Thursday, June 20, 2013

Love: The More Excellent Way, Part 7

7 [Love] bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends.  1 Corinthians 13:7-8

There is a lot in these five statements, but I want to focus in on just a couple, so I'll address them a bit out of order.

Love believes all things. The word for "believes" is the same word that is used for faith in the New Testament over 200 times. True love for someone has faith in that person regardless of how many times they mess up. The world may tell you that someone is not worth it, that if you continue to believe in someone who always lets you down, you are a fool. But the love of Christ to that person through you says to always have faith in them. How many times have you sinned against God? How many times has He forgiven you?

Love hopes all things. Not only does Christ-like love always have faith in someone, it has a confident expectation that what that person says he or she will do will actually come to pass. This is easy to do with God, but what about fallible human beings, especially the ones who continue to let you down? Don't give up expecting great things from them and for them. Few things can encourage  downtrodden souls to greatness like the high expectations of those who love them.

Love bears all things and endures all things. These two were very interesting to me. The Greek words used here for 'bears' and 'endures' basically mean the same thing - to persevere in the face of hardships. But while the second one seems to be just a general word for enduring trials, the first conveys an interesting word picture of enduring trials on behalf of another. The HELPS word study says that this word literally means to cover over like a roof, or figuratively means to endure because of a shield. What I think Paul is getting at here is that love endures all things both for someone and from someone.

I heard a story recently of a married guy who was caught in some sexual sin outside of his marriage. The details are not important, but it was bad enough that even the unbelieving world still finds his actions unacceptable, though just barely. His wife chose to stand by him because of her love for him. God eventually healed him, and now he is able to share his story with other guys and encourage them that there is hope and redemption in Jesus. During the immediate fallout from his sin being discovered, his wife not only had to deal with the pain of what he did to her, she also had to endure many hateful words and attitudes from those around her because she chose to stay. Just like a shield protects the one who bears it from harm, she protected her husband from the additional pain of her leaving by enduring the attacks of those around her. That's the kind of love Paul is talking about here. That's the love of Christ.

Sometimes those you love hurt you directly, and you endure hardship from them. Sometimes those you love are under attack, maybe because of something they did or maybe for no reason at all, and you endure hardship for them in order to stand with them. Either way, this kind of love will cost you something. Will you persevere?

Love never ends. How many times do we hear the phrase "Well, I just don't love him/her any more" ? Our culture's idea of what love means is so messed up. Like many have said before, love is a choice of will, not a helpless response. Love is not something you fall in to or out of, and it is certainly not a feeling. The one thing you should know about what Paul has to say about love in these few verses is that this kind of love is only achievable by the power of the Holy Spirit. When you love someone like Paul describes here, you are loving that person with the love of Christ. The reason that real, true love never ends is that it does not find its source in finite, fallible human beings. Real love never ends because real love comes only from God.

I hope you have a little better understanding of what it really means to love someone with the same love that God gives to you. There is nothing in you worthy of the love of God. He chose to love you in spite of you. If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, that is the standard of love He has called you to.