We have officially reached the last week of February and love is in the air! Well…it’s about to be anyway because this week’s focus is all about loving others. Now that we have a better understanding of how to love God and ourselves well, it’s time to focus our love outward and fulfill the final part of the greatest commandment— loving our neighbor as ourselves.
In order to do this, we first need to know what love is/looks like. So what is love? You could probably ask 100 different people this question and get 100 different answers. However, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 gives us a perfect biblical definition of true love.
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” - 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT
When seeking to live out this definition of true love, it is important for us to dig deep and truly understand what each of these characteristics of love means.
What does it mean to be kind? Does that mean just being nice to everyone? No, being kind means sometimes saying things to others that don’t sound “nice”. For example speaking a hard truth to someone in order to provide correction. We do this out of love. We do this because we see someone engaging in something harmful and because we love them, we must say something that they may not want to hear, something that may not sound “nice” because that is what will actually help. To be dismissive or placate the person’s feelings in that instance would actually be unkind and not a demonstration of true love.
Love is not jealous, boastful, or proud. This means walking in humility. Not boasting or thinking of ourselves as better than others., but rather recognizing and appreciating the strengths and weaknesses that every individual has. Understanding that we are all unique but no one person is “better” than another. This also means not being jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Sometimes it’s difficult to rejoice when someone else gets a blessing that we ourselves have been hoping and praying for. However, it is helpful to understand that our God is a limitless God. Just because someone else gets a blessing, it doesn’t mean that you can’t also be blessed. Understanding just how much God loves us and that He does not withhold His best from us (even if His best is not what we think is best) can help us to better be able to rejoice in the blessings of others while still standing in faith for our own.
Love does not rejoice in injustice or when bad things happen to others. It does not bring in shame or disrespect to others or selfishly seek its own honor, but rather rejoices when truth wins out. It is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. This may look like responding in love and kindness to someone who is rude or unkind to you and by doing so, showing them the truth of the love and character of Christ. It means choosing to believe the best about others and aiming to see them the way Jesus sees them. Others seeing the character of Christ in us when we repspnod this way is a way that truth wins out and we can rejoice in that regardless of how they respond.
Love is patient. Love never gives up on others, never loses faith, stays hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Whew, this is a hard one to live out! This means being patient and long-suffering with others when they are hard to love. When we don’t see progress or see them repeating the same mistakes over and over again, we don’t give up. We choose to love them like Jesus loves us— shortcomings and all. This doesn’t mean we can’t establish boundaries or that we allow people to continuously mistreat us. Rather, we continue to pray for them, speak truth to them, and stand in faith for them believing that our God can do the impossible.
So this week, I encourage you to spend some time studying 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and study what love looks like. Identify and write down areas where you are currently walking in love. Also identify and write down which characteristics of love you are struggling to walk out. Lastly, identify one step you can take this week toward improving one of those characteristics of love you are struggling with.