By Laurel Robinson
The following passage is commonly quoted at weddings and associated with romantic love, but it was written by the Apostle Paul to believers in Corinth, a prestige-oriented society in which even the church members were having a hard time grasping humility:
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)
Paul is talking about the love that God has for us since He first called us into existence; the love that Christ demonstrated when he was in the flesh; the love that the Holy Spirit can put in our hearts. Agape. As an elder at our church pointed out this week, the opposite of love is not hate, but simply selfishness.
Love always trusts: does it trust in people, whom we know will at some point let us down? Does it trust in our own ability to love everyone around us well? No; it trusts in the power of the One who is Love.
Love always hopes: does it hope in the great circumstances before us, and believe that things are going to be just fine on this earth? Not especially; it hopes with faith in the promises that the Lord has made. Namely, that all shall be well when He returns; that we will be made new; that we will receive a new Heaven and a new Earth. And our sister in the Lord will also be made new, and we will share in the kingdom of God together!
Love always perseveres: Is God calling us to be tireless? Not in our own strength. He is calling us to rest on His promises. Because of the presence and the promises of God, we can persevere.
In this holiday season, there are two kinds of people: those who are energized by the parties and the giving of gifts, and those who struggle with the incongruence of external festivities versus their internal feelings.
To the first group: enjoy! And, be careful to put love first. To paraphrase Paul-- if I give the greatest gifts and host the hottest parties, but am not selflessly serving others, I am cleverly calling attention to myself, for my own glory.
To the second group: hold on to Love. Receive the love of others, no matter the “language” in which it is given. Hold on to the promises of the Lord. Advent is a time to reflect upon how the Lord fulfilled so many of His prophesies. Look back to see how faithful He has been, and draw on the well of His faithfulness, to hope and persevere all the way to the coming Kingdom.