Valentine’s Day is almost here, and the world is spritely decorated in vivid red and hot pink. Hearts are everywhere. This holiday always reminds me of a prom dress – pretty but waaaay overdone. Do away with a few of those hearts and ribbons, tone down the colors just a bit, and you’ve got a downright lovely day. I want to keep the candy hearts, though…I’m a fan.
Yet, I digress.
Every year about this time we begin to think long and hard about love. What is love and do we have what it takes to find and stay in love? We’ve all read the love chapter in 1 Corinthians, but like a lot of other hard things in the Bible, we may be tempted to toss those things overboard because, well, they’re difficult, and who is perfect, anyway?
Patient? Kind? Never fails? Yeah. No.
I’ve had the pleasure of loving one amazing man for 22 years now. He’s my favorite. I’ve always loved him. But in truth, I’ve not always loved him – according to 1 Corinthians 13, anyway. For many years, I tried. I worked. I gave it my all. But I failed. And love doesn’t fail, right?
One day I was preparing supper in our then tiny kitchen. Yellow walls beamed brightly and the sun streamed through the plentiful windows. As I chopped onions, I was lamenting a particularly frustrating moment when I had proven to my husband just how little I knew about loving him. I also began to notice how difficult it was to chop my onion.
You see, I’ve always been the stubborn sort, and I’m also quite small. It’s not natural for me to use large things well, so I had always chopped fruits and veggies using a small knife – and a dull one at that. Through the years, my husband would just shake his head at me and try, once again, to tell me that if I used my sharper but larger chef’s knife, I’d have a much easier time.
I stopped chopping and looked at the marbled brown handle of my chef’s knife glinting in the sun, just asking to be used. I put down the small knife and slid the chef’s knife from its place in the block. I started chopping my onion again. The hefty knife slid through the milky white layers like they were warm butter. Then it hit me.
I had been using the dull, useless blade of human effort to show my husband I loved him, when what I needed to do was use the sharp, effective tool of God’s unchanging love.
Every facet of love we find in 1 Corinthians 13 is a key biblical descriptor of God’s character. And as such, love doesn’t depend on us. Love IS. Love IS because God IS. And God is love (1 John 4:8).
Love IS patient. Love IS kind. Love IS selfless, humble, forgiving, rejoicing. Love IS protecting, trusting, hoping, persevering. True love doesn’t change just because I’m not acting from it. With or without my cooperation, love IS.
I don’t have to be these things under my own power. I can’t be these things under my own power. But I have a choice to make. Just as with cooking, I must choose to put down what doesn’t work and grasp what does work.
Wherever the Gospel of Christ exists, faith, hope, and love will be the fruit. One popular kids show put it this way: “Faith is the lyric, hope is the music, and God’s love is the song.” Of these, however, love is the greatest (1 Cor. 13:13). For our faith will one day become sight (2 Cor. 5:7) and our hope will be fulfilled at Christ’s return, but love will never pass away.
As Christ’s ambassadors, love for God and man is to be the motivating force for all we do. Acting in and from love does not mean we don’t confront difficult issues in our relationships with others. Instead, it means we speak truth more clearly, accurately – in love (Eph. 4:15). Indeed, loyalty to truth is the cornerstone of Christian evangelism. But truth must be inseparably linked to love. Truth is never to be sacrificed in the name of love, rather it is to be maintained in the name of love. The Good News is hardly good news if spoken harshly. God’s sacrificial love must begin in our hearts, and then spur our thoughts, motivate our words, and propel our actions.
Do you often feel as though you just can’t get this love thing right? You’re not alone. Just this week, as I was writing this piece, I was confronted yet again with an opportunity to show God’s love. I failed. Then I took a deep breath, laid my failure at the foot of the cross, and began to act in love.
Easy? No. But very possible. Ladies, we don’t have to continue to use the dull instrument of human effort. We have the sharp, supernatural sword of the Spirit, which we can wield with power and precision, to show the love of God to others.
Let’s pray for one another, shall we? I commit to holding you up in prayer; will you pray for me? This Valentine’s Day, remember this: Love IS. And it’s something we can pick up and use effectively.
In His name and for His glory, Jodi Greene