1 Corinthians 13
The simplest truth about human relationships is that if we just loved one another a bit more, we would have fewer problems. I know, it is a bit cliche, but it doesn’t make it any less true. Our focus would be consistently outward. We would be ready to listen and meet the needs of others. God has made it pretty clear that the most hardened heart can soften by showing the quality that embodies who He is, yet it is a weapon we often leave unwelded. We often list our harshness or judgements under the guise of “tough love”, and this may or may not be true on a case-by-case basis. However, we must stick closely to the prescribed path in 1 Corinthians 13. It actually might be simpler to love “toughly”, but if you simply write people off, or find a way to punish them, or speak your mind without backing it up with the many other qualities listed here, you are a hollow box and a lot of noise. What’s tough love, really tough love, is to love someone who isn’t concerned in the slightest with being like God at the moment, or even ever. Love never fails. So you must love. You absolutely must. And your love must be like God’s love. Below I reworded one of the most famous passages of scriptures (v.4-7) that coincides with our reading and, most likely, one of the last handful of weddings you attended. My goal isn’t to add to the list, only to reword it to give it novelty in hopes to make it challenging or convicting instead of a rehearsal of familiar words. If it helps tune your mind to God’s love, wonderful. If it is a confusing mess, don’t read it. My concern is that you know loving is tough, especially those whose actions betray your love. That shouldn’t stop you. But THAT is tough love. And THAT is what God shows to each one of us on the daily.
For God to come in and change the “unlovable” (mind you, this can be and has been you), you must sit and listen. Listen to their problems and hear them say what they think, even if you don’t agree. You have to include them, share with them, and treat them with dignity, even if they are not concerned in the slightest about having any. To love, you have to let others be great and cheer them on. Sometimes this means the spotlight will come off of you, or you are treated as less important. If you are loving, you’re not concerned with that, because in love, others come first. Love holds back the insults, name-calling, and doesn’t attack a person made in the image of God. True love can be shown without expecting anything in return and can be left unreciprocated. On rare occasions, you can have angry love. You can be mad at someone because they are doing some serious sin damage to others or even him/herself. But you don’t start there. You don’t live there. You are truthful with someone, because lying is not loving. But you retreat quickly from the fight, and fill the space with mercy, more patience, and more kindness. That means love is forgiveness, and not holding grudges. We can love those who have wronged us. We can love those who have besmirched our reputation, injured our family through carelessness, or hate us because of our beliefs. We may know their wrong to us as a historical account, but not as an emotional one, and we thank God we have an opportunity to show love to them in such a way. In fact, loving like God means that you would actually stand-up for this person who has done you the greatest harm. Loving someone means that you are trusting without “but.” And that can be so hard. But trusting in God first and foremost allows you to do that. Believe in people. Never give up on people. Much easier said than done. It’s tough. So tough. But don’t let it stop you from trying. Your efforts are to help others see God, and they will know His love because it has been extended to and shown through you.