Dear brothers and sisters,
How would you define love? Ask ten people to define it and you may get eleven (or more!) different definitions.
Let’s consider what Paul says about love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.
Here, love is given many characteristics, but we don’t see the gooey words we often hear in romantic songs that make love look so easy. In fact, many of Paul’s descriptions only seem applicable in particularly difficult situations: love truly shines when a challenging person requires patience, a hurtful lie requires truth, a hard situation needs endurance, etc.
This does not mean it’s wrong to enjoy the excited feelings of love in relation with others; these are a good gift of God! But God’s love does not seem to be based on our emotions. I don’t know about you, but my emotions are so fleeting and flaky, and—in my selfishness—I often don’t “feel” like loving those around me. Thankfully, love is more than feelings. Paul says here that even knowledge itself will pass away when compared to true love. Our temporary feelings don’t stand a chance when compared to God’s everlasting love!
This is such an encouragement, especially for those who struggle this time of year with loneliness, loss, uncomfortable family relations, or simply feeling unloved. Recall, friends, that love is greater than a feeling and that the truth of God’s love is more satisfying than anything the world can give. As Pastor Matt shared this weekend, God is love and He gave His only son for us!
Sinclair Ferguson illustrates the sacrificial and satisfying love of God in Christ at the cross: “When we think of Christ’s dying on the cross, we are shown the lengths to which God’s love goes in order to win us back to Himself…The cross is the heart of the gospel; it makes the gospel good news. Christ died for us; He has stood in our place before God’s judgement seat; He has borne our sins. God has done something on the cross which we could never do for ourselves. But God does something to us as well as for us through the cross. He persuades us that He loves us.”
God’s greatest affection for you is seen through Christ on the cross. And even when we do not feel loved or feel as though we can love, we trust the truth that Christ does love us and is sanctifying us to love others as he loves us.
Take some time this advent to explore the satisfying love of Christ through His Word. You may consider Ephesians 3:14-21, John 15:1-17, or Psalm 136 to start. Consider also what hard situations or persons the Lord is calling you to reach out to—despite your feelings—in selfless love. In this time of stress and busyness, pray for the Lord to grow in you His attributes from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (patience, kindness, etc.) and rely on His strength to move you in the action of love.
Abiding with you in that love,