Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, 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. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV 1984)
Every February, candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. There are several legends about the origin of Valentine’s Day. Some believe it started when Valentinus, a Roman Christian, was martyred for refusing to give up his faith in Jesus. He died on February 14, 269 A.D. Another tradition says that this man left a farewell note for the jailer’s daughter who had become his friend and signed it “From Your Valentine.” In the USA, millions of valentine cards are sent each year, making it the second largest card-sending holiday of the year.
Whatever the origins of Valentine’s Day, Christians want to imitate the Lord and love as He does.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.1
The Lord first loved us by sending Christ to save us, then He commands and enables us to love Him back and to love our neighbors as ourselves.2 God tells us and shows us His love all through the Bible. 1 Corinthians Chapter 13 gives us fourteen “Essential Factors in Love” that I want to study. I acknowledge the help of Jay Adams on this and number these for ease of discussion.
1. Jesus-like Love Is Patient
Christ was not a hot-head and did not have a short fuse. So with God’s help, we are to imitate Him and restrain our anger and frustration to put up with fellow sinners, even our husband, wife, parents, and children. Patience realizes that most people are different from us. We also understand that people grow at different paces and that most Christian development is not instant or overnight. It takes a few minutes to get married, but it takes a lifetime of flexing to build a God-honoring marriage. The same is true of any friendship or relationship.
Hymnwriter and pastor Phillips Brooks (1835–1893) was known for his gentle personality, but sometimes he still got frustrated and irritable. One day he was pacing the floor like a caged lion and a friend asked, “What’s the trouble?” Brooks answered, “The trouble is that I am in a hurry, but God is not.” I often feel that way and maybe you do too. Pastor Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471), in his book The Imitation of Christ wrote, “We are not patient if we are only willing to suffer as much as we think proper and for whom we please. Let us ask nothing from people who irritate us. But from whomever, or how much, or how often wrong is done to us, let us accept it all as from the Lord’s hand, and count it gain.” Thomas urges us to behave consistent with our trust in God’s absolute sovereignty. He also warns us not to be angry that we cannot make others live how we want, since we cannot even make ourselves live as the Lord wants.3
Golfer Tiger Woods had a five-year contract with Nike for $100 million. It was the richest endorsement deal in sports history. Tiger Woods is a head-to-toe Nike man. He wears Nike footwear, clothing, gloves, and hats. Colossians 3:12-13 says, “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Our physical clothing is not too important to God, but these Christ-like virtues are, and this list is similar to the fruit of the Holy Spirit.4 All these qualities help us practice patience in our families, in our churches, and in all our inter-actions with people. May the Spirit help us to be as patient with others as the Lord is with each of us!
How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows His blessing, even life forevermore. (Psalm 133)
2. Jesus-like Love Is Kind
Christ doesn’t reject people who are bruised and broken by the fall. He doesn’t scorn people who are weak and failing. Christ says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”5
Kindness is the opposite of cruelty and severity. It’s the opposite of harshness and thoughtlessness. Kindness is active, not passive. It means giving of ourselves generously to others, rather than having unrealistic expectations of them and then being disappointed.
In the Gospels, Jesus’ kindness was often joined with His compassion for people. He not only took action to help them, He shared in their suffering, their feelings, and their sadness. Christ cared for people who were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He had compassion on sick and blind people and healed them miraculously. Jesus had tender feelings for people who had been with Him three days without eating. He did not want to send them away hungry and was concerned that they might collapse on the way home.6 His kindness and compassion joined together and Christ went around doing good to people, because God was with Him.7 That’s true love in action.
Author Steven Covey (1932-2012) learned this lesson in a painful way. He was riding on the New York subway when a father with three unruly children entered the same train car and sat across from Covey. The kids were out of control and made a ruckus. Covey scolded the father for letting his kids disturb everyone. The father answered sadly that they were returning from his wife’s funeral. He explained that the children were usually well behaved, but they were acting out their grief. The father said that he didn’t have the energy to correct them right now. Covey felt like a jerk for pre-judging and he changed his thinking immediately. Now he felt compassion, empathy, and support for this hurting family, once he knew their larger story. He saw the situation from a different perspective, realizing their bigger issues.8
Pastor John Watson (1850-1907) said that most of us are acutely aware of our own struggles and preoccupied with our own problems. We sympathize with ourselves because we see our own difficulties clearly. So we ought to be kind to others for most of them are fighting a hard battle that we don’t know of. Watson says that when we meet someone, we ought to treat them as if they were in serious trouble and we will be right more than half the time. That is wise advice for practicing Jesus-like love with people who are not always so lovable!
Blessed be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love.
The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.
To be continued
Notes (various translations): 1 1 John 4:10, 2:2. 2 Marl 12:28-34. 3 See Romans 7:14-25. 4 See Gal 5:14-26. 5 Matt 11:28-30. 6 Matt 9:26, 14:14, 15:32, 20:34. 7 Acts 10:38. 8 Adapted from Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (1989), p. 30-31.