Love Is Patient
"Love is patient" is how the Apostle Paul begins his description of true, genuine, godly love. There is often a great deal of confusion about what it means to love. Is love a feeling? Is love passion? Is love a decision? Is love something that happens to you? How can I love someone who doesn't love me back or even someone who hates me? Love is as mysterious and confusing today and it was in the first century when Paul wrote these words to the Christians in Corinth, "Love is patient".
It all begins with "Love is patient"
Paul begins with perhaps the most difficult aspect of love, patience. The Greek word here can be translated patient or long suffering. This is a challenge. Patience implies difficulty. Patience is not required if everything is going great and the people around you are nice and loving. Patience is not really needed in short-term, temporary difficulty. What Paul is saying is, "love hangs in there no matter how bad things get, for as long as it takes.(my paraphrase)" John Wesley in his commentary of the New Testament summed up verse four writing, "It(love), suffers all the weakness, ignorance, errors, and infirmities of the children of God; all the malice and wickedness of the children of the world: and all this, not only for a time, but to the end."1 (Now that is a long time to be patient)
It seems in the first three words of 1Corinthians 13:4 we already face an impossible task. In the face of emotionalism, eroticism, jealousy, hatred, and evil we are to be patient and long suffering... to the end. If this task seems to you to be humanly impossible you are right. Fortunately, we are not expected to love in our own strength. In fact, Paul did not say, "you are patient", he said, "love is patient". Love is not something which hits us like a lightning bolt, and love is not something we generate out of the goodness of our own heart. Love is a gift from God. Love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Some scholars suggest love is THE fruit of the Holy Spirit. Making all the other things mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23 fruit of the fruit of love. Either way love is given to us from God to give freely to those around us. The love God pours into His children, into His disciples is a love which can endure. It can endure:
- A cruel boss
- A grumpy spouse
- The guy yelling at you in rush hour traffic
- The prideful person looking down on you
- The people who mock you for your faith
- The child who strays
- Hateful people
- and on, and on.
In fact the love Paul writes about, the love God gives so we can give it away, can endure death on a Roman cross. The love Paul writes to the Corinthians about is not just a warm, fuzzy feeling or when your heart skips a beat and the sexual hormones begin to flow at the sight of that special person. No, Paul is writing about a love on which hangs the law and the prophets. It is a love with the power to tear down strongholds, cast out fear, and turn the world upside down. This love is patient and this love is available to you if you follow Jesus and are faithful to give out of the abundance of love which He has poured out on you.
My prayer for myself and for you is that we will freely give out of the overwhelming love God gives us. I pray we will love God and our neighbors with a supernatural love that is patient... to the end.
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