The Shape of True Love
Sometimes we look at relationships not for what they are, but for what we can get out of them. We look at communities, husbands, friends, sisters, all for what they give to us. This may be unconscious, but it is a very real temptation nonetheless. And it is damaging.
“I just want him to make me feel like I’m worth anything he could give me.”
“I enjoy Sarah. She tells me I’m right. She gives me the pity and self-esteem I need to deal with the rest of the people in my life. I like being around her.”
“If only he could make my day like he used to. Flowers would be nice, but I’d settle for a card.”
Whatever that’s called, it’s not called love.
The church in Corinth was getting a robust lesson from Paul about how their actions must match their claims to faith, including their actions of love. Paul was clear- there is a right way to view and treat their brothers and sisters in Christ! The central lesson: love is not about you. (1 Cor. 13)
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, let’s meditate briefly on what this means for our relationships, romantic or not.
Love is Patient and Kind.
Patient means not finessing the situation to get what you want. It means no rush. Love is putting another person’s needs in front of yours as you wait. While you wait to get to your destination. While you wait in making an important decision together. While you wait for life to get easier.
Kind means you want what is best for him or her and not what is best for you. Love leads you to think about their needs and how you can serve or surprise them.
Kindness means physical intimacy isn’t just about you. If you’re not married, you abstain and protect him (and yourself), because you want what’s best for him, knowing God has revealed it. If you’re married, you don’t use it for only your own benefit, but as a gift and service. Love is not about you.
Love Does Not Envy or Boast
Love doesn’t analyze who has the most, does it the best, or is the farthest along. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have right now with anger. Love isn’t possessive or controlling.
Love cares about another. Love isn’t adding notches to the belt, lines to the resume, or another “humblebrag” to social media. Remember, love is not about you.
Love is Not Arrogant or Rude
In arrogance we can often be puffed up about how great we are- how we look perhaps, but more often what we accomplish and how well we handle life. Like a horse in heat, prancing with her tail held high, we know how to swagger, so others notice. We look ridiculous, while thinking for a few seconds that the earth orbits around us.
Love is not rude. It’s not indecent or disgraceful. Love is willing to lose rather than make her point. Love is not about you.
Love Does Not Insist on its Own Way
Love doesn’t manipulate. Oh man, we do this so easily. We can subtly imply what it would be like if something else more favorable happened. We can be so smooth and controlling. Love does not shame either. We can shame people without even realizing what we’re doing. “Can you believe that she…” “I can’t believe that you…!” For shame! Ok, maybe only 80-year-old grandmas actually say “for shame,” but we’re doing the same thing without saying it. But this isn’t love. Oh God help us.
Friends and other loved ones are not for us to push around. Love isn’t fueled by power trips. Love is not about you.
Love is Not Irritable or Resentful. Not Rejoicing at Wrong, but With the Truth.
Love doesn’t hold a grudge. Love doesn’t rationalize unkind behavior. Love doesn’t exclude. Love forgives. Love realizes that you can feel affinity for or even loyalty to someone and not be loving them.
Love doesn’t ignore wrong but is willing to correct. Love knows that the ends don’t justify the means. Love is greater than fear and so, it rejoices when the truth comes out. Love is not about you.
God, help open our eyes so that we love.
Just Love Harder
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
All things? All things?! When I’m completely honest, this is not the kind of love I can give on my own. I’ve tried to muster up this kind of love, but the “Taylor, just love harder” approach doesn’t work.
But there is One who loves like this. One who has loved with faithfulness that didn’t end. He endured us shaking our fists and ignoring what He wanted. He bore to the point of pain and death.
There was a time when love was about you.
Jesus didn’t come because you were performing well. It wasn’t for what he could get out of a relationship with you. It was because he put others above himself, and He loved you. (Phil. 2:5-8)
Jesus is patient and kind. Jesus does not envy or boast; he is not arrogant or rude. He did not insist on his own way. He is not irritable or resentful. He does not rejoice at wrong doing, but rejoices with the truth. Jesus bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.
Love is sacrificial. Love has the big picture at heart- the picture of eternity and the work of God. Because of this, the love we show to others this week cannot be about us. Rather, it’s modeled after Jesus and comes from him. It’s love about others.