“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV).
The idea of love is about as vague today as it was when Paul wrote this. For some, it is the most powerful emotion; for others it is a source of vulnerability that is destined to hurt.
There are some who think that love is all we need to bring this world together; and there are some who think that love is a once in a lifetime thing that people need to watch for so that they do not miss their opportunity at a happily-ever-after life. We talk a lot about love in our lives, but its definition can span a broad spectrum from one person to the next.
Paul offers some insights to the Christians about what love—agape love—really is. He says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, 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” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a NIV). In light of that, how does Paul’s description of love compare with our own thoughts of it?
Is our love patient? Is it willing to look further into the future for the sake of another person? Make no mistake, trying to gain benefits from a relationship before the appropriate time is not love, it is lust.
Is our love kind? Are we kind to those we claim to love? If we belittle, demean, or otherwise break others down, then we are not practicing love, we are engaging in rage.
Does our love envy? In other words, do we want something that does not belong to us, but to another? Despising others because we think they’re living the lives we desire for ourselves is not love; that mentality is a delusion that causes us to try to destroy what others have.
Does our love boast? Do we desire for others to look upon us with envy? Acquiring things for the sake of impressing others is not love; however, it may be the most common way people try to sell themselves for the sake of social relationships.
Is our love proud? Do we think that we have gained love by our own merits? Anyone who claims to love without first knowing God and having His love poured into them is sadly mistaken.
Is our love rude? Do we act in ways that are not becoming to others? If we are engaging in practices that would be unbecoming to Jesus, then we are not practicing love.
Is our love self-seeking? Is personal gratification our primary purpose for seeking relationships? Seeking a relationship simply to keep from being lonely, or to create a as an individual, is not love, it is selfishness.
Are we easily angered or offended to the point of emotional upset when we are around others? That is not love; that is the behavior of a toddler who is upset when his binky is taken away.
Does our love keep a record of wrongs? Are we careful to remember when others mess up so that we can use it later if necessary? That is not love; that is living in fear.
Does our love delight in evil? Do we find a certain sense of justice when bad things happen to others? That is not love; that is a lust for vengeance.
True love comes only from God; it is a virtue that we must both receive and practice. Every person is called to love the Lord their God and to love their neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). Our neighbor, contrary to what some might think, is each one of the 7.3 billion people on this planet. That means that every Christian should ask themselves if they are loving their neighbor the way God demands.
Do we rejoice with the truth? Are we most excited when a person is enlightened to the reality of God and becomes one of His children just are we are? Love means desiring that others would come to know God and be built up, not torn down and punished.
Do we protect others? Are we doing everything we can to protect all of God’s creation, or are we choosing only a select few that we feel a personal connection with? Only when we desire to protect every man, woman, and child on this planet are we practicing love.
Do we trust? Do we love our neighbors enough and God enough to trust Him to love them and desire good for them as well? Only when we trust God’s will do we practice love.
Do we hope? Does our love reflect our hope in God’s promises for us and for all of His creation? Christian love not only hopes for heaven, but it desires to share that hope with everyone.
Do we persevere? Do we love in the good times, but bail when sickness, poverty, misunderstanding, political change, or any of the other millions of obstacles that can get in the way of love? Love does not quit on people because love knows that God is faithful to keep His promise and He does not delight in losing anyone.
And finally, love never fails. When we are willing to love God as He calls us to, and we are willing to do all of the hard things that are necessary to practice love, then love will shine through and create a foundation on with faith and hope and also stand. Love truly is the greatest of all.
To find out more about La Vista Church, or to hear this and other messages, visit our website at www.lavistanaz.org or email me at email@example.com. Follow Pastor Raul on Twitter @RaulGranillo007. Please come join us as we fix our eyes on Jesus. We meet Sundays at 9 a.m. for Sunday school and 10 a.m. for worship. Everyone is welcome!