Do you remember these old cartoons by Kim Casali? A perennial favourite of starry-eyed romantics since 1970, they were for me growing up a tragic waste of very valuable comic space. I just didn’t get it (but then I suppose very few boys would admit to it even if they did!) Similarly, the “Love Is” passage from 1 Corinthians 13, another perennial favourite of love-struck couples on their marriage day was a passage I just didn’t appreciate the way I should.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not against love … and as a grown man I feel free to admit this … just the way people tend to sanitize or “cutecify” it. (If you put something in quotation marks that makes it a real word right?) I never cared much for this passage in wedding services, because I usually had the feeling that the couple was looking to it as a description of what their love was or would be like. Today I pledge that my love will be patient and so on. But is it true?
Here is a simple test to get to the real meaning of what love is. Try it yourself. Substitute the word “love” with yourself. Then read it again. I am patient and kind; I do not envy or boast; I am not arrogant or rude. I do not insist on my own way; I am not irritable or resentful; I do not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoice with the truth. I bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things.
Could you do it with a straight face? Me either. But if you still think you can, do it again, only this time in front of an audience of your closest family and friends. They will, I’m sure, gently help you see the truth of the matter. Love is … not something any of us are very good at. Love is beyond me, above me, greater than me. I am not very good at any of those things. I am downright pathetic in others. Love is not me.
So if love is not found in me, where is it found? CAN it be found? Yes, but only in Christ Jesus our Saviour! And here we get to the “heart” of what Love truly is. Love is Christ! Try this passage again, but this time substituting Christ for “love.” Christ is patient and kind; Christ does not envy or boast; He is not arrogant or rude. He does not insist on His own way; He is not irritable or resentful; He does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Christ bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Now that rings true! This passage finally begins to sound right! Christ did indeed bear all things, endure all things upon the cross of Calvary. And He did it for we the unloving, and the unlovable. Love that is sanitized is vapid and meaningless, but a love that is tested by the brokenness of this world and the weight of human sin … that is a love truly worthy! Love has no power if it is “cutecified” but it has power over life and death itself if it is crucified! Seeing it this way, through the lens of Jesus, I guess I could come to love this wonderful passage of Scripture once again!