“If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient. Love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
~First Corinthians 13.1-8, NRSV
Often referred to as “The Love Chapter,” Paul’s words to the church at Corinth are heard most often at weddings, a time when loving someone seems natural and possible always. Love is in full bloom, sweet and aromatic. It is on display and we want the world to know that we have found it for ourselves. Many of us pay thousands of dollars and invite hundreds of guests to share this love extravagantly and without apology. It is a love that is deserving, worthy of all that we have, a love that everyone we know should be aware of.
Upon hearing our tale of romance, we might be described as “love struck” and if persons encountered us with our husband or wife in some public place, they might say that we are “lovebirds.” So, what happens to love after the honeymoon? Why is there now a fifty percent chance that this love will not last? Where does this love go? Why does it sometimes fail us?
I believe that it is because we are not committed to love– at least not in the way that Paul describes it. Love is not just this thick, sticky, syrupy sweet spread that seems to go with everything and make everything feel good but love makes demands of us. Love is not just physical in expression but requires a discipline that addresses our mental, spiritual and emotional immaturity. Love is more than words or actions. Love is an attitude; it is a mindset.
Our speech will betray us as this love has a certain sound and persons can tell when we do not have it. If we harbor prejudice, our words will be off- key. If we believe in racism, there will be a dissonance. It is not just spoken only certain persons or used to express our commitment to particular cultural groups. It is not just for “us” and not for “them.” This love is a primary language that should be spoken to everyone. And though we are not fluent in it, we recognize it when we hear it.
This love is not an appearance, heard in declarations of fidelity, identified by the number of red roses delivered on special days. It’s more than the purchase of stuffed animals though they are cute or boxes of assorted chocolate though they are delicious. It’s not found in lofty ideas or grand speeches, not captured in the pages of books or the stanzas of poems. No, this love is God’s love and it’s model is Christ.
It is an enduring love, a kind love, a humble love. Racism will not allow us to love this way. It is a contented love, a satisfied love, a polite love. Our prejudices keep us from this love. It is a truthful love, a hopeful love, a faithful love. Our stereotypes will get in the way of this love. If we want to love like Christ, we will have to rid ourselves of each of them. If we do not possess this love then we have nothing at all.
I am committed to this discipline to love no matter the cost. I want to bear all things– the hatred, judgment, anger, bitterness, resentment, pain, unforgiveness and vulnerability. I want to love others like God loves me. This love, His love never ends. It never fails and it certainly has never failed me. God is committed to love and to loving us.