Appropriately coined, “The Love Chapter,” one of the most well known and oft-quoted Bible passages is 1 Corinthians 13. Many a bride and groom stand wide-eyed and clammy-palmed in front of God and everyone else as the pastor reads this guide to seal their covenant.
The first months or years of marriage are fun and engaging. We spend our weekends road-tripping to see friends and our evenings exploring local cuisine and hashtagging our meals. We sleep lazily in each other’s arms on Saturday mornings and skip church on Sunday because we’re rolling around in the sheets.
But then life gets hectic. Our jobs are demanding. The pressures of sharing space with another person all.the.time. gets irritating. It’s no longer cute that he leaves his socks wherever he takes them off or that she has her makeup strung all over the bathroom vanity.
We have a kid . . . or maybe two . . . or five . . . and while it does feel more like family, it can also feel a lot less romantic. Intimacy wanes. Conversations are interrupted. Time together has to be put on the calendar, sandwiched between laundry night, gymnastics, and kindergarten roundup.
The love isn’t gone; it’s just put on a few pounds. The weight of the commitment can get heavy and even overhwleming at times.
I’ve decided to revisit 1 Corinthians 13 and put it into a translation that provides a different perspective considering the season of life we’re tangled up in. I don’t get it right every day (or even come close on some), but imagine what the world would look like if we really embraced the possibility of living in love.
1 Corinthians 13
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love (NIV).”
And As It Applies Now . . . .
If I say everything right and win your heart with all my sentimental notions, but don’t demonstrate love in a practical way, then my words don’t mean anything.
If I give into your whims and cater to your every wish, but choose not to honor you, I am not really in relationship with you at all. I’m only pretending.
I could appear to be self-sacrificing, putting your desires before my own, a martyr in my own right. But if I do this without love, no one grows.
Love is patient, which means I will watch and wait, even during the painful seasons. We can allow our kids to learn tough lessons the hard way, because we will know the cost of character.
Love is kind. I will make a conscious effort to give you space to be the person you are, instead of demanding you to be something that fits better into my ideal.
Love does not envy. I won’t be intimidated by your success, or cancel your party so I can shine. We’ll celebrate each other and teach our kids how to high five their friends when they do something great. We won’t get caught up in comparing ourselves to others.
When I choose to love you, I’m being mindful of the flimsiness of my emotions. I will try to not to get so bent out of shape over the little stuff. If either of us look hard enough, we could bury each other in complaints. But that would cause corrosion, and I’d rather try to focus on what’s good. Resentment has no place in real love.
Let’s not keep a record of everything our kids do wrong so that we can hang it over their heads as adults.
Love doesn’t have to win. In fact no one’s even keeping score. So I’ll try to recognize when my pride gets in the way. It’s not important that I’m right all the time, so I’ll try not to pout when things don’t go my way.
Love always seeks truth, even when it unveils really ugly parts of ourselves. So let’s commit to growth knowing that nothing is uglier than shame.
Love sometimes puts up with things the way they are for a bit. Because if I love you, then I can trust us. I won’t be easily convinced that you don’t love me. I’ll choose to believe you’re doing your best even when your actions have let me down.
Love doesn’t give up hope for wholeness. It is the enduring force of the universe. It will never be defeated. Everything else is fleeting.
I know that I do not understand it all fully. My wisdom is inadequate, and I’m often blinded by my own ineptness.
Love will only thrive when we are our full, authentic selves. Anything less is simply childish.
When I choose love, I choose to grow up. I choose to see you and others more clearly. One day, we will all see how love wins.
The greatest things in life are a strong faith, an immutable hope, and a driving ambition towards love. But the greatest thing of all is to love out loud.
(Disclaimer: This is by no means a scholarly or theologically sound translation.)