This is the month when a young man’s fancy – and pretty much everyone else’s – turns to love. It’s a Hallmark Month – of pinks and whites and frilly, doily-like things. But the truth is, love is more robust and rigorous than advertised on a Hallmark card – and it’s a good thing it is, because life is more, and other, than advertised! So it is refreshing to turn to the “love chapter” – 1 Corinthians 13 – and discover the dynamic, action oriented love we need. Paul writes about love in the context of full out charismatic conflict, with love being the intermission between two rounds of a tough fight which probably did not earn Paul many friends in Corinth!
He describes a love that is rooted and anchored in the character and nature of the lover – not in the characteristics or responses of the loved. As such, this love is first a decision – and then it is an action. Love does not exist apart from action – it is a verb. Most of the words Paul uses to give an outline of its dimension are in verbal form, even though many of our translations turn them into adjectives. This is all the more important when we turn to apply the challenge of this love to our relationships – whatever the setting. We might not always have warm feelings of love for one another – but we will never be confused about how love acts – and doesn’t act.
· This love waits patiently. It has a sense of timing and has the ability to wait rather than force an outcome. This waiting is active, attentive, alert – watching for the opportunity to act.
· Love acts kindly. It is not just that love is kind – it is that love acts in kindness – it behaves towards others with generosity and gentility. Love does good.
· Love does not bubble over with envy and it does not brag, inflating its own importance. You can hear the echoes of the spiritual one-upsmanship that Paul is concerned to speak to in Corinth. But, setting aside bragging, cultivated envy and self-exaggeration is good practice in any relationship!
· Love knows how to behave – and does. Love doesn’t make itself the center of every conversation and activity, because it is not pre-occupied with itself. As a result, love doesn’t get exasperated very easily – love’s fuse is very, very long – and its memory is very, very short.
· Love does not gloat or take pleasure when things – or people – go wrong, but keeps circling back to joyfully celebrate when the truth wins out over malicious gossip.
· Because love is anchored in the lover, it does not stop supporting – it does not stop standing in the reality is presses towards – it does not lose sight of the hoped for outcome – it does not give up. Ever.
· Love will be standing when everything else falls.
Words to love by.