A Deeper Look at Love

Ok, so Corinthians provides a pretty little poem on love, but what does all of that mean anyway?  How would I apply that to my life and my relationships?  How could this help me deal with the pain inside of me?  Excellent questions!  Let’s start by breaking it down into smaller chunks so we can reflect on it better.

“Love is patient.” We understand that no one is perfect. We are all going to do things that hurt or upset others. Instead of responding in anger, we need to extend grace and give people time and space to work through what is going on within themselves. We don’t force our own agendas and time tables on them.

“Love does not envy or boast.” Life will never be fair on this side of heaven. Everyone knows this. Love says learn to be joyful where you are and not worry about where other people are. Love also does not rub its advantage or blessings in other people’s faces. (Though my experience with this boastful behavior is that it is frequently compensating for their own feelings of envy over something else.)

“Love is not arrogant or rude.” In all we do, we should treat others with respect and how we would want to be treated. How would you like to be treated? Wouldn’t you like people to be kind, to acknowledge your presence and value as a person, to include you in conversation, and not take advantage of you? We should always be nice to one another which could be as simple as extending a warm smile.

“Love does not insist on its own way.” Sometimes it is more important to take care of the needs of another than to meet our own agendas. Love takes the time to listen and understand the other side of the story. Love does not live with the mentality of “it’s all about me.” If you live life all about you, you may gain a lot of things you think you want, but your life will not be fulfilling.

“Love is not irritable or resentful.” Again, people are going to do and say things that hurt us. Love says let go of the hurt and forgive. Taking on the judgement of another and not forgiving does more damage to you than to the person who injured you. Not forgiving makes us bitter and miserable. It is a path to more sorrow.

“Love does not rejoice at wrong doing.” It is a terrible thing to take pleasure in hurting someone else. I saw this frequently in my own family. They would laugh and make fun of other people’s pain or even the pain they were causing. This is a sign of a cruel heart. If you find yourself laughing at another’s pain, I encourage you to find some quiet time and reflect on why you feel this way. You most likely have a past hurt of your own that you need to work through and overcome.

“Love rejoices with truth.” It is so important to be honest with yourself and others. We need to talk things through with our loved ones so we can understand the whole story and what is real rather than relying on the scenarios in our minds. Going through life believing you know what someone else is thinking is dangerous business. No one can do that. No really, no one can do that. And there is freedom in being ourselves. I once knew a woman who wore many different masks. She would completely change her outward personality to be who the people with here would like, or at least her perception of what they would like. She did this for so long; she eventually forgot who she really was. She lost her identity, and she was miserable. You can never know true love from others if you are living a lie. Even if they love you, they are loving the lie not you. Living life locked within yourself – hiding – is a very lonely way to live.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” Going back to my grandmother, she did not live out of love. She was one of the most dissatisfied people I have ever known. I am convinced that her and I were never close because of shame she carried. Early in my parents relationship, grandmother learned that my father was a child molester. She never shared this with my mom. Rather than extending patience and forgiveness through love, she allowed my mom to travel a road of pain as a punishment. Inevitably, I walked this road with my mom. I am not sharing this to further shame my grandmother. Our story is a vivid example of how our actions, or lack of action, without love effect more than just our original target. I understand that my grandmother had some tough challenges in her life. I choose to love her regardless of how she lived. After all, love is exactly what she needed. The last time I saw my grandmother, she was in a hospital bed dying from cancer and surrounded by her children. When she saw me, she struggled to reach out and speak to me. My aunt stopped her. To me, my grandmother’s eyes were filled with sadness and regret. I hope she could read the love and forgiveness in mine.

What Is Love Anyway?

In yesterday’s blog, The Fallen Father, we were exploring trust issues caused by broken family relationships.  Towards the end of the article, it was discussing the difficulty of trusting God, the Father, when our earthly father couldn’t be trusted.  And if you can’t trust God, how can you get to know Him.

If you want to learn who God is, the best place to go is His scripture, the Holy Bible. After all, this is His book. God-breathed text to tell all the history between Him and His people. It is also a book of instructions for better living filled with His promises. Some people would call the Bible His love letter to the world.

The verse I think succinctly describes God is 1 John 4:8 (ESV) which states “God is love.” Still how can this help you understand God if you don’t truly understand love? This may seem like an odd question especially for people who were raised in loving homes. But think about it for a moment. Do you really know what love is? In our broken world, sometimes the love we experience is much more like hate.

To explore love from God’s perspective, let’s look at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (ESV):

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 wrong doing but rejoices with truth
Love bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never ends.

Consider your life and relationships for a moment. Have you ever experienced this kind of love? Have you ever extended this kind of love to another? I imagine that it would be far easier to think of times and situations where you received or extended exactly the opposite. And I think that based on my own experiences especially before I met Jesus.

Let’s push on this a little further. If God is love, then the list above describes who God is. As you grow closer to Him, the more you will be able to see His love in your life, and the more you will see yourself loving others. And over time as you reflect back on your life, you will be able to see when He was there even though you did not know Him yet. He has been there all along waiting for you to accept His love and grace.

All people have a deep need for love within us. God understands this need, because He made us that way. And He is the only one who can truly fill our need for love.