What Does Love Look Like? - Part 2
What does Love look like?
It Does Not Seek Its Own: 13:5
Various versions translate the phrase, "It does not seek its own" as, "Never selfish" (Mof); "Love does not insist on its own way" (RSV); "It does not insist on its rights" (Gspd); "Is never self-seeking" (TCNT); "does not pursue selfish aims" (Nor). Here we learn something very valuable regarding whether we are acting in a loving manner and whether we are not. Any time we gravitate towards selfishness, we have moved away from loving God and others. "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of your regard one another as more important than himself" (Philippians 2:3). The word translated selfishness in the above verse is defined as follows: "denotes ambition, self-seeking, rivalry, self-will being an underlying idea in the word; hence it denotes party-making. It is derived, not from eris, which means strife, but from eithos, a hireling; hence, seeking to win followers" (Vine p. 68 "Faction"). Selfishness in the above passage includes the ideas of campaigning and politicking in a relationship. In addition, selfishness is connected with empty conceit,which is old-fashioned pride and arrogance.
- Do you campaign in your marriage? Do you try to convince everyone how hard you are working? Do you constantly compare what you are doing with what your mate is or isn’t doing? People don’t like to be around someone who is always trying to present himself as the hard working one in the marriage, or the one who is holding everything together.
- If we are in the rut of coming home from work frazzled, then maybe we need an attitude adjustment. Work is supposed to involve effort, at the end of the day if you are tired then that means you did your job, "The sleep of the working man is pleasant" (Ecclesiastes 5:12). One of the words rendered labor in the New Testament, means, "toil resulting in weariness, laborious toil". Paul himself said that he was often involved in such laborious work for the kingdom of God (2 Corinthians 6:5). There is an attitude difference between coming home tired and coming home frazzled. "It’s extremely common for one (sometimes both) spouses to enter the home after a long day at work as if he or she were crossing the finish line of a race. The frenetic pace a work is brought into the home. Without even knowing it, you may be storming into the house still revved and charged from the rest of the day. Common sense will tell you that when you are speeded up, frantic, and hurried, you lose many of your most desirable human traits---patience, listening skills, perspective, wisdom, a sense of peace, and your ability to be genuinely loving. When you are in a frantic state of mind, you are more easily agitated, annoyed, and bothered" (Carlson p. 192). Unselfishness means that I’m not the only one who has worked hard today. My family needs a calm and patient father or mother. "Very few people appreciate someone, regardless of how much they love that person, who barges in and stirs things up" (p. 193).
- Unselfishness is linked with humility, which means that we only expect of others what we ourselves can provide, do, and give. In addition, we realize that we have flaws and therefore true love is always ready to say the words, "I’m sorry". The refusal to admit your mistakes is often linked with too much pride, a hardened ego, a lack of reflection, or an unwillingness to admit that you are part of the problem.
- Unselfishness also includes gratitude. "Nothing keeps a marriage, or any other relationship fresh, alive, and nourishing than genuine feelings of gratitude. And, on the flip side, nothing dooms a relationship to failure more than a lack of it…Gratitude is important for many reasons. It keeps your heart open and your mind receptive to the gifts of life and of your marriage. It serves as a constant reminder of how fortunate you are to be alive, and keeps you from taking your relationship for granted. Gratitude keeps you feeling satisfied, reminding you that what you have is good enough. When you are focused on gratitude, it keeps your problems in perspective, especially the small ones. It immunizes you from being bothered by your partner’s little quirks and the imperfections of your marriage" (Carlson p. 146). I believe gratitude is seen in the statements that men are to "nourish and cherish" their wives(Ephesians 5:29); and that wives are to "love their husbands and love their children" (Titus 2:4). Sadly, at times even professing Christian husbands and wives get the idea that they "deserve a better mate". I would seek to remind such a person that if they were the perfect catch, then why didn’t they attract another perfect person? The same truth applies to being part of the body of Christ. It is easy to take faithful brethren for granted, "and be thankful" (Colossians 3:15); "In everything give thanks" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Is Not Provoked: 13:5
"Not quick to take offence" (NEB); "it is not irritable" (RSV); "It is not touchy" (Phi). Do we look for an excuse to become angry? "So often, when we’re angry or frustrated at the one we love, something else is secretly going on beneath the surface, we’re angry or frustrated at ourselves…The next time you feel angry, resentful, jealous, or frustrated by your spouse (or brethren), use it as an opportunity to look carefully in the mirror. What you discover may save your sanity and your relationship" (Carlson pp. 162,164). It is so easy to blame others for making us unhappy, when the truth of the matter is if we are bitter, resentful, touchy, bent-out-of-shape, irritable, hard to please, or contentious, we are angry with ourselves. When you are doing the right thing, when you are trying your best---its very hard it is amazing how patient you become. But when you don’t like the choices you have made, or the things you have been doing, it is amazing how short you become with people (Titus 3:3).
- There are many people who want people to like them. They would love to have many friends, but the problem is that they are just too defensive. If you want a greater closeness in your marriage and with your brethren, then you must be willing to take advice, some criticism, and allow people to be less than perfect when around you. Instead of insisting that people keep you comfortable, you must be willing to try to help others grow (1 Thessalonians 5:14; Galatians 6:1).
- You must learn to allow people to be human. "How many of us become angry, jealous, or resentful when our partner turns out to be none other than human?" (Carlson p. 165). This doesn’t mean excusing sin (Matthew 18:15), but there are many imperfections that aren’t sinful, such as becoming preoccupied, forgetting an appointment, locking the keys in the car, and a thousand other things. "If your spouse can’t share his or her dreams with you without criticism, they will stop sharing—guaranteed. If you can’t discuss your fears without being lectured, you’ll turn to others who will listen. Indeed, most couples lose their friendships as well as their intimacy, largely because they stop allowing one another to be human" (Carlson p. 167).
- Love is able to make peace with change. Although we often wish it were otherwise, nothing stays the same. People change in marriages, their likes and dislikes change, congregations change, people move out and move in, people are converted and people fall away, babies are born, and people die. God doesn’t change and the truth doesn’t change, but virtually everything else does.
- Stop demanding a different result for the same action or attitude. People can be extremely stubborn and dense. "How often do we overreact, lash out in frustration, or respond in a knee-jerk manner to someone we love, and receive, in turn, a response we don’t like? Then, the next time we’re frustrated, we use the same response and we get the same result. Over and over again, we repeat the same mistake" (Carlson p. 156).
Does Not Take Into Account A Wrong Suffered: 13:5
"Love keeps no score of wrongs" (NEB). Anyone who has appreciated their salvation in Jesus Christ should forever learn the lesson to stop keeping score. It is humiliating enough to remember the sins that we ourselves have committed without someone else keeping score. About the only reason that I can think why people are even tempted to keep score is because they are using this to justify some sort of sinful attitude or behavior on their part. Jesus dealt very severely with the scorecard mentality, "For if you forgive men of their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions" (Matthew 6:14-15); "So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart" (18:35); "For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy" (James 2:13). If you and your mate are constantly fighting, then sit back and listen to the content of your arguments. How many times does the argument eventually get around to a retelling of all the past grievances that you have against each other?
- What this is involves is the willingness to stop rehearsing unhappiness. "People have reported to us having thought attacks about the fact that their partner isn’t doing his or her fair share. Others play out worst-case scenarios about pending arguments" (Carlson p. 122). If you are unhappy, then it is because you are probably spending a lot of time mentally practicing at being unhappy. Working at being unhappy is far easier than concentrating on being happy. The devil tries to tempt us to find fault with others, so we don’t even have to try to make the relationship work. He entices us to bail out or give up as soon as something doesn’t go our way. We can sabotage marriages, parenting, friendships, and even such things as work or vacations, by mentally planning to fail or expecting the worst. How many of us refuse to get involved in some good work, teaching a class, organizing a potluck, extending hospitality, and so on, because of past bad experiences? We need to learn to do what is right, regardless of past bad experiences. Instead of looking for comfort, ease, and fun, let us find joy in simply doing the right thing. Instead of rehearsing failure, we need to be thinking on better things (Philippians 4:8).
- Jump ahead and look back. Many little things will appear less urgent when looked upon from a distance. There are things that only seem big or relevant for the moment. Mature people are people who have learned to drop things that aren’t worth fretting over. After all, if you know something is going to seem meaningless at a later date, why not make it meaningless now? (Romans 8:18).
- Stop over analyzing the flaws in others. If we look hard enough we will find flaws in everyone. A far better use of our time would be concentrating upon correcting the sins in our own lives (2 Corinthians 13:5; Psalm 139:23-24).
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/(503)644-9017