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Reality Check

1 Corinthians 13 is widely known as the love chapter, and portions of it are read at most weddings. Certainly, if husband and wife were to practice these words, the current divorce rate in our country would not be 50-55%. Paul did not pen these words exclusively for marriages, but so many of us are so familiar with this application, that we fail to receive them as instructional for each of us, every day.

Paul’s description of love basically breaks down into the following:

Love is/does

Love is/does not

Patient Envy
Kind Boast
Keeps no record of wrongs Prideful
Rejoices with the truth Rude
Protects Self-seeking
Trusts Easily angered
Hopes Delighted by evil
Perseveres Fail

When we add scripture from 1 John 4:8, “God is Love,” and replace the word “Love” in the headers with God’s name, we start to get an extraordinary picture of God’s Character. Multiple scriptures regarding God’s unchanging Nature confront us with the fact that He has been this way from the beginning, and has never operated outside these parameters. The passage of time has merely made them more poignant, culminating in His ultimate expression of Love, Jesus, to remove the barrier of sin between Him and us.

Personal sin becomes very easy to spot when we insert our names in the place of “Love.” The terribly convicting part for me is that the list of what love does, is not what I do, while the list of what love does not do, tends to be what I do. Not only so, but when I am in the midst of it, I feel very justified in my position/actions. These lists contain no quid-pro-quo. I have no excuses. The entire passage of 1 John 4:8 reads, “Whoever does not love, does not know God, because God is love.” In light of the revelation before me, I have no room to criticize anyone for anything – no room to judge the motives or actions of anyone else. I’m guilty.

Paul did not give us this list to condemn us, but to enlighten us. We first need to get real with ourselves about our failings. The next step is equally vital: recognizing we are not able to change our thoughts and behaviors over the long-haul without a miracle from God. This place of abject need highlights our need for a Savior, and crystalizes the Love of Jesus that dared to cover something so ugly. As the recipients of something so beautiful and so undeserving – forgiveness and absolution — how can we NOT love Jesus in return?

Loving Jesus every day should change us every day as we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:8) The above list now becomes a check list: where has there been improvement, and what areas need more work? The good news is that the work is His, not ours. We have the extraordinary opportunity to choose to cooperate with Him in becoming more loving – more like Him. “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)