If you were asked, “What is love?” How would you answer?
Many people think love is a desire or a feeling and that’s why we say, “I love chocolate cake!” But really we just want to eat it! When love is degraded into mere desire it’s no wonder people “fall” in and out of love so easily.
Other people know better and define love as choosing to care for others. But very few of us would define love as the Apostle Paul does when he writes, “Love is patient…” (1 Corinthians 13:4).
Why patience? Why does Paul indicate that love begins there? We show our resistance when we joke, “Never pray for patience!” Maybe my fresh wording for patient love can help us:
Love endures and suffers long with people; it is not easily irritated or impulsive. Love moves sloooowly — it is never in a hurry and it is always willing to wait. Love sets aside time to notice other people. It takes time to thank God for the wonders of his creation all around us.
My friend Alan Fadling in An Unhurried Life makes the point that taking time — not being in a hurry — is the path of Love. Paul defines love by focusing on patience because all the other attributes of 1 Corinthians 13 love depend on patience.
If we’re in a hurry our ability to love is compromised. All the expressions of love that you can think of — listening, doing a kindness, offering a compliment, giving a gift, forgiving a sin, or praying for someone — require time. It takes time to pay attention to others and what they need and then to respond with kindness. Moving at a relaxed pace — not trying to do too much, too fast — gives our soul the space it needs to breathe in God’s Spirit. As we connect with the God who is love then we receive his blessing and power to be compassionate, kind, and generous toward others.
When I was young I was told to read 1 Corinthians 13 by putting my name in there: “Bill is patient. Bill is kind…” But I can’t do that and neither can you! That mentality generates pressure to measure up or guilt about falling short. Even if you seem to succeed for a while you’ll be relying on your self, not on God, and thus you’ll be feeding pride.
It’s Love (with a capital “L”!) that is patient and kind. So we need to first read 1 Corinthians 13 by putting the name of the Lord in there first: “God is patient with me. God is kind to me…” As God’s love lives in us through the Spirit of Christ then we will naturally be able to share his love with others (1 John 4:16, 19).
That’s Jesus’ Good News Gospel! We can grow in the grace of God. We can count on the kindness of the King. This is a much better narrative for our lives than, “Hurry up or you’ll miss out!”
Excerpted from Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke.
Receive rest with these short reflections in our Selah podcasts.