On this day of flowers, chocolates, and pink and red cards, perhaps the best gift for your loved one can be plucked off this list:
“Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
According to Scripture, Christ’s sacrfice is the ultimate example of love, and any human love must stem from the same selfless attitude. While romantic love is wonderful and God-given (Song of Solomon celebrates this), the essence of love is sacrifice. We are to give over our preferances and rights for the sake of others.
There are two similar phrases in this list: bears all things and endures all things. The Greek verbs come from the same category in the Louw-Nida dictionary: patience, endurance, perseverance. So what are the subtle differences?
The first phrase of verse seven, bears all things implies putting up with annoyances or difficulties. This is the slurping of milk from the cereal bowl, the pile of dirty socks on the bedroom floor, or the constant list making and checking. This is the petty stuff that, if allowed to get under your skin, leads to frustration and for many in this culture, “I don’t love you anymore.”
The last phrase of verse seven, endures all things implies endurance during difficulty and suffering. This is walking through sickness, financial difficulty, or persecution with your loved one. Or, this is (dare I say?) enduring the disrespect, dishonesty, or unfaithfulness of your spouse. This is hardship where choosing commitment over emotion is not easy.
In a culture where marriages are easily dismissed for the smallest and in my opinion, stupidest, reasons, the bearing and enduring of 1 Corinthians might be our best witness. We can choose to love with a high tolerance for those little irritations and with a perseverance through the hard trials. We can make a statement that the only love worth giving is a love that is poured through us from the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.