Loving Others: The Ideal vs What's Real

We have all heard 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Likely, we’ve heard it in sermons, or quoted by a friend, or read on a coffee mug your grandma has from Cracker Barrel. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not seek to dishonor others, 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.” I think sometimes, because we have seen it so much, this verse can become less revolutionary in our minds than it actually is. But in my junior year of undergrad, I realized that I had never truly understood love— and from that, understood God— because I didn’t fully take this verse as fact. It was always an ideal, and I didn’t realize what it meant for me that it is true. I didn’t even realize which parts I was disbelieving and struggling with, because love has come to symbolize so many levels of attraction and affection other than this simple, powerful definition.

“Love is patient, love is kind.”

When I think of patience, I think of forgiveness and waiting, and having hope that the best is yet to come. The idea of love being patient has always made me think of me being patient with another person, but what I’m also realizing is love is patient to grow in our lives. There can be so much pressure to date someone or have a best friend or perhaps a group of friends that we wish we could rush the process. However, the idea of love being patient gives me hope, because it’s like God is saying, “love is patient… so it is growing.”

“It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”

I think we have all been in the place where we have felt jealous of friends getting close to one another, or of another person receiving more affection than you. I get anxious every time we make Valentine’s or Christmas cards because I always feel like I won’t get many, and that will somehow mean I am doing something wrong. Loving others without involving envy feels like a release from that temptation to compare, and to not be grateful for the Valentine’s you do receive, for example. Love is inclusive; it seeks to recognize your part of something greater than you, rather than envying because of your lack or boasting and then emphasizing another’s lack.

“It does not seek to dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

Loving others sometimes can feel so… transactional. You may build up all of these good things you’ve done in a relationship, only to hurt their feelings and feel like the scale has completely tipped the other way. Or maybe you have had a family member who seems to treat love as a genuine transaction— you spend time with me, for example, and I will give you more presents, words of affirmation, and maybe even money. It’s heavy and heartbreaking. It’s tough to think I have to earn the love of the people around me, to fear that they are angry with me, and to worry that they remember every wrong thing I’ve done. Or, on the other side, it’s tough when you feel like you remember every wrong thing another person has done against you. 

It is life-changing to think of God being love and realizing that He does not seek to dishonor us, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs. I think sometimes, whether we realize it or not, God’s anger towards injustice and evil in scripture can be misinterpreted in our hearts as Him being angry at us. But if God keeps no record of wrongs, then maybe we do not have to either. Maybe there is a difference between remembering hurt and processing it, and keeping a record against another person as if it is a debt they have to repay.

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”

As we love others, and talk about having no records of wrongs, it makes me feel so encouraged that God also seeks to protect our hearts and our boundaries. We do not have to pretend evil is okay, or rude actions, anger, and mistreatment is okay. In fact— love itself and God Himself does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. To me, that says loving others involves accountability and communication and honesty. It involves respect. 

“It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. God always protects you, always trusts you, always hopes for you, and always perseveres for you. This is emboldening to think the same Spirit who lives inside of us is the God that gives us the strength to raise our hopes again, persevere again, and trust again. We get to love others with the freedom of knowing that our love for them will prevail, despite it being hard to protect, trust, hope, and persevere on our own.

“Love never fails.”

Finally, one of the best parts of loving others is the hope and promise that there are also others loving you. And as God never fails, love will never fail. It is the joy, strength, and inheritance we have as His sons and daughters. 

This doesn’t mean our relationships won’t fail, or our dating relationships will all last forever, but that we get to hope that loving others and being loved in return is something that we can trust in. It won’t fail, and it’s worth it. 

I pray as you love others, you are reminded of God being love and feel inspired that you have the power, through Him, to be patient, kind, satisfied, humble, honoring, selfless, calm, forgiving, respectful, and hopeful, too.

Author | Madison McManners





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