“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.”
(1 Corinthians 13:1-7 MSG)
When I read what the Bible says about love, I am always lead to the same conclusion: love is a choice. After reading the four gospels recently, I did not come away with the idea that Jesus just fell in love with His followers because they were so wonderful and charming. As a matter of fact, many followers were only enchanted by His miracles and what they thought He could do for them. Most of the tremendous crowds that clamored to hear His teaching did nothing to love Him in return. Even His closest friends and most devoted followers continually doubted Him and failed to understand the important things He was trying to tell them. When He was betrayed by His friend Judas and arrested, all of His disciples deserted Him. Peter even denied knowing Him three times. Jesus was beaten, tortured, and brutally executed on a cross while His friends and followers looked on. Yet He loved them through it all. Not only did He love His followers, but He also loved His enemies. In His tremendous suffering on the cross, Jesus went as far as praying for them saying, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34 MSG). Jesus willingly died on the cross to save His friends from the power of sin and death and give them the opportunity for eternal life.
Everyone knows Jesus was (and still is) awesome at this whole sacrificial love idea. But He is Jesus, after all, so that is to be expected. What about the rest of us? Can we really love like that? Do we have the capacity to truly love others even when they don’t deserve it, don’t want it, or don’t accept it?
If we take a look at our world’s cultures, it’s not difficult to see that humans are doing a pretty terrible job at loving each other well. From family feuds and domestic violence to sex trafficking and international terrorism, people are clearly better and more practiced at hate than they are at love. Even within the Christian culture we can see many examples of selfish and destructive behaviors that obviously place “me” above all others, bringing grief to the heart of God. It seems to me that self-focus and general apathy toward others are the most pervasive and subtly destructive attributes of this love-lacking culture.
Marriages, which are intended to be life-long covenant relationships, are flippantly abandoned in the name of self-preservation. Nationally, somewhere around 40-50% of all marriages will end in divorce. Subsequent remarriages have an even higher rate of failure. Christian marriages tend to fail just as badly as that of other non-Christian marriages. But how can this be? How can someone who has believed in Jesus as their savior and received the gift of the Holy Spirit actually break their vows and give up on their marriage? It’s not necessarily lack of faith or wrong beliefs about God that allow this to happen. Although there are numerous reasons people cite for getting divorced, I believe they all essentially come down to one common cause: choosing not to love. I know that may seem oversimplified, but if you think about it, how many broken marriages could have been saved if both partners chose to simply love each other unconditionally? I am not saying that nagging wives, unappreciative husbands, liars, and cheaters don’t deserve to be punished and alone. They do deserve the consequences of their actions. But so do you and me. Love, as Jesus gives, does not simply return to someone what their actions deserve; a husband who really loves gives when he doesn’t receive, and a wife shows appreciation when she is not appreciated. True love holds on when all others would have already let go. My point is this: love is a choice. We must all choose love every day, in every circumstance, in every argument, in every relationship. Of course we will fail at times, but we must persevere. Those of us who are married are called to love our spouses unconditionally and forever. But we are not called to do it alone; we are given God’s Holy Spirit who fills us and empowers us to live holy lives. Love is a choice that we can really only make when we first choose to surrender ourselves to God and rely on Him to sustain us.
What are some practical ways you choose to love your spouse? To love others?
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