"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but I do not have love, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophecies, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
And if I give out all my goods, and if I deliver my body that I be burned, but I do not have love, I am not profited anything.
Love has patience, is kind; love is not envious; love is not vain, is not puffed up; does not behave indecently, does not pursue its own things, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil;
does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth.
Love quietly covers all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails." 1 Corinthians 13:1-5 LITV
It is probably one of the best known verses next to the John 3:16 verse, both to believers and disbelievers alike, and it like the Beloved's verse talks about the power, grace and mercy of Love. Without it, we are nothing more than mere mindless animals. We can know no mercy for we cannot generate the potential for mercy ourselves. We cannot know grace because we would not have the capacity to understand its motivation. We cannot understand sacrifice because we would not know the powerful redemption in the denial of self for those around us. We would be nothing, know nothing, and seek no understanding in anything if we could not understand and know love.
Yet Love is as elusive as the wind it would seem in this world, a hit-or-miss strike in the darkness……and it is as illusionary as it is unseen, unrealized and untasted. We call it a feeling, an emotional response that the evolutionists in society would have us believe is merely a biological function and therefore can be as freewheeling as the mystical conception that was born in the Age of Love with Woodstock and Vietnam and flower children… Those who believe in love as a functional emotion believe that it can cross the gender lines and be something that bears relevant between the same sex, a mystical connection that knows no 'species' survival instinct.
But there are many, even within the Church today, that believe Love can only come once and if it's not perfected in the limit expanse of our limited time, it wasn't love at all but a gastric movement that we mistook for its embrace. We cripple ourselves into believing that we know love, true godly and agape love, only at the hands of our Heavenly Father….and we, as humans, will never experience such love in our lives, broken and complicated as they are.
I have written about this love before, even reflecting upon the aspects and characteristics of Love as spoken by the Apostle Paul who, once he faced his God, Creator and Savior, lived a life that rivaled the Beloved Apostle's love in such a manner that even as his life came to a brutal end after lengthy imprisonment, all he could think of is its motivational factor in his life….
Like the irreducible limits of the human form, anything and everything that bears importance in this world; relationships, family, marriage, and servant service….everything requires the cornerstone building block of love.
But love in the decayed and broken self-serving hands of humanity becomes something less motivational and desired. It isn't, like Paul writes in his Galatians epistle, one of the fruits of the Spirit unless it can be equated to a poisonous one. Love, corrupted by humans, 'hurts' as the song goes…… It becomes a darker image that it was never intended to be, a force that tears apart families and negates any positive force in this world. It's movement becomes something to fear, something to run away from and its very touch becomes acid upon the surface of our hearts.
We look at love as an alien thing, far beyond our capability and skill to create, grow and sustain in any relationship, marriage or family. We think of it as a transitory thing that one day, as that 'new' man or woman walks across our path or the repeated dysfunctional behavior of the one we 'love' becomes a grating scrape across our one remaining nerve or we grow weary of being with the 'same' person each day under the growing burdens of family, employment and life's unexpected twists and turns.
We suffer long….at least in our eyes and great, again at least by our standards. We sacrifice our own agendas to try and give balance, grace and stability to others affected by its absence. We look back upon the road traveled, with its twists and turns…. broken and abused relationships that are its rock-base and pat ourselves on our back for being 'once bitten, twice shy.' Even if we are truthful with our own responsibility in love's destruction, we look at ourselves as great and powerful survivors if we get back upon our feet and stumble forward into the next great mistake that love has become.
We envy those who seem to have it right; often discovering after the destructive implosion of the faked veneer that we were wrong….they didn't have it any more right than we did. We boast of its felt embrace and declare its existence on the highest hills only to recant in the weeks, months or years that follow when we reach that point where its pain can no longer be bore, its sorrow no longer swallowed and its absence no longer denied and we shrug it off as a case of mistaken identity.
This broken, human-limited understanding of love becomes the burdensome shadow of something that is not even close to the truth. It is thrashed out upon the threshing floors of God's kingdom and becomes not the wheat that is kept but rather the chaff that is discarded for it is nothing more than thistles that have snuck into the fields to hide among the truth.
We only have to look to Love's greatest example to understand its true form and to be broken upon its altar so that we can be the example of the undeniable glow of love's embrace.
God came to earth and took upon human form. But that is only a shadowy form, a gushy indistinguishable form of love's arrival upon the broken creation that was made for its existence and pleasure. Love didn't start there, nor did it end there but in the greatest form of its expression…..it was broken by our own lack of understanding and hidden in the mists of time from eyes that no longer wanted to see its light.
This love……was coursing through the sinew and ligaments of Christ as He stood before Pontius Pilate and dripped from His torn back, his pierced head and cobbled hands upon the stone of the courtyard. This love echoed in the words that came from His mouth….not 'puffed up' but simplistic in its understanding and declaration. Even as love took upon the weight of its own crucifixion and staggered through the streets of the city that had once declared its form King, joy echoed through its battered form because of the truth that was playing out before its eyes……..
As the sky turned dark and the agony of the Roman crucifixion ravaged the human form of Christ, love spoke kindness to a thief and assurance of its embrace after the suffering was through. Even as the light turned itself necessarily from the source of corrupted light and love cried out in the ultimate agony of abandonment, patient rang out in the declaration of its ultimate expression…..
"It is finished!"
And if we, we precious few who have walked upon this world and known what we thought was love, can look at ourselves and know that we gave the ultimate example of true love set before us in the life and sacrifice of our Savior…..we will endure evil, injury and pain without resentment or intent to gain revenge upon its destroyers…..if we know this love, we can endure with patience the slights and neglects of the focus of its light in our expression and declaration of its existence. We see it, if we know and give this love, in everything we do, know and taste and it flavors the salty brine of a broken world and the nasty bile of humanity's corruption of love.
Love bears all things ….covering the faults of another well in the public eyes of a fallen world and speaking of their existence only in private and only with the demand of compassion as its motivation……, endures all things…….takes all injuries intentional and unintentional without retaliation or avenging them because it can only express the fortitude of the firmness of its existence and bears no relation to the conditions or circumstances around it. As one commentary puts it, "What cannot a lover endure for the beloved and for his sake! How many slights and injuries will they put up with! How many hazards will he run and how many difficulties encounter!"
Love believes all things……….. as a default, even to some extreme where there is the darkness of experience to sully its lens. It believes in the stillness of its compassion every promise made, every affirmation given even if evidence of ill will makes an appearance, it stretches its faithful hope beyond reasonable limits and will only with the greatest reluctance find a bad opinion of another but will transition from expressive application of its belief into a hopeful expectation of the repentance and recovery of another.
If we, these precious few, who have felt its heavenly fire within our hearts allow it to flow from our mouths and live through our movement in the lives of all we have been given to bring its embrace to……what a lovely thing it would be that the broken, battered and disbelieving sinner would direct their gaze upon and feel its warmth diffusing throughout their shattered lives……
There would be no limit of the suffering gladly borne or slights happily endured because we have realized the greatest suffering that was borne and the happy declaration of Love's ultimate triumph in the words of our Risen Lord.
We would be marked by far more than the blood of our redemption…..we would be marked by the very reflection of inhuman love born of the Spirit left to guide us…..
A new commandment give I to you, that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another, John 13:34.
By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, John 13:35.
Today Love walked by my door and into my heart as I realized……….
Love is the reason I live and love will be the reason I die
And Love, sweet and precious love, has claimed me from the grave.
Love has set me free……..