Love Even When It’s Hard To – 3/01/2018

1 Corinthians 13:4-5

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.

 Imagine your child in crisis, and everything in you wants to help, but instead you hear, “I hate you! You are the reason I want to kill myself! I have always hated you!”  But you love.

 Or how about, after decades of devotion to the one you thought you would be with forever, hearing, “We are different people now. You are not who I want.” Still you love.

 An elderly woman no longer recognizes the man who spent a lifetime loving her, nor the children she had lovingly raised. In fact, she is downright ornery, mean, and keeps doing things that are unsafe, exhausting, and stressful to her caregivers, until they leave.  Except for a select few. They love.

 Why do people in these situations continue to love? Because Christ compels us to love and shows us how to love because of who He is. God is the purest love, agape love, which is unconditional love.

 Is it easy? No, never. Are our efforts always successful in trying to love like Jesus? I know mine definitely are not.  But there lies the rub – would my reflection of God’s love feel different if I let go of the ‘trying’ and focused instead on the ‘being’? When we look to God’s love, agape love, unchanging, deeply abiding love, we become most like Him.

 I love the story of the Prodigal Son because God illustrates true love through the father who never gave up hope, and did not seek retaliation based on anger, shame or pride.  I can’t fathom the hurt, disappointment, and anger the father must have felt when his second son callously asked for his inheritance (while his father was still alive!), just to squander it on careless, rebellious living.  That rejection must have been overwhelming! Yet, over time, true agape love conquered every iniquity that separated the two.  The long-suffering father never gave up hope, never lost faith, and greatly humbled himself to the indignity of running – yes, running! – to embrace his wayward son. You see, Jewish men in long robes did not run back then.

 Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Those three words – faith, hope, and love – work together. The word ‘love’ in this verse refers to agape love, which has more judgment and deliberate choice than emotional love—philein. Agape love, God’s love, is much more powerful because it never gives up even if a relationship is troubled; it never gives up trying to reconcile. Hope, a theological concept, is an element all Christians possess as part of their character.  Agape love is always accompanied by hope. Agape love never loses faith.  Agape love, God’s love, is much more powerful because it never gives up even if a relationship does not go well; it never gives up trying to reconcile. This part helps us grow close to God and strengthens the faith itself. God never gives up on us; he always looks for ways to draw people near to him. He has faith in us that we will find our way to Him. He patiently waits. His love endures forever.  And He tells us to love the same way.

 If I read this verse every day, would my relationships improve? If I practiced this type of love in all my relationships, would my life improve? Would I be more Christ-like? How can I do this when the world around me is so not like these verses?  Can I love selflessly? Keep no record of wrongs? Show my love through constant kindness? Love humbly and selflessly?  I say I can. He knows we all can. I am willing to try.  One moment at a time.  Will you join me in trying to love in a Godly way?  Let’s love our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers, strangers, even our so-called enemies with Agape love.  By practicing Agape love in all our relationships rather than only the ones we deem important, we can impact everyone we encounter.

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