What Does Love Look Like? - Part 1
What does Love look like?
Love is Patient: 1 Corinthians 13:4
"Many people say, ‘My spouse is my best friend’, but most don’t actually back up that statement with thoughts, feelings, and actions consistent with it. To the contrary, many individuals treat their partner with more jealousy, expectations, and demands—and with less appreciation, respect, and sensitivity—than they would a friend" (Don’t Sweat the small stuff in Love, Richard Carlson, p. 6). There is always the temptation to want to vent, grumble and complain (1 Corinthians 10:10). "One of the problems with venting is that there’s an endless supply of material to vent over. In other words, there will always be things to be upset about if your focus is in that direction"(Carlson p. 25). Love doesn’t require a perfect environment in which to live and thrive. "For a long time it seemed that my life was about to begin—real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid—then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life" (Alfred D. Souza).Patience can be defined as, "to be long-tempered or long-spirited, the power to see things through". Barclay notes, "It may be that the hardest lesson of all to learn is how to wait, how to wait then nothing seems to be happening, and when all the circumstances seem calculated to bring nothing but discouragement. James insists that Christians must be like the prophets who again and again had to wait for the action of God; he must be like the farmer who sows the seed and who then throughout the slow months waits until the harvest comes (James 5:7-10). It may well be that this is the hardest task of all for an age which has made a god of speed. In some ways patience is the greatest virtue of all. It is not clad with romance and glamour; it has not the excitement of sudden adventurous action; but it is the very virtue of God himself" (Flesh and Spirit pp. 96-97). "A nourishing relationship is like a sanctuary—relaxing, comforting, and reassuring" (Carlson p. 209). In our homes, with our wives, among our children, and with our brethren, are we a calming influence?
- People can get all bent out of shape concerning some little thing (a pet peeve) that really bothers them. But, if something so small upsets us, then the issue isn’t about our mate or brethren, rather, we are the ones with the problem. If a small thing can get under our skin, then we are wound up way too tight. "And we urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men" (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
- Don’t make your spouse, children, or brethren walk on eggshells! Ask yourself these questions: "Do you make people feel tense?" "Are others always defensive when around you?" "Are you frequently in a combative mode?" "Is the content of our conversations with people encouraging or discouraging?" "Has everyone disappointed you?" "Do you look for faults in others?" "Are you hoping to find a reason why you can get upset?" The sad truth is, it is really difficult to be with someone when you feel as though you’re constantly disappointing them. Being patient doesn’t mean that we overlook sin the lives of others (Matthew 18:15; Luke 17:3-4), but it does mean that we try to help them grow and give them time to mature (Hebrews 5:11-14).
Love Is Kind: 13:4
Being genuinely kind is not about smiling when you don’t feel like it, or acting cheerful when you are depressed. It’s not about putting on an act, rather, we are talking about authentic kindness. "The human mind is an amazing thing in that, whatever it’s looking for, it tends to find. So, if you’re looking for ugliness, you’ll have no trouble finding it. If you’re looking for cruelty, again, you’ll find plenty of evidence of that, too" (Carlson p. 37). Kindness starts when a person is tired of being bitter, resentful, and selfishly angry, and desires to see life differently. Stop blaming circumstances for your lousy attitude. The world is filled with sinners, and yet God remains kind to evil and ungrateful men (Luke 6:35). Stop demanding that everyone bend over backwards for you, rather, start going the second-mile for others. "The kindness of God is not an easy-going sentimental thing, because hand in hand with it goes the severity of God (Romans 11:22)"(Flesh and Spirit p. 100). Therefore when we must rebuke or correct someone, we are persuasive, convicting, even emotional, because we long for this person to change. Kindness means also that we gracefully accept apologies. When someone apologies, don’t act cold or distant, rather, like God, embrace them and restore the relationship (Luke 15:21ff). Remember, a happy person often equals a happy spouse. There are many people who claim that they want more love in their lives, but they are not willing to become more loving themselves. Love is a choice, it actually is a command to be implemented into our lives (Matthew 22:37-40; 1 John 4:11 "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another"). Patience and kindness won’t simply come naturally, rather, one must work on these qualities and make the conscious decision and effort to become a more loving person (James 1:2-4). Someone has noted that kindness is all about treating people the way that God has treated you.
- Carlson notes that we need to avoid the "I have time for everyone but you-- trap". "If we’re not careful, slowly but surely we begin neglecting the special people in our lives, spending less time and feeling more distracted. You may start coming home late more often, or travel more frequently. Dates get canceled or shortened. Your special times become less and less frequent…No one wants to feel as through everything and everyone is more important than they are. It hurts when there seems to be time for everyone and everything-except you" (pp. 149,148).
Love Is not Jealous: 13:4
"Maybe it is true to say that there is no better test of a man that his reaction to the greatness and to the success of some one else" (Flesh and Spirit p. 49). Jealousy stems from such wrong attitudes as wanting to be in the spotlight, wanting to have more than everyone else has, and wanting to be viewed as the perfect person. It is very important to accept the fact that there is always going to be someone out there who has something you do not have, more money, better looks, greater charisma, a longer list of achievements, or whatever. Secondly, in relationships, you need to accept the fact that people are going to need other friends besides you. Accept the fact that people are going to need friends besides you, because other people have talents that you don’t have. In addition, rejoice when others are doing God’s work and are being successful (Philippians 1:12-18). I have noted that people who usually strive for the spotlight, miss it, and those who quietly serve, seem to be honored in the end, "for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted" (Luke 18:14).
Love Does not Brag and is not Arrogant: 13:4
True love is humble, well aware of its own faults and imperfections, and certainly doesn’t pretend to be perfect (Romans 12:3; Luke 18:13). Love doesn’t have to pretend, love can ask, "What is the most difficult part of being in a relationship with me?" "What flaws do you see in me that I need to change?". Humility will also enable us to realize that the grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence. "We live in what might be called the ‘trade up’ era. We trade smaller homes for bigger ones, older cars for newer. We want better jobs, more income, a bigger retirement plan, and better experiences… In a way, it’s no wonder that we transfer at least part of this neurotic tendency to our partner" (Carlson p. 17). Sadly, people who often feel they deserve a better spouse or better brethren, often don’t deserve the people they do have. But fantasy and reality are to different things. We have all met men and women who have left their spouses for someone else, only to find that their new mate has their own issues and problems.
Love does not act Unbecomingly: 13:5
"Is never rude" (Mof); "or unmannerly" (Ber); "It isn’t indecent" (Beck). It means to conduct improperly, or disgracefully, or in a manner to deserve reproach. Love seeks that which is proper or becoming in the circumstances and relations of life in which we are placed. It prompts to the due respect for superiors, producing veneration and respect for their opinions; and it prompts to a proper regard for inferiors, not despising their rank, their poverty, their dress, their dwellings, their pleasures, their views of happiness; it prompts to the due observance of all the "relations" of life, as those of a husband, wife, parent, child, brother, sister, son, daughter, and produces a proper conduct and deportment in all these relations. The proper idea of the phrase is, that it prompts to all that is fit and becoming in life; and would save from all that is unfit and unbecoming. There may be included in the word also the idea that it would prevent anything that would be a violation of decency or delicacy" (Barnes Notes). "There is something strange, however, that seems to occur in most relationships, especially long-term ones. Gradually, over time, we lose our compassion for our partner. Somehow, we begin to see them in a different light than we do others, we take them for granted and forget, or lose sight of the fact that our partner is human too, and is subject to the same pain and suffering as everyone else" (Carlson p. 98). Love isn’t rude and it doesn’t look down upon those who have less (James 2), neither does it resent authority, such as the husband being the head of the home, the authority of parents or elders(Hebrews 13:17). Common courtesy still needs to exist between husband and wife, children and parents, and brethren. Love doesn’t take people for granted. Sometimes spouses feel that they don’t have to say they are sorry when they do something unkind or hurtful. Love means always willing to apologize for we realize that this relationship is far more important than our own pride.
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/(503)644-9017