True Love

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“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

The apostle Paul’s definition of what true love is and does just boggles the mind. Well, mine anyway. When we look at what he says realistically, we could view this kind of love as unattainable by human efforts. But when we understand that he is speaking of God’s love, not human love, then we can see how it is possible to love like that.

In almost every marriage ceremony that I’ve ever done as a pastor, I have never failed to use this passage as part of the ceremony and I have never failed to notice that most couples, probably because of the setting, equate this type of love Paul talks about with romantic love.

I’ve watched the bride and the groom look at each other with those starry eyes of human love and passion and I know they’re probably thinking to themselves as I read the verses, “I’ll be patient with you and I’ll always be kind because you are so wonderful and I will never be self-seeking in our relationship or easily angered …. and we’ll never …. no never keep a record of wrongs toward each other. We’ll always trust each other …. and we’ll never fail each other because we have this wonderful love.”

Some of you who have been married for a while are no doubt smiling by now!

Well, those are nice thoughts but I assure you that we need all the help we can get to express this kind of love toward each other for more than five minutes, married or not! You see, the kind of love spoken here by the apostle Paul is not human love. Neither is it romantic love. It’s God’s love. It’s divine love. Then how can we satisfy the scriptural definition and command to love one another?

Well, be of good cheer, my friends. As believers in Jesus Christ we have received this kind of love through the Holy Spirit that God has given us. Here’s what Paul wrote to the Roman church about this kind of unconditional love:

“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us …. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:5, 8

Do you see what Jesus did for us when He sent us the Holy Spirit and why he can command us to “love one another” with that kind of love (John 15:12, 17)? So let’s love one another with the love that God has given us. Then we can fulfill that high calling in 1 Corinthians 13, even when our eyes are not filled with stars!

One final thought on love from Augustine: “He who is filled with love is filled with God Himself.” So be filled my friends, with the love that only comes from the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). Maranatha!

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