Last week while writing in my journal, it occurred to me — what with all hearts and red ink I was using to decorate its pages and with Valentine’s Day imminent — that it might be a good time to focus on “love” for a few days.
I started out asking, “What is love, really?” And was nudged to start with the traditional “love passage” in 1 Corinthians 13.
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant.” 1 Corinthians 13:4
Only one verse and already five characteristics.
My first thought about them was that since God is love, all these characteristics describe Him. He is patient, kind, never jealous (what a concept!), and is not arrogant. On the bragging… well, maybe… but then He’s God, so it’s not really bragging, just a statement of fact.
Moreover, “we love because He first loved us.” 1 Jn 4:19
The first and most obvious interpretation of “first loved us” is that He set aside the privileges and independent use of His deity to take on the form of a man and live among us entirely without sin, ultimately going to the cross as a substitute for us all, the perfect sacrificial lamb on our behalf so that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Jn 3:16b
But how about looking at it another way? How about considering the fact that these qualities of love are being directed toward us byGod Himself?
He is patient toward us who have believed in Him. He knows my frame, knows how very weak I am, knows my circumstances in every detail. He knows how stupid I am, how headstrong, how very often I blow it. And yet… every day, He’s still here, still with me, still loving me, still providing for me, blessing me, gracing me out, ever day. The same is true for you, as well, if you have believed in His son.
I have always approached this love chapter in terms of me finding out how to love other people, and trying to be patient, kind, etc. with them as a way of doing that. But that makes it mostly about me, trying to be loving.
What if, instead, we start with God again? We love Him, because He first loved us, yes, but we have to know that He loved us. Key to loving Him then, is knowing Him.
Knowing He is always right, and never lies, that He is all powerful and loves me beyond my ability to comprehend, that He has a perfect plan for me, that He always does what is best and gave His son for me when I was still His enemy, and that my times, my days, are in His hands, and knowing all that… well, how can I not love Him?
Knowing that He has promised never to forsake me, to work all things in my life for good, that nothing in it is an accident, nor out of His control, nor even out of His mind. Out of His mind in that He wasn’t paying attention or didn’t realize that would happen; no, He not only realized it would happen, but also everything else that could have happened and chose that particular event as the best possible thing to happen at that time in my life). And provided for that happening in every regard as would be consistent with His overall plan
So knowing all that, how can I be impatient with things that happen in my life? His timing in all things is perfect. That traffic light that delays me might be there to keep me out of an accident at the next intersection. Or it might just be training me to relax over the small things in life, because He’s got the big ones covered so why do I have to hurry and rush about all the time?
Jesus was never in a hurry. Why should I be?
Knowing that He loves all men and gave His son to die for them, and that He especially loves His children, those who have believed in Christ, those who have been declared perfectly righteous in His sight forever at the moment of salvation… that knowledge changes one’s perspective, too. He knows exactly what’s going on in their lives, just as he does in mine — all their failings and faults and faux pas… just as he knows mine. And he’s allowed theirs just as He allows mine. Yes, it grieves Him when they go off on their own, “following a plan but not His.” It grieves Him when I do the same.
And for me to say of another, “Oh that’s AWFUL! How could they do such a thing?!” is certainly NOT love. We think the part of us that says/thinks those things is good. It’s not. In fact, it’s the part of us that Jesus went to the cross for.
He’s patient with them and with me. How can I not also be? Patient with God as He opens and closes doors in my life, even when He holds them closed for what I consider to be a long time. Patient with others when they do not act as I think they ought. Patient with loved ones, friends, neighbors, patient with Quigley, with people in traffic… I am not the queen in charge of all, to whom everyone must defer, after all.
I think one way of looking at patience is of being at rest. Not having to make snap judgments or give quick, off the cuff responses, but taking a breath and giving a slow, considered answer (or maybe none at all), willing to wait in whatever circumstance without agitation or expectation, knowing God is there and has His hand on it all.
It’s interesting how the five qualities mentioned above go together, interlock with one another. In loving God because of who He is, you slow down, you stop demanding, enter His rest and are “patient.” When you are patient with people or self, you are also kinder to both. When you are patient with God’s timing in providing blessing, knowing that timing is the best, you are less inclined to jealousy. When you are patient with people, knowing none of us is perfect, all of us are fallen and struggling because of it, and the only good thing in any of us is courtesy of the grace of God, then you are not so likely to brag, or be arrogant…
And the more you have your eyes on God, the more, you will manifest His love because… how can you not? We love Him because He first loved us, but we also love Him because we have come to know Him through His word.