4 Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, 5 it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints, 6 it isn’t happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth. 7 Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things.
Does this passage sound familiar? Perhaps you recognize it from the last wedding you attended, your own wedding, or the early 2000s film, A Walk to Remember? I think it’s popular for a reason– and a good one at that!
There are many ways to interpret this passage. Some consider that God is love, and interpret the passage by substituting “God” for “love”: God is patient, God is kind, God isn’t jealous, etc. Others go a step further, considering that Jesus is God: Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind. Jesus isn’t jealous, doesn’t brag, and isn’t arrogant or rude.
Too often, that’s the opposite of how I try to love people. It’s so easy for me to be cynical: overly critical and scantily hopeful. I used to think being critical was a way of being smarter than others, of understanding what they couldn’t. And if my alleged insight improves mediocre people and institutions, isn’t it a kind of love? But who do I think I am to think I can fix people or problems I know so little about? I now understand that critical spirit to be a vice more than a skill, something that impedes not only my understanding of the world, but also my love for it.
Love doesn’t seek to criticize for its own sake. It’s patient and kind. It doesn’t keep track of others’ wrongs, and hopes even for the people that seem so hopeless, and in the situations that seem so dire. Love sees people and situations the way God does, confident of their ultimate redemption. And that redemption is for all of us: God “who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job” (Philippians 1:6). God loves and is redeeming all things, always.
Loving others is an act of faith in God’s will to redeem the world. Recognizing God’s love in others reminds us of God’s presence with us today– much more encouraging than criticism!
By Kevin Vollrath
For Pondering & Prayer
Who do you know that is patient? Who do you know that is kind? Who do you know that keeps no record of complaints? Who do you know that puts up with all things, trusts in all things, endures all things?
Prayer: Loving and steadfast God, help us to see your love at work not just in our own lives, but in our neighbor, enemy, and world, too. May we honor each other as witnesses to your image, and may we celebrate your steadfast presence which endures all things. Amen.