In a rushed and hurried world it is easy to forget who we are suppose to be. In a world filled with problems and hardships it is easy to let go of our character. In a life overflowing with drama it is easy to lose sight of what is important. In a Church that is always under pressure and defending herself it is easy to overlook the foundation of her existence. What is life without love? What is the Church without love? According to the Word of God they are nothing:
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2)
For centuries poets have tried to find the words to describe love but what they managed to come up with is of lesser quality than what the Word describes. What we find in 1 Corinthians 13 is a beautiful description of Jesus' love but this is the same love he told us we must have for each other. It is a powerful, demanding, all encompassing love that expects the very best from us. It is so great that to take it in we have to look at it in sections. As we do this my prayer for us is the same as Paul's was for the Ephesians:
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19)
In Paul's inspiring definition of love he starts off with something very simple: "Love is patient, love is kind". (v. 4a) Often in evaluating my words and actions I don't get any further than these two things. I use 1 Corinthians 13 as a measuring rod to check myself, to see if what I say and do convey the love of Jesus. My wife is often my testing point. There is no one I love more than my wife and there is no one I spend more time with than her. This means she has more opportunity to annoy me and drive me crazy than anyone else and at the same time no one knows me as well as she does. If I can't love her with the love of Jesus what hope is there in me loving others?
My wife and I are individuals at the same time as being one together. We share many similar interests but we also have dissimilar interests. We have different characters, different strengths and weaknesses, sometimes different goals. We definitely have different perspectives because we have different life experiences so we have the potential of really getting on each others nerves. But we share something in common what allows it all to come together and work to our advantage; we both love Jesus and are loved by him and that love is our measuring rod.
In all I say and do with my wife my desire is to be patient and kind. Love means that she is important enough to me that I will be patient with her whenever a situation or conversation requires patience. This means refusing to get aggravated with her or even frustrated. Many wrong words are spoken and wrong actions taken in moments of frustration but because she is the object of my affection I choose to be patient because she is important to me.
In moments of tiredness, frustration, exasperation, worry, fear, anxiety it is possible to take it out on the people we love the most, but this is a poor excuse for letting go of our responsibility. I find one of the greatest testing points for love is kindness. If we are not kind with those we have a responsibility to love then we do not have a grasp of what love is. Kindness is found it what we do and say, but not just in the action but in the attitude. I can wash the dishes for my wife, giving her a break, but I can show in my attitude that I don't like it. Some spouses are just plain mean to each other and this reveals the immaturity of their love.
In all relationships there is the "falling in love" experience, that euphoria that blinds you to the other person's faults and to the short comings of the relationship. Soon enough the euphoria will wear off because it is a fantasy love and then the real work begins. Relationships take work as we learn to love each other, as we learn to be patient and kind. This is the truth for the Church as well, love requires work and is a decision we take.
Don't misunderstand me, this love of Jesus we are to have for each other is not something we are capable of without the Holy Spirit. He gives us that ability but we have to chose to walk in it. We have to chose to apply the love in our relationships. The members of the Body of Christ have to chose to be patient and kind with one another. Of course we have only scratched the surface in examining the love of Christ but it is enough to evaluate whether we understand and live the love of Jesus. Examine yourself in your words and actions today to see if you treat those you love with patience and kindness. Tomorrow we will take another step in examining the deeper things of God's love.