Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.
Over the almost 18 years that I have been ordained I have sat with far too many couples that love has failed. I have listened to wives, husbands, children and siblings who have been wounded by love that failed. Our experience of love tells us it does fail us. It is not always kind or lacking anger. Our experience tells us we do brood over love that hurts us. It does not always bear all things or hopes all things or even endures all things.
So is Paul description of love an ideal of love or is his letter to the Corinthians something else. Since scripture is God’s word for us and not just a museum piece written to the Corinthians, we should not look at it as a letter to the people of Corinth advising them about issues they had concerns about. We should look at is as something God wants to say to us today.
It is far too easy for us to look at these letters as a response to problems arising out of the Corinth community. If we look at it that way we will view it no different than we view Travis’ letters from the Alamo. Paul’s words do provide us an interesting glimpse into a moment in time but God wants to give us spiritual truths not history. God is not interested in a moment in time he is interested in our hearts and our response to his love.
Love, there it is again. Do we dare trust God’s love when experience tells us we cannot trust human love? I believe that answer is simple and it begins with another question. How much faith do we have? Faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love. So our ability to love as Paul describes begins with faith. Paul tells us faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Do we hope God loves us or do we believe he loves us? All we have to do is to look at his promises and how those promises were fulfilled when Jesus hung on the cross and we will move beyond hope to faith in God.
How much faith do we need to believe? When we trust God’s love we can overcome our experience of the many ways love has failed us. Paul again gives us the wisdom to take that a leap when he says “faith comes from what is heard and what is heard comes from the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17). But here is the kicker for God tells us in the words of the prophet Isiah, “I was found by those not seeking me;. I revealed myself to those who were not asking for me.” Then he says these remarkable words, “all day long I stretched out my hands to a disobedient and contentious people.” That people he is reaching for is us, not trusting and remaining out of his reach.
God seems to know we have reservations about the love he wishes to lavish upon us so he sent us Jesus to show us the depth of his love. Do we believe Jesus is the revelation of God’s love for us? If we cannot accept that then love will always disappoint. But if we do accept that then the way to love is by embracing Christ.
Jesus invites us to open the doors to our hearts and he will come in and fill us with his presence. Jesus tells us that he will send us the spirit and that the spirit will “pour the love of God into our hearts” (Rom. 5:5). It is only when we open the door to our hearts and when we allow the Holy Spirit to fill us we will experience a love that never disappoints.
Then we will begin to understand the depth and the height of God’s love for us and we will respond by opening our hearts to be changed by the Holy Spirit. Our ability to love will change. Our love will be patient, kind. It will not be jealous, or pompous. It will not be inflated or rude. It will not seek its own interests. It will not be quick-tempered. It will not brood over injury nor will it rejoice over wrongdoing but it will rejoice with the truth. It will bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, will endure all things.
We will love that way because we will be transformed into the very image of Christ by the Spirit. We will be what God intended when he created us; we will feel the depth of God’s love and we will love God with our whole heart, mind, strength and soul and our neighbor as ourselves.