Best of 2016: "Living the Fruit of the Spirit": Love

Love’s in need of love today.”-Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder wrote the lyrics to the song “Love’s In Need of Love” 40 years ago, but they are still relevant today. If love really is in need of love then where do we stand when it comes to our need to love and be loved?

I’m a sucker for a good romance movie. Check out my DVD collection and you will find films like Love Jones, Love and Basketball, The Best Man, and everyone’s favorite, The Notebook. Though the characters vary, the construct of the stories remain the same—girl meets boy, they like each other, become a couple and then become intimate, experience conflict that separates them, live some time apart before realizing they love one another, make up, and get married. This is the "feel love" journey we’ve been taught to seek for ourselves, and this type of self-fulfilling love totally misses the God point that love is something we’re supposed to be doing not feeling.

The four most well-known meanings for the word love in the Greek language are a reflection of how we love every day. Agape is the noblest love in the Greek language, and is a reflection of God’s love for us. It is the love we are supposed to express for everyone from the homeless person standing at the median outside the grocery store to the colleague that tries to sabotage you at the office. Phileo is “brotherly love”, the loving care and concern you express specifically for your friends.  Storge is the unconditional love of family, especially the love a parent has for a child. Eros is the love that is reflected in those romance movies. It’s the physical love shown through sensual and sexual contact. This is the expression of love that many of us are looking for when we meet someone, and it is the type of love upon which we expect to express with our mates for a lifetime. Many of us get caught up right here, and never truly experience what truly loving and being loved is all about.

I Corinthians 13:4-8 is one of the most direct statements about what love really is. The scripture states, “love is patient and kind. It does not envy, it does not boast; it is not proud. It is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered. It does not keep any record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” This scripture is God’s roadmap for what loving someone really means and how He wants us to transition from feeling love to living, doing and being, love. Let’s take a closer look.

1 Corinthians 13:4 “Love is patient, love is kind”: My five-year-old daughter likes to talk...a lot. And when she does talk, she wants all of us to stop what we’re doing in order pay close attention to what she has to say. One morning I was in a hurry trying to pack her lunch, tie her shoes, and make sure she’d eaten her breakfast so I could get her to school on time. Everything was working according to plan until Adia insisted on telling me a very long story about something that happened at school the day before. I was not in the mood and interrupted her to bark orders about getting her coat on so we could walk out the door. The room grew silent for a moment before my daughter started to cry.

Love means being patient AND kind even when you’ve overslept, you’re late for work, and your daughter wants you to stop everything to listen to what she has to say. Getting exasperated, losing your temper, and saying harsh words are not part of the love equation. Loving with patience and kindness is not always easy, but, though prayer, the Lord will strengthen you in this area. Remember, with God all thing are possible (Matthew 19:26).

1 Corinthians 13:4 “[Love] does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud”: The root of envy is fear that who you are and what you have to offer is not enough. Arrogance is rooted in pride and refuses counsel because the person displaying this behavior believes their rights override everyone else’s. True expressions of love do not coexist when envy and arrogance are in the relationship. Those two entities eliminate the opportunity for compromise and forgiveness, self-acceptance and repentance, which are essential to create a loving relationship.

1 Corinthians 13:5 “[Love] is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs”: Let’s be honest. In relationships, we experience seasons where we fall into what Joyce Meyer calls the “what about me?” zone, and we get angry when things don’t go our way. In last week’s post on Longsuffering, I shared how my husband’s father passed away 10 days after our second child was born. I did not share how selfish and angry I became because I believed my husband was not attentive to my needs as a mom for the second time. On some level I understood that he was grieving, but that did not stop me from having adult temper tantrums by demanding that he be present enough to help me with our two-year-old and newborn sons, and I spent a lot of time reminding him how distant I believed he had become.

I look back now and cringe at how selfish I was, and thank God for showing me the root of my anger (transitioning from one to multiple children, suffering from post-partum depression, and dealing with my own grief about losing my father-in-law), and placing people in my life who were able to pray us through that time in our marriage. Their prayers for God’s intervention allowed the Lord to “uproot all of the bitterness, anger and wrath” I felt in order for me to love my husband through his grief with understanding and compassion (Ephesians 4:31).

1 Corinthians 13:6 “[Love] does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth”: Sibling rivalry is real, and my kids have become experts at it. Our son Amani is the middle child who does whatever he can to demand our attention, while our eldest son, Sakari, is the quiet one whose negative behavior used to go unnoticed. This all changed when my husband and I witnessed how often Sakari would delight in doing things to provoke Amani just to see him get in trouble. 

Love does not delight when we do things to provoke others, including manipulating situations to make ourselves look good in the eyes of God. Others may be fooled, but He knows our hearts, our motives, and when our actions are calculated and insincere. If this sounds like you, then understand that you have a love problem. Pray for God to help you see your worth through his eyes. You don't need to make others small to be loved by God. He created you, he knows you, he loves you, and His perfect will will be done in your life.   

1 Corinthians 13:7-8 “[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails”: This is my favorite verse of this scripture because it exemplifies the love that God showers on us. Read it again:  [Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails”. God’s love for us is everlasting, and there is absolutely nothing we can do to rid ourselves of it. Who would want to live outside the circle of God’s love anyway?

God loved us enough to bear the pain of persecution, be beaten and ridiculed by those he helped and healed, and endured the crucifixion in order to fulfill the prophecy so that his death and resurrection would yield freedom for you and me. Now that is true love and “neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creations, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).