Are you a loving person? Most of us quickly give ourselves a thumbs-up … but is God as easily convinced?
One quick way to answer this question is to look at God’s love thermometer, laid out by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Compared to the Hollywood portrayal of love on the big screen, the love to which God calls us is much different.
Let’s take a look at one of the most transparent views into our own hearts:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, 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
How many of us are still standing after this? Kneeling? Or is your head down prostrate before God in a call for forgiveness?
Rather than just superficially walking away from God’s lesson on love with the whimsical statement, “I’ve got some work to do,” let’s truly dissect our hearts piece by piece and see what’s in there.
1. Love is patient– In this quick-fix world, patience is often discredited as being synonymous with laziness, not being assertive enough or letting people walk all over you. Not according to God. How often do we snap back at those closest to us when they’re not on our timeline? Do you get angry when kept waiting or when an emotion is not reciprocated? Would you like to play a recording of your traffic-laden commute this morning? Strike one.
2. Love is kind– This is where grace and mercy come in. How did you respond to your spouse, friend or child when they frustrated you to wit’s end? Would your friends describe you as kind – or sarcastic and critical? It is easy for Christians to fall into condemnation mode rather than embrace the world with the kindness rooted in God’s love and restoration.
3. Love does not envy– Ever want to ruin the good time your friend or spouse was having after they did you wrong? Envy is jealousy on steroids and has no part in love. Jealousy is wanting something you don’t have. Envy is wanting to destroy something you don’t have. This might be viewed as a natural dimension of love in Hollywood, but God says it’s not love at all. In fact, it’s hate and a relationship wrecker. Strike three yet?
4. Love does not boast– From school through retirement, we’re expected to toot our own horns. We feel like we have to wear our resumes at reunions and business meetings. This “look what I did” mentality will tear a relationship down. God wants us in the business of building others up – not ourselves – and for good reason. It strengthens our relationships. Next time you open the door eager to proclaim your latest achievement, compliment your loved one on something you truly appreciate about them.
5. Love is not proud– Pride. It’s touted virtually everywhere as a virtue, but the only place the phrase “pride comes before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18) is heard these days seems to be in church on Sunday mornings. Not admitting you’re wrong, trying to prove we’re right instead of doing the right thing and refusing to let go of our egos puts up walls around our relationships with others and God. Humility is the ticket. Got pride? Lose it.
6. Love does not dishonor others– Ever heard gossip disguised as a prayer request? Have you bashed someone lately who doesn’t share your views? Be honest. God’s people are in the business of encouraging others, not tearing them down.
7. Love is not self-seeking– Are we living our lives to bring joy to God and others … or to ourselves? We can shroud our lives with good deeds and volunteer our time and donate money, but if it’s done for the reward we receive from it, we’re not truly acting out of love. Ouch.
8. Love is not easily angered– “I can’t believe how rude they were to show up late and not even apologize!” You might not say it, but you think it. And the list goes on. We need to be sensitive and eager to bless, not to curse … regardless of the circumstances.
9. Love keeps no records of wrongs– That means forgive and forget … perhaps the most difficult thing for Christians (or anyone else for that matter) to do. After an apology, how many times have we come back with, “Yeah, but remember …?” 70 times 7. That’s how many times Jesus says in Matthew 18:22 to forgive the offender. Is your thermometer starting to feel like dry ice yet?
10. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth– How often do we embrace bitterness and wish the worst for someone because we believe they slighted us? We are deceived by Satan and fool ourselves when we take this stance rather than following God’s Truth. Bottom line … we are not to rejoice in others’ suffering. Do you?
11. Love always protects– Protecting ourselves comes naturally, so don’t worry about that. The question is do we protect those close to us when it leaves us vulnerable or uncomfortable? And do we play dumb when we don’t? See how much those around you feel loved when you step out on a limb for them.
12. Love always trusts– From the beginning, trust has been hard. Eve didn’t trust God’s warning about the tree in the Garden of Eden. Likewise, we don’t always trust God and others to have our backs or do the right thing. Trust builds and strengthens. When we don’t trust, this breach of security will tear down the fortress of our faith and diminish our love.
13. Love always hopes– Hope is resting in the assurance of what is yet to happen. Jesus always looked to His reunification with God the Father and never took his eyes off this throughout His ministry. That’s hope, not well-wishing. Do you have hope or half-baked aspirations driving your plans, your marriage, your salvation?
14. Love always perseveres– “Alright, that’s it!” Ever say that? Others don’t deserve a second chance, but we do, right? When things go dismal, we instinctively want to bail to “protect” ourselves. Knowing our ephemeral natures, God has us take marriage vows. God even transcends “till death do us part” in his commitment to us, saying He will be with us for eternity. When we bail, we fail, so take off those running shoes.
15. Love never fails– Giving up equals failure. If God gave up on us, He would no longer love us and be considered a liar. God calls us to love with his unconditional agape love, not the humanistic phileo love we see in the movies that is as easily put out as it is ignited. If your love is short-lived, it’s not based in God.
If you’re not feeling a chill now or if you feel your mercury rising, I hope it’s because you skipped over the list above. We all have major work to do. And I’m talking quadruple heart bypass surgery.
To partake in the richness of love that God wants us to indulge in, we need to die to ourselves and seek His supernatural strength so that we can love Him and others the way we were designed to.
This article was originally posted on Beliefnet.com.