What a wonderful thing love is! I love it! But then I also love lasagne; and pet owners love their pets. I wonder, what is love? And have you ever wondered, what is love to you?
Is love a feeling? Those butterflies in your stomach when you met your spouse, the draw you felt toward your newborn child? Is love saying, ‘I love you’ for the first time, or for the thousandth? Is love a preference for pizza over something like celery? Is love a complete and utter acceptance of a person including their harmful and destructive habits? Is love something that can be lost? Is love God? What is love to you?
Many people today think of love as a feeling, yet Scripture speaks differently. For both the Greek and Hebrew speaking people, love is action. It’s not a feeling that comes and goes, you don’t fall out of love; rather love is something you do, it’s charity, it’s feeding, cleaning, helping, all those good things a mother does for their child. For us as Christians especially, love is an action.
And Paul reflects this throughout 1 Corinthians, all the words used to describe love are action words. Technically it’s not patient, it’s suffers long, or bears continually; it’s not kind, it’s does good for the benefit of the one loved. Love doesn’t covet, or boast, doesn’t toot its own horn. Love doesn’t act rudely, seek its own benefit, isn’t provoked to anger easily, and keeps no record of wrongs. Love doesn’t delight in unrighteousness, rather love rejoices with the truth. Love bears, trusts, hopes, and endures all things. Love is action.
It’s an action directed toward the object of love. It doesn’t mean you have to like the person or thing, or even feel like loving them; because we all know feelings come and go. Rather love is about living for the benefit of what we love. If you love eating lasagne, for example, you will suffer through burnt onions, through a quick trip to the shops for cheese, through the work of putting it all together for the sake of eating lasagne. Your love is that humble, patient, faithful work for the benefit of eating lasagne. You don’t delight in a lasagne that isn’t right, is unrighteous; rather you rejoice with the truth of the lasagne, a good lasagne is delicious! And your love is also that joyful sharing with others, both eating lasagne with them and telling others of the wonders of lasagne. Love is not a feeling, for we love even when we feel tired, sad, irritated, and often those acts of love bring us joy, like the joy of a good lasagne.
Although, now of course, Paul is not writing about the object of our love. I am a Minister of the Holy Mysteries of God, not a chef. Jesus has already taught the object of our love, first and foremost it is to be God Almighty the Creator of all, and His Creation (Matthew 22:36-40). The Holy Spirit has inspired Paul to write that without this love you are nothing. If you do not bear up under things, if you do what is harmful; if you envy, boast and puff yourself up; if you dishonour others, seek only for yourself, are easily provoked, keep records of wrongs; if you delight when you see another’s misfortune and rejoice with lies; you are nothing. You are dust, for all the other things you might hold, power, wealth, knowledge, even God’s special spiritual gifts, all these things pass away to nothing. You might desire excellence, but as Paul wrote, love is the most excellent way (1 Corinthians 12:31).
And Love never fails. And God is love (1 John 4:8). He always bears you, your failure, your sin, even your rejection of Him; remember from the cross Jesus loves, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34). He always hopes, that you will live with Him in joy, peace, and love, that when you fail you repent, turn back to be with Him again. He always endures, the hurt of those who reject Him and turn from Him, the harm done to all His Creation, and all the hardships we face together. He never fails. And when all is said and done, when Christ comes revealed in all His glory, at the end, the perfection of the world; love remains. Not my library of books, not your wealth given to those in need, not prophecies revealing a truth; all this will pass away. Yet Christ’s love for you will never pass away.
What is love? It is Jesus ever seeking what is best for you, for all His Creation; victory over sin, death and the devil; and by God’s grace it is us living together with Him.
And so the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now unto the coming perfection. Amen.
Pastor Joseph Graham.