because its well is deep and its spring ever-flowing. It is everlasting, from first to last effusive and all-encompassing, because it is embodied by our eternal Savior. (Jeremiah 32:27; John 4:14; 7:37-39; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Ephesians 3:20; 1 John 4:8)
How does our love measure up to the Lord’s description? Are we increasingly growing in each aspect of love’s graces, and shrinking in those ugly opposite tendencies? How committed are we to daily practice of selfless, Christlike love to others, depending wholly on the Spirit of the One who has loved us perfectly? What will it take to be eight for eight in every ‘love is’?
Lord God, empty me of self, and fill me with Your pure, unrestrained love to overflow. May my life be a clear exhibit of Your love’s definition, to the praise of Your glory.