Love Is...

On Valentine's Day, kids give and receive cards to one another at school. Restaurants are filled with couples. Those of us who are in relationships (and wish to remain in them) purchase cards, candy, flowers, etc and give them to those who we love.

It is a celebration of love, as evidenced by all the hearts and cherubs adorning the seasonal aisle in our local stores.

I'm not here to complain about the holiday. Love is a wonderful concept for us to celebrate, and the opportunity to give nice notes and gifts to others (even at a huge markup) is a good thing.

But love is more than red hearts and naked baby angels. It's more than spending quality time with a special someone.

In 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul tells us just how much more:

Love is patient

Patient means you do not impose your timetable on others, but are willing to adjust your expectations to let somebody else feel comfortable.

and kind.

Along with patience, kindness is a product of the Holy Spirit in our lives. What this means is that if we are having trouble with being patient and kind to others, we don't necessarily need to work really hard at those things, but rather we need to give up our resistance to allowing God to work in us - to change us in these areas.

Love is not jealous

When something good happens to another person, am I genuinely happy for them? Or can I only think about how much happier I would be if it was me?

or boastful

Hard to hear what somebody else has to say when I just want to talk about myself.

or proud 

Anytime I view another person as being inferior to myself, I'm unable to love them. I can only pity them, and pity is thinly veiled scorn.

Anytime I view another person as being inferior to myself, I'm unable to love them. I can only pity them, and pity is thinly veiled scorn.

or rude.

Rudeness is simply a product of me thinking of myself more than others - placing my convenience or preference above the feelings of other human beings. I simply can't be rude if I think of somebody as being better than myself.

It does not demand its own way.

I'm here for you, not for me. I'm here to contribute rather than horde.

It is not irritable,

Forming community isn't an inconvenience to our existence, it's central to our existence. God created humanity to join God in the community of the trinity. The Body of Christ is an extension of that community. We're supposed to be a part of it, and invite others to join it.

and it keeps no record of being wronged. 

This doesn't mean you let yourself be treated like a doormat. Healthy boundaries are important, but if you constantly feel like another person owes you one, you need to adjust your boundaries to correct that feeling rather than blaming the other person for how you feel.

It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 

Now this is tricky. In our 24 hour cable news world, 'truth' has become blurry with 'perspective I agree with'.  The scriptures are pretty clear that truth is a principle that belongs to God. When we see God's Kingdom expanding, I think that's where we're invited to rejoice. After all, God's Kingdom is undermining all the crap in our world - the hate, the brokenness, the destruction, etc.

When we see life where there was death, joy where there was sorrow, hope where there was depression, love gets excited.

Love never gives up,

Look, lemme just put this here. If you aren't fighting for something you love, it's hard to take the hits our world dishes out.

If you aren't fighting for something you love, it's hard to take the hits our world dishes out.

never loses faith,

Faith, the writer of Hebrews tells us, gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Love doesn't only show up when everything is a sure bet. Love shows up when everyone else has packed it in and gone home.

is always hopeful, and

Hope is a dangerous least, that's what the Shawshank Redemption told us. In the first part of the verse from Hebrews we discussed above regarding faith, the writer says that faith is confidence in what we hope for. So if faith is a bullet, hope is the targeting scope. We can have faith in things that are not hopeful - "I totally know my car is about to break down", "This summer is going to be the worst" - but hope refuses to believe that there's any such thing as a dead end. 

endures through every circumstance.

Love, it seems, would be willing to lay down its own life or others. It doesn't ask, "what's the least I can give?", but rather asks "how much do you need?"


This is terrible, right? I mean, fulfilling this list is impossible. 

It's going to leave me empty and dry after everyone simply takes and takes and takes if I'm willing to give and give and give.

I'd have to practically die to myself in order to fulfill it!

Yet it's because God is love that we have a place to entrust our hope and to invest our faith. Without that love, humanity would be lost in the decay of our broken world.

We have been called by God to spread His Kingdom to the world around us.

It is a Kingdom of Love, and the challenge is impossible unless we are willing to regularly reorient ourselves toward the source of restoration and redemption that is Jesus.