1 Corinthians 13; 2 Kings 7:3-20; Jonah 2
If you ask most people to describe what love is, they’d probably talk about Prince Charming and Cinderella and a match made in heaven where the two of them will live happily ever after. Or, they might talk about Beauty and the Beast where love is recognized at the last possible moment saving the life of the beast and changing everyone and everything around them. For some reason, we live in a world that has made love all about romance and forgets that love is a verb that shows itself every day between peoples of all stripes. I see love more as a war zone. People keep attacking with hatred and evil, and we battle that hatred and evil with love. People are just wrong, but we continue to love them anyway. Have no doubt about it: life is a war zone and the only weapon Christians have is love.
That idea may seem radical, but as you look at events in the world today, we seem to be at odds with everyone. Someone whose ideas are contrary to ours says something and we jump in to battle to let people know how wrong they are. I say something that I believe in and someone else who opposes that viewpoint aims their guns at me. Just as war demands that soldiers forget the humanity of those they are killing, we have lost the ability to see the humanity of those who oppose our ideas. We have lost the ability to assume good intentions on the part of others. Paul spoke of the cure to the Corinthians. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not 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.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
The problem that the Corinthian Church had is that everyone in the church seemed to think that their first responsibility was to be “right.” There is a problem with being right all the time – people like that feel like they need to be sure that others agree with them. Often, that makes them strident and they end up attacking those who don’t agree and aren’t like them. Paul’s message to the Corinthian Church in the midst of all that was to love others. Paul reminded the Corinthians that we love by being patient, not short-tempered. (That’s hard for me.) We love by being kind and gracious. And so on. Each of these statements Paul makes about love shows that we are thinking of others, not just ourselves. Love doesn’t accept every action or belief as being equal to God’s standards, but it loves all people no matter what they may say, think, or do.
Make no mistake about it: loving others doesn’t mean accepting all they do as being acceptable. There truly is evil in this world. And, since so many people disagree with me, obviously someone is wrong – whether it’s me or the other people. In the midst of that, we must choose to love others. That means we don’t worry about how many times we’ve been wronged. That means we protect the vulnerable even when we disagree with them. That means we trust people to have good intentions even when they’re wrong. That means we never lose hope for this world that God loves and keep on going no matter how many times we’ve been knocked down. Love isn’t (just) a romantic feeling. It’s a choice to care about others no matter how much they’ve hurt us. It means, acting like God would towards all people. Acting like the God who was willing to go to the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. It means imagining the best in others even when they’re at their worst. Love is a hard, difficult choice that make because God made it first.
Lord, help me to love others. Help me to love even those who are wrong, just like You loved me.