Love is patient, kind, never jealous, boastful, arrogant, or rude. It never insists on its own way, is not irritable, pouty, or peevish. Love is never resentful, and so much more (Read the entire 1 Corinthians 13).
Think about it: at first the call to love appears simple. But usually by the time we get to the end of the catalogue of what love implies it becomes pretty obvious that whatever we intend and promise to be toward others never really gets very high off the ground. The kind of radical love God requires of us is far beyond us. The way just gets too steep and the air too thin at those high altitudes.
So what’s the solution to the love problem? How do we get from how we really are to how we ought to be? How do we ever reach the higher levels of what love requires?
First, we come to recognize in all humility that we can’t really pull it off—we’re just not all that good. It’s not in us to be so loving. We want to be, but we’re not. That’s an enormous realization, and it requires brutal honesty. The person who reads the love chapter and says, “Yep, that’s me alright!” has completely missed the point.
Second, we come to realize that in our insufficiency is God’s sufficiency. In our weakness, God’s strength is manifest. What we can’t do, God can. So we join with St. Augustine when he said that all the great commands of God are impossible for us to keep in our own strength and pray: “Lord, give what you command.” In other words, “I can’t do it, you can, so empower me to do what you want me to do.” This is the key to the life of faith, the life in the Spirit. Chapters 12 and 14 are about the Holy Spirit and his power to transform all of life. In other words, Paul is telling us, don’t even think about producing a Spirit-empowered life without the Spirit. It can’t be done. But with the Spirit of Christ at the center of everything, anything is possible.
Finally, the truest and most noticeable mark of the Spirit’s presence in someone is not their spiritual vocabulary, the way they look, or their Sunday behavior, but their love—their daily interactions and caring ways.
If resentment, anger, or hatred has replaced love and joy in your life, do a heart-check and see if you can determine the root cause of your problem. If someone hurt you, keep a heart of love ready to forgive them the minute they ask for your forgiveness. If you’ve hurt someone, reach out to them and ask them to forgive you. Not in some fake doing the Christian thing way, but in total, genuine humility, setting aside your pride and rancor. As Christians, we are called to a higher path.
Make love your aim—today, tomorrow, and always.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.