Recently, while reading through the famous love chapter in Corinthians, I realized that, because of the familiarity of the words, they were simply washing over me without meaning. I decided to take each verse and think about what it would look like for me to live out the words. What follows is the result of those reflections. It is not meant to be a paraphrase or even a commentary; it is a personal reaction and something God is challenging me with. I had a chance to share these ideas at our field conference, and many asked me for my notes afterwards, so I decided to post it here. I hope that these ideas challenge you to think about what love means in your own life.
This is how important love is:
If I could speak Nahuatl perfectly and could rattle off 24 syllable verbs without missing a beat and spit out tongue twisters like “tishkitskiliski” and could impress my language helper with my quick mind and good ear, but don’t love her, then I sound like someone smacking their gum or running their fingers down the chalkboard. It would be better if I shut up.
If I had the kind of insight that comes from God and could understand the profound mysteries of the faith, and didn’t have love, then that impressive wisdom counts for nothing.
If I had enough faith to tell the people of Las Moras that God is the one who sends the rain, during the worst drought in years, and if I were bold enough to tell the woman whose hand I’m holding—who I’m pretty sure is going to die—that God is able to heal her…if my faith were that impressive, but I didn’t love the one whose hand I was holding that makes my words worth zero. That makes me nothing.
If I were generous enough to give the loaf of bread I just pulled out of the oven to some kids who came to visit, but didn’t love them as I passed out slices, that’s worthless. Or, even harder still, if I were generous enough to give five hours of my time to help my neighbor enjarre her house, but didn’t love her as I worked, then I’m no better off that if I had shut the door in her face or hoarded up my stuff in silos like the rich man.
If I had no thought for myself, and were willing die a truck accident on the side of a mountain road, or a shower of balazos from a drunk guy near our house, or a narco transaction gone wrong…all for the sake of the gospel, but don’t love the people needing the gospel, then my death would be pointless.
That’s how important love is. Now, let me give you some examples of what love is like:
Love is happy to see the fourth visitor at the gate, even before coffee. Love is happy to see the seventh visitor, who came right during lunch. And the seventeenth, who came right during dinner. Love certainly would not huff in exasperation at the same person coming back three times in a row, each time forgetting one little favor to ask. After all, love is patient.
Love doesn’t laugh inwardly at people who are socially awkward and love certainly does not make jokes about them to their friends. Love is not a jerk. Love is kind.
Love isn’t envious when co-workers have better support, or cooler toys, or more interested churches. It isn’t petty enough to be upset when someone tested higher on a language evaluation. Love remembers that we are all siblings and that their victories are a victory for my family. Love is not jealous.
Love does not have a high opinion of itself. It does not consider any job beneath it, not even dishes. Love doesn’t allow me to consider myself so indispensable to the team that I would worry about how they would carry on without me. If I think I am necessary, then I do not understand the source of my strength. Love would never act that way, because love is not arrogant and it does not brag.
Love doesn’t let sarcasm take cheap shots. It doesn’t vent about co-workers to others. It does not roll their eyes at their mom, even as a grown up child. After all, these things are not flattering to those who bear the name of Christ. And love is not unbecoming.
Love doesn’t stress out about whether it got to do what it wanted on the internet before everyone else used up the daily limit. It certainly wouldn’t be so self-focused as that. It does not try to impress people (not even supporters) or manipulate circumstances in its own favor. No, love does not seek its own.
Love doesn’t care if it took out the trash the last ten times in a row. It does it the eleventh time happily. Love doesn’t notice that it is always the one who asks for forgiveness in a relationship and wonder why the other person never feels the need. Love knows that those mental tally sheets are the death of fellowship. It is impossible to get a rise out of love, because love is not provoked.
Love assumes the best of their co-workers’ comments. And even if that co-worker DID mean that comment negatively, it doesn’t matter, because love doesn’t keep track of those things. Love doesn’t take into account a wrong suffered.
Love does not make crude jokes or unsavory comments. It takes no pleasure in gossip, even the gossip sometimes labeled as prayer requests. Love cannot enjoy hearing that because love does not rejoice in unrighteousness.
Love doesn’t get annoyed when criticized. It appreciates the wounds of a friend, no matter how difficult it is to hear, because love always celebrates the truth.
Love does not give itself the luxury of pet peeves. It reacts calmly when my god-daughter asks me for the fifth favor in as many days. Love bears everything.
Love submits calmly in all circumstances, because it trusts that everything from the hand of God is good. Love believes.
Love doesn’t know any lost causes. In fact, it has confidence that even Pancha, the hardest, most stubborn, most manipulative person in Las Moras will get saved. And love certainly doesn’t forget to pray for her, expecting to welcome her soon into the Family. Love hopes.
Love is OK with being sick, even for a long time. It certainly doesn’t throw a fit when feeling not-as-strong, and not-as-smart, and not-as-able. It remembers that the Source is strong, and whole, and wise, and powerfully able. Love endures everything.
This sums up the amazing thing about love: it will last forever. See, the other good gifts that God has given us here on earth to serve him and glorify him will someday be pointless. There will be no reason to prophecy, for the future will have come to pass. There will be no need for knowledge, or at least for the knowledge we have now, because it’s only partial and it will get replaced with a more perfect kind of understanding.
Think of how it was when we were children. We had our wants and our thoughts and our immature conversations, but when we grew up, we set all those things aside. That’s how it will be when we are living full time with the father. The things we thought we saw clearly will look completely different. The things we thought we knew will be understood differently. In fact, we ourselves will know the joy of finally being understood fully for the first time.
So here’s an example of how the future will affect three good things: faith, hope, and love. Faith will be pointless, because the things we were trusting without seeing will be completely and undeniably laid out before our eyes. Hope will be unnecessary, because the things we longed for and expected to happen will actually happen. But love, love will remain. It will be a different kind of love than we’ve ever known, because it won’t be bogged down by all the sin, selfishness, and other trash that tarnishes it here, but it won’t end. It won’t fail. It won’t disappoint. Love is eternal. Love is necessary in every gift and talent, in fact, it is the part of what we do that changes the wood, hay, and stubble of “works” into the gold of true service.