A few days ago Kristi and I were walking along Salt Creek Beach in Dana Point, CA, holding hands, listening to the ocean waves, and breathing in the fresh air on a sunny, cool evening. I asked her to recite 1 Corinthians 13, which she’s memorized.
“If I speak in the tongues of people and of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a tinkling cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but do not have love I gain nothing.
“Love is patient, love is kind…” (1 Corinthians 13:1-4, NIV)
Get Free of Pressure and Guilt
Kristi shared the rest of the passage and then we were quiet. In the silence I thought about how for so many years I made the mistake of putting my name in 1 Corinthians 13: “Bill is patient, Bill is kind…” Bill should be more patient! Bill should be more kind! That’s a lot of pressure! And guilt!
It wasn’t very helpful! I’ve learned a better way. So as we were walking I thanked God that the Word says, “Love is patient, love is kind.” I thanked God that Love, the Spirit of Christ, lives inside me! I prayed for the attributes of Love to permeate my whole being and to be more fully released from me to the people around me.
Personalized Meditations on 1 Corinthians 13 Love
Then Kristi shared with me the fruit of her meditation on 1 Corinthians 13: “I need to apply Paul’s words about love to my thinking patterns. Here’s what I’m meditating on: ‘If I have the perfect body of a twenty-year old woman but do not have love, I am nothing. If all my children make great decisions and are wonderfully blessed by God but I do not have love, I gain nothing.'”
That got me thinking. Later I shared with her my application of Paul’s teaching on love: “If I complete my To Do List today but do not have love I have not completed anything. If I win a marathon race to the cheering of the crowds, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I write with amazing insight and eloquence that inspires thousands of people, but do not have love I gain nothing.”
Get in the Flow of Real Love
Our culture gives us false messages about love. Pop songs and movies usually present love as desire. Well-intentioned Bible teachers may tell us “Love is an action” and leave us feeling guilty or pressured. What does it mean to love? If love is not desire or action what is it? To love is to will good for others.
You may wonder how I’m differentiating desire and will. By “desire” I mean emotions or wants; selfish desire. By “will” I mean choice, thoughtful and heartfelt decision; holy desires. To be clear desires/emotions/wants are not bad, they’re natural and neutral — they just need to be submitted to God and infused with his love. (In James 1:13-15 and 4:1-4 we read about the problem of our desires conflicting until we learn to be governed by friendship with God.)
God chooses to love us and we can choose to receive his love and share it with others. God’s love changes our desires and our actions by changing our heart, the spirit within us that makes choices. The way to love is like breathing in and out the waves of the ocean.
Thank you Father for your great love to us in Jesus Christ and that the Holy Spirit that unites Father and Son unites us, person-to-person, with you in your love that always wills good for us. Oh, Love of God, flow in us and through us to each person we encounter today. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.