“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, love 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” (1 Cor. 13:4-7). This is the most reliable description of real love that we can find anywhere.
I have been married for over 43 years to my wife. When she said yes to my proposal way back then, we were young and full of romantic ideas about what love is. I’m sure she had ideas of what a married life was “supposed” to be like and hoped that those dreams would come true just as she imagined them. I know that I certainly went into our marriage with a head full of myths about love and marriage too. Over four decades of marriage, two children, and now 4 grandchildren, I would wager that very few of our imagined dreams were ever fulfilled in the ways that we had thought they would. But I can say for a fact that we learned a lot about love, through the good times and the bad, that we had never imagined, and it has made all the difference.
How does one learn that love is patient and kind? Well, because we have egos and we sometimes take things more seriously than they need to be taken. Sometimes we hurt one another because we don’t get our way, or because we are lost in our own immediate concerns, or because we feel somehow hurt by the other’s momentary failure to recognize our wants. We forget that the other may be struggling with some troubling issue of their own and is lost in his or her own present concerns or needs. That’s life, isn’t it. We all recognize these things. We are human beings, each of us is unique and individual, with a unique history and a uniquely solitary ego. It takes maturity to be able to forget one’s own ego demands, to set them aside to meet the immediate needs of the beloved, even when it means real sacrifice on one’s own part, even if it takes a long time. The spiritually mature love that Paul is talking about here is the result of both God’s grace and the hard work of learning to recognize and let go of one’s petty ego demands, and to do the hard work of developing the virtues of patience and kindness.
Pomposity, rudeness, the seeking of only one’s own self interests, are petty ego demands that we need to recognize within us. We need to replace these things with the most important virtue of all—humility. That is the virtue that gives meaning to Paul’s words on love here. The vices of a bad temper, or brooding over injury, or holding grudges against the other, and taking pleasure in “hurting” the other because they hurt you, can only be overcome by learning the wisdom of forgiveness. It is forgiveness that frees us from the chains of all those vices. Again, forgiveness is possible only in one who is humble.
Jesus is our model for this love described by Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians: “[He], being the in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. But he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are; and being in every way like a human being, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross.” (Phil. 2:6-8). He commanded us to do the same; to love all others just as he loved us. This is the model of humility that must be learned in order to love in the manner that Paul speaks of here. It is the model that must be learned in order to love the other as Jesus loved us, in all of our relationships. This is what my wife and I have learned and are still learning. We are not perfect, for we are still flawed, but I can say without guile, I love her more today than I did that day over 43 years ago when we looked into each other’s eyes and said “I do” on that altar before God and our families and friends.
Lord, Give us the wisdom of humility so that we may learn to love as you have loved us. We pray this in your name, Jesus. Amen!
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