This familiar verse (along with the rest of 1 Corinthians 13) is read so much at weddings that I am afraid that we sometimes get caught up in the sentimentality of the occasion and do not stop to consider the significance of the words. Consider the rendering of this passage from the Amplified Translation, or whatever translation you may prefer:
What stands out to you? For me, it’s the word “all”. Not “some” or “most,” but “all.”
Think about it: According to this verse, love…
- Bears all
- Believes all
- Hopes all
- Endures all
Folks, love is hard. Think about it: To bear everything? To strive to think the best of everyone? Remaining hopeful during the most difficult of times? And — as if the other things weren’t challenging enough — endures all things?
In our own flesh and strength, not only is such a tall order challenging, it’s flat-out impossible. Only by the enabling of the Holy Spirit are we able to love in such a consistent, others-first way.
The other thing that stands out to me is that love takes the initiative, rather than sitting back and reacting to whatever life sends its way. If you “bear all things, ” then you have chosen to do so; if you “believe all things,” then you have decided (in advance) to think the best of others; and if you are hopeful that all things will work out for the best (as God ordains), then this, too, is a choice; and if you “endure all things,” then you choose to believe that you can — by grace, through faith — persevere through even the most strenuous of times. Like our present day, perhaps?
Can we say that we love the Lord, and are willing to bear whatever He allows to come into our lives? Do we still believe in all of the promises that He has given to us, regardless of what our senses tell us? Do we have hope that, despite all the suffering that we may see around us, the Lord will find way to work this out for good (however He chooses to define “good”) at some future point? And, do we in faith cling to His strength, so that we can endure all things?
I’d like to think so, but admittedly, I am still thinking about it. Love is hard, but it is not impossible — we simply must make a choice to trust the Lord and His promises, even if doing so breaks our heart at times. Remember that this is how much the Lord loved us: so much that He came in the form of a man to dwell among us, died in our place to atone for a debt we could never repay, permanently overcame the power of sin and death, and arose and ascended to His rightful place with the Father. And His biggest goal for our lives? He wants to be our Friend, Confidant, Father, Protector, Provider…. In other words, He wants to be first in our lives, and then be our “all” — nothing less.
In other words, God loves us. Deeply. Unequivocally. Unconditionally. Forever. Can we say the same?
Some food for thought this week.