Jesus summed up all the laws and commandments by saying that we are to love God above all else and our neighbor as ourselves. Yet we know how challenging this can be sometimes, don’t we?
Most often, we love people the way we want to love them rather than the way they want or need to be loved. Truth is, we may not always have the capacity to love them as needed nor do others always have the capacity to love us as we need. This can often lead to feelings of disappointment, aloneness, even resentment. Still, our life’s work is to strive to love as unconditionally as God loves us.
In his letter to the Corinthian church, the apostle Paul presents a beautiful blueprint of what love is and is not:
Love is patient; love is kind
Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude
It does not insist on its own way;
It is not irritable or resentful
It does not rejoice in wrongdoing,
but rejoices in the truth
It bears all things believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things…
(1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NRSV)
If this is the standard by which we are to govern ourselves, it might be helpful in every circumstance to be asking:
- What does love look like here?
- Am I being patient? Am I kind?
- Am I jealous, envious, boastful, arrogant, or rude?
- Am I insisting on my own way? Am I irritable or resentful?
- Do I revel in the shortcoming of the other(s)? Can I see the real truth?
- Can I bear all things for the sake of truth and authenticity? Am I remaining hopeful; willing to endure?
For Paul, the authentic measure of a person is how he or she engages others; and he was not referring only to those we find lovable or those with whom we agree, but most especially those we find unlovable, those with whom we might vehemently disagree. Love like this requires great introspection, humility, forgiveness, and spiritual maturity.
No one ever said it would be easy, but love is certainly a more excellent way.
Grace and peace,