In our Thursday men’s group, we have been reading through 1 Corinthians for a while now. It’s been a great journey. That is, until this week. This week we came to 1 Corinthians 13, known by many as the love chapter. If there’s one thing that a group of men enjoy sitting around talking about over breakfast, it’s love.
Can I be gut-level honest with you? I really didn’t want to teach it. I don’t know why. Maybe its because we’ve all read it so many times. Or maybe it’s because men already catch a lot of flack for being hesitant to talk about their feelings. Or maybe it’s because love is the last thing I want to teach to a group of men first thing in the morning. It’s probably a little bit of all of the above.
That said, I hate skipping. I’m enough of a perfectionist that it would bother me for weeks if we skipped it, so I carried on with a die-hard attitude. And after I finished my studies, had taken all my notes, and closed my journal, it occurred to me.
This is much worse than I ever thought.
I had to stop. There was so much in just the first seven verses that I stopped there. I couldn’t go on. I thought to myself, “If we do the whole chapter, we might just give up on life… after we’ve finished breakfast.” Take a look for yourself.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV)
You might be thinking, “Well, of course! You should love your wife that way!” I agree, wholeheartedly. I haven’t been perfect by any means, but this is how I desire to love my wife. But herein lies the problem. To get to the hard part, you need to ask yourself one question. Who is Paul’s intended audience? Is it just married folks? I’m afraid not.
Paul is talking to everyone in the church. What does that mean? It means that this kind of love is meant for everyone, not just your spouse, not just your children.
Think of the ramifications.
- We must be patient and kind with everyone.
- We must refrain from jealousy and pride with everyone.
- We must refrain from rudeness with everyone.
- We must stop insisting on our own way with everyone.
- We must refrain from being easily irritated and/or resentful with everyone.
- We must stop being happy about failure, stumbling, and suffering from wrong-doing with everyone.
- We must bear all things with everyone.
- We must believe for all the best things with everyone.
- We must hope for the best with everyone.
- We must endure all things with everyone.
Are you tired? I know I am. This. Is. Impossible. And yet, we’re told that this is the only expression of love that pleases the heart of God. A man can hardly accomplish this with his wife and kids for more than a short time, not even to speak of anyone else! How in the world can we ever hope to love like this?
The bad news is you can’t. You and I don’t have the love capacity to do it. But the good news is Jesus can. You’ll always hear me on repeat saying this because the Bible says it on repeat: Jesus’ desire is to live through you. The only way you can love like this, is to let Jesus do it through you.
Believer, you have the Spirit of God within and he is the key to this kind of love. Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, will elevate your ability to love people. And this isn’t the romantic love that we think of at weddings and in romantic comedies. We actually do this a huge disservice by painting it with romance. This is a gritty, mud-slang, worn out, misused, taken for granted, dirty dishes, working late hours, forgotten anniversary, forgotten birthday, never say thank you and please, hurting, crying, angry, wanting to leave, but choosing to love anyways kind of love.
And it’s how we’re supposed to love each other in the church. It really is a shame. How easily we give up and find a different congregation where we feel more “loved” when things don’t go our way. How often do we give up on people, when God is just getting started?
Shame on us. Lord, help us to embrace your brand of love.