In 1 Corinthians 13—the famous Love Chapter—the Apostle Paul tells us many things about what love is, what it does, and what it doesn’t do.
Most of us love our families deeply. We would do virtually anything for our spouse and children. Yet, when I compare the love I have for my family to Paul’s description of perfect love in 1 Corinthians 13, I’m reminded of how faulty my love is on a day-to-day basis.
I’m sure you can relate.
We want to love our families well, but we’re fallen, sinful creatures. Our sin nature gets in the way of loving others the way we should.
During a recent reading of that passage, my attention was drawn to one of the many positive adjectives Paul uses to describe love—one that I sometimes find myself struggling with. (Never mind which one; if you don’t struggle with this one, I know you struggle with one of your own!)
Since then, it’s come back to mind several times. I want to live up to the standard Paul describes, but the truth is, I often don’t. I fail. We all do. We’re fallen human beings and we fall short of the mark every single day.
Whenever we respond to our families with impatience, envy, pride, selfishness, unkindness, or a quick temper, we’re not acting in love. We’re missing the mark.
I was thinking about these issues recently, and it occurred to me that our families occupy a unique position in our lives. Because we love them so much, they receive the best of us. No other people in my life get the love, attention, and sacrifice my family receives.
That’s wonderful, isn’t it?
But on the flip side, because our families are so close to us and see so much of us, they also witness the worst of who we are. No one sees me in my weakest, most unloving moments the way my family does.
If you’re like me, you hate the downside of that equation. I hate it that I’ve ever said an unkind word to my wife. I hate it that I’ve ever been quick-tempered with my children.
I wish I could love my family perfectly. But the truth is, I’ll never be able to love them with the faultless love described in 1 Corinthians 13.
That, after all, is what the Love Chapter is: a portrayal of the pinnacle of godly love. As such, it’s unattainable by those of us corrupted by sin. Try as we might, we’ll never reach the summit while we’re on this earth. Only God can love that perfectly, that completely.
What I can do, however, is ask God to help me love my family (and others) better. I can look at the areas I fail to measure up and ask for His forgiveness. Then I can ask for His help, grace, and strength to love better in the future.
How about you? What areas do you struggle the most in meeting the Biblical definition of love as found in 1 Corinthians 13? Is it acting with selfishness? Are you impatient? Do you have a quick temper? One of the helpful things about this chapter is the way it can serve as a diagnostic tool in identifying our problem areas. If Paul says love is one thing and you find yourself acting with something else, you know you have room to grow!
Take those problem areas to God. Repent where needed. Sincerely ask for His help. The God who identifies so closely with love that He says He is love is waiting to help us love others more perfectly, more completely, more selflessly.
In fact, I suspect that’s a prayer He loves to answer.