Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. (1 Corinthians 13:4 NIV84)
For most of us love is a feeling we have about someone. We tend to measure it and describe it with emotion and feeling words. I find it interesting that in the chapter on love Paul uses few feeling words in his description of love. I am also taken back by the specificity with which he is able to describe love. Most of us in Western culture view love as an ambiguous and individualist thing. But not Paul. With clarity and decisiveness he is able to tell us what love is and what it is not. How is that? Because love is not individualistic and ambiguous. It is God! God is love! Love can be defined as clearly as God has revealed Himself to us.
In our verse for today, Paul tells us that love is patient and kind. Isn’t it interesting that the Psalmist most often describes God with phrases like “long suffering” and “loving kindness”. The Psalmist is continuously praising God for being as patient, kind, and loving as He is with humanity. So, as God is, so is love. If our love is proper, it, too, will be patient and kind. It will be full of grace, just as God is with us. So, where is patience and kindness on your love meter? Are you making love some ambiguous, emotional thing? Or is the love you have for God and others real and definable?
Notice what love is not. It isn’t boastful, envious, or prideful. All three of those descriptions are self-focused rather than other-focused. Kindness and patience are measured and lived outwardly, but pride and envy are internal. You see, love is not I-focused. It is other-focused. God’s love for us is not about Him; God’s love for us is about us. He created, redeemed and seeks to transform us into His image. Our love cannot be inward-focused but must be other-focused because that is how God has wired us.
It is my prayer today that we all take a serious look at our definition and description of love. We need to pull it back from the realms of just being about how we feel to being about who we are because of who God is.