FROM THE PASTOR
February is the month of love. But a wide range of emotions and desires are commonly identified as love. These emotions can be felt toward almost anything. “I love ice cream.” “I love to be scared.” “I love to be pampered.” “I love my country.” “I love Bobbie Sue.”
It seems that each individual creates a personal definition of the essence and limits of love. Most often the word is used about strong desires and pleasures. We love what excites and delights us. So, in popular thought, to be in love is to be turned on and happy. When these positive emotions fade, we have fallen out of love. This shallow idea of love has done serious damage to many people.
The biblical concept of love is both richer and stronger than what we find on the street. The love God desires to see in his children is much more substantial and durable than the emotions commonly labeled love. This love comes from a higher source and serves a greater purpose. The scriptures have much to say about this best type of love. In this article, I would like to think about two simple statements made about love in I Corinthians 13:4. “Love is patient, love is kind.”
“Love is patient.” We have learned that there are two kinds of patience in the New Testament. This is the long-fuse kind of patience. God’s love takes a long time to blow up. It lasts a long way before it goes over the edge. The King James Bible translates the word “longsuffering”. This old-fashioned word gets to the heart of the issue. The best kind of love suffers a long time.
But, this means that the best love has something to do with suffering as much as pleasure. The truth is, when we commit our self to loving another person, we commit our self to suffering. Two wills operating in a small space guarantee a certain amount of conflict. No two people will see things exactly the same way. Differing priorities will create provocation and struggle. Real love equips us to handle these situations. It lengthens our fuse and causes it to burn slower.
Suffering from love can come in many ways. When we love someone, our expectations for that person increase. We can tolerate character flaws in the neighbor children easier than we can tolerate them in our own child. Why do we act this way? Because we love our child. Increased expectations generally lead to increased disappointments because everyone falls short in some way. There is a kernel of truth in the old country song that says, “You always hurt the one you love.” Longsuffering is very much needed in the sphere of love.
“Love is kind.” Now when we think about kindness, we tend to think of compassion. A kind person is someone with a gentle heart and sensitive feelings. Our standard English translation of this phrase is interesting since the Greek word is a very active word. It regularly means “to be useful” or “to make use of”. It was most often used in reference to tools and business transactions. Feelings are only a tiny part of its full meaning. So, I would offer the alternate translation, “Love makes itself useful”.
Now, that changes the picture a little. It doesn’t do away with compassion; it just turns it into concrete actions. Love is not just something you feel in your heart. It is something you show in your deeds. God’s kind of love proves itself useful to the one who is loved. It motivates other-centered effort. Love lifts instead of leans. Love gives instead of takes. Love serves instead of seeks to be served. This stands in stark contrast with the possessive controlling urges that are often called love. God’s kind of love stands in stark contrast with all that the world knows about love.
The bright, hot reds of passion are springing up all around us. The yearly celebration of desire has begun. When you say, “I love you,” make sure you are offering the kind of love that God desires from his children.