Love. One dictionary describes love as a “strong affection” or “warm attachment” for another arising out of kinship or personal ties. Psychologist often refer to “love” as an emotional state. The world is full of descriptions and wonderful stories about love. Love is the subject of many poems, songs and pieces of literature.
However, I believe no words are more instructive or more true than The Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13: “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Implicit and explicit in this text, are some common sense instructions about “love” and “loving” others. First, if love is to be patient and kind, one realizes that love takes time. To love someone involves a commitment of energy. Without it, patience and kindness can be elusive. There are 168 hours in a week. How much of that time is given to the ones you love?
Next, we read that “love is not jealous or proud...arrogant or rude...does not insist on its own way...is not irritable or resentful.” Lumped together, these descriptions teach that love is humble, unselfish and respectful. Love is concerned about the other, not because it has to be, but because it chooses to be –– not out of obligation but out of desire –– not out of a sense of emptiness, but out of a sense of fullness. Love is open to the desires, thoughts and dreams of the other. Love respects that which it loves.
At Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH), we see how important it is for children to respect their parents in love and for parents to respect their children in love. It is difficult to love that which we do not respect. Respect communicates value. We value those we love.
A third dimension of love in Paul’s description is justice. “Love does not rejoice at wrong but rejoices in the right.” This instruction reminds us of the social dimension of love. It reminds us of the Biblical emphasis of community and fellowship. Authentic love is concerned about right and wrong –– for ourselves and others.
And then, “love bears all things.” This reminds us that true love is not possible without forgiveness. If love is to last, forgiveness must be in abundant supply. If love is to escape resentment and be kind, then there must be forgiveness.
This is important for at least two reasons. First, sooner or later we are going to be the ones in need of forgiveness. To lose sight of this, we make ourselves the perfect people we are not. Second, it is hard to overestimate the amount of love that forgiveness generates. True forgiveness, given to one who understands the need of it, can result in a deepening sense of love and appreciation.
At the end of Paul’s practical description of love, he reminds us that “love believes all things and hopes all things, endures all things.” In other words, love is also about trust and our outlook toward the future. “Believes all things” is not meant to be a naive or shallow instruction. It reflects Paul’s understanding of the importance of trust and confidence in one another. Paul is speaking about avoiding the skepticism and cynicism of our times that is incompatible with Christian love. Further, Paul expects love to be forward looking, not an over the shoulder, approach to life. Love “hopes all things.” On a daily basis, we see how important hope is in the lives of those who are hurting and trying to heal. Believing and hoping are indispensable qualities in moving beyond the pain and moving toward recovery and health.
Finally, love “endures all things.” Simply put, love is tough. Paul is not describing some superficial romantic idea of love –– Paul lives and works in the real world. Any love that is useful will be tough and persistent. Paul himself had some practice at loving the unlovable, forgiving the unforgivable, and enduring.
So, what is love? Love is a commitment of time in a humble, selfless, respectful manner. It is relating to others in a way that recognizes that love and justice are inseparable. It is understanding that love must include generous doses of forgiveness and trust. It is knowing that love is a forward looking venture which is tough enough to experience the bumps and bruises of everyday living –– and yet survive.
Valentine’s Day is not far away. Check your calendar. Mark the day and remember to order the candy and roses for your loved ones. And in the midst of this season of love, don’t forget what love truly is. Forgive. Be patient and kind. Look to the future. And never forget that the love you show the children in our care is essential. Your prayers and financial gifts make the difference every day.
It is my hope that you will feel the joy and peace that comes from being embraced by God’s grace and love this Valentine’s Day. Thank you for sharing His love with others every day. May God’s blessings of love be showered on you today and on this special day –– February 14!