I know people always quote Corinthians when it comes to love but I think we romanticize it as a bunch of gushy feelings. Really though, pick up that passage again and look at it with the eyes of practicality. You’ll see soon enough how tough it would be for you or I to do those things. You will also see quickly that they will most probably have to be something you have to willingly choose to do because your inclination will be to go the other way. Seriously look at it again, here it is, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (RSVCE):
“Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Okay real quick, I want you to read this passage again but insert your name instead of the word ‘love’ and see how true this is of you. Often, I have to hang my head in shame for how badly I fit into this passage!
Done with the reality check? Ready to break it down? Here we go-
‘Love is patient and kind’
So how many times have you impatiently honked your horn like 10 seconds after the light turns green and the car in front of you doesn’t move? Or when someone overtakes you on the single lane exit ramp as you enter it? Or a much smaller traffic annoyance? I know this is a tough one for many of us, but here’s something I try to do to better love this person instead of letting myself go to anger- I imagine they are me or my mom or my grandparents. Maybe they just realized what exit it was, they’re running late to their appointment and they’re really sorry to do this but have no other choice. Maybe they’re a mom with a kid in the car who just hurt himself and she was trying to console him and missed the light turning green. Maybe its a 70 year old grandpa on the road who has no one to drive him to his eye appointment because his kids and grand kids decided its cool to just not inquire about him except on Christmas and Easter, and he’s trying to do the best he can.
Feeling a little bad for honking that horn now? Good! I hope you feel as terrible as me because this is reality, more often than not. Its very easy to be mean and impatient, isn’t it? Doesn’t take 10 seconds to lose control of your manners and dignity. But think of the other person, what if that were you, your mother or your grandparent? Would you want to be treated the way you just treated them? There’s a sentiment/belief in India, where when people are kind to strangers they will say, ‘I hope someday when my daughter/father/brother/grandma/ loved one is in need, someone will help them like I did this person’…a kind of karma I suppose.
So our lesson from the first sentence of the passage, be kind and patient with loved ones and strangers, because as Christians, we are called to love them all. Not convinced? remember when Jesus said ‘Don’t love those who love you back, even the pagans do that’? Yup, that guy thought of everything, didn’t he?
‘Love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude’
Jealousy is a tough one these days. It’s difficult to trust someone sometimes isn’t it? Especially today when people are surrounded by ways to cheat and also by numerous ways to snoop (hello, FB creepers!). But I think of this more in terms of jealousy over someone who loves your spouse, friend etc. Don’t know what I mean? How many times have you gotten jealous when your friend, sibling etc starts hanging out with someone new and all of a sudden you feel like you have to split your time with this other person. How dare they! Most of the time, in reality, this new person may care just as much about your friend as you but you can’t see this as something good in your life or as you gaining a new friend as well and instead, jealousy takes over. It’s not just between people either. Ever heard of keeping up with the Jones’? If your brother or sister got a new car, would you be jealous or happy for them?
And being boastful? This is the other side of the equation with jealousy. As in, if you got a new car or got a new (maybe more famous/rich) friend, would you be boastful in front of your family and friends so they could ‘suck it!’ or wish they were you or would you instead share your new joy with humility, without being pretentious and vain?
This leads into not being arrogant as well, does it not? Arrogance in accomplishments and in others failures. Arrogance in an ‘I told you so’ attitude, or in a ‘know it all’ attitude. When people tell us something that we know is wrong, instead of snapping and being rude and arrogant, we should try to be a little bit more patient, humble and kind. So what if this guy insists on what you know is wrong? Tell him kindly once and if he does not listen or even insults you, remind yourself to be kind and hold your tongue. Its easy to lash out but difficult to take back the hurt caused by your lashing out, no matter how justified it may have felt at the time. People remember the moments when they were hurt or put down, so don’t be the person to do that. The truth will reveal itself in due time, and you don’t need to be boastful about it when that happens either. Isn’t there an old saying that goes ‘ Arrogance leads to downfall’? Keep that in mind. You can correct someone gently but if they will not listen, then keep silent and pray for them. Yelling over another yelling person just leads to a lot of chaos, high emotions and words later regretted so, don’t add fuel to fire.
This part also reminds me to be kinder to the ones I love. Often, we take free license with our family and while we go out of our way to be nice to strangers, we don’t show the same to our own. So be humble and kind to your own elders. Talk to them, care for them, be gentle in correcting them as well. Just because your kids or spouse won’t yell back at you, doesn’t mean you can berate them. I heard Zoe Saldana say in an interview once that often, we women forget we have the power of words. We can incite emotions and break hearts and soothe wounds with a soft touch and a word. So don’t abuse it for the opposite. I heard a priest say once that our tongue is the most dangerous and fiery organ, which is why God locked it behind 2 gates (lips and teeth) and submerged it with water (saliva). Use your words kindly and carefully, despite the old saying, I think words have a way of leaving deep scars that never go away and you can’t take back something that leaves your lips so think twice before you let it go.
Part 3 coming up…