On Wednesdays, I typically take a break from my regular chapter by chapter study to do one that is a little more meditative and thoughtful. I have a tendency to get deeply involved in the intellectual side of studying to the neglect of the listening side. This one little change in the routine helps me get re-focused. The most recent reading was from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. The verses are familiar, as profound as they are simple, yet they lay down a standard we cannot reach apart from Christ.
Numerous studies will guide you through the words that describe true, selfless love. They rightly challenge us to love those around us with the love Christ showed us. But as I read and thought about these verses, the question that kept percolating in my mind was, do I love God that way?
Love suffers long and is kind
I am rarely patient and longsuffering when God tells me no, or to wait, or doesn’t answer on my timetable.
Love does not envy
I am likely to look at others and accuse God of favoritism.
Love does not parade itself, is not puffed up
I often slip into an entitlement mindset, believing that my righteousness should be appreciated and rewarded.
Love does not behave rudely, does not seek its own
I have called for God to agree with and approve my plans and I have become irritable when I didn’t get my way.
Love is not provoked, thinks no evil
I have accused God of being absent, unloving, uncaring.
Love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth
I don’t want to admit that I still wrestle with these things when I know much, much better.
Love bears all things
But I protest
Love believes all things
But my faith wavers.
Love hopes all things
But I slip into despair.
Love endures all things.
But I complain.
Love never fails.
But I do. Often.
Working through that list, it is tempting to give up. I cannot love God the way I should, the way He deserves, the way He loves. But this is grace, not law. Love is not a standard I have to measure up to. God’s love does not depend on my ability to reciprocate. Instead, it underscores that God is not just a little higher than us, He is utterly beyond us.
His love is not just a little deeper, or a little more intense. It is a high, holy, other love unlike any other. But even in that high and holy “otherness”, He chose to dwell with us, to demonstrate His love in the most tangible way we could comprehend. Beyond that, He lives in us, enabling us not only to be more like Him but to understand more and more of the mystery that He is.
This is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the payment for our sins. 1 John 4:10