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Love as defined by St Paul
St Paul says, “Love is always patient and kind;
1ove is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth.
It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes.” (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 NJB)
St Paul uses:
two words to describe what love is;
four words to describe what love does all the time; and
eight words to describe what love is not.
Christian love is an act of the mind and the will and not an act of the emotion. It is to love as God loves, UNCONDITIONALLY. This is tough but St Paul challenges all Christians to strive for this ideal. All of us are challenged EVERY DAY to work towards this definition of love with our family first. As Mother Teresa said, “I always say---and I don’t get tired of repeating it---that love starts at home.” (One Heart Full of Love, 54)
II. WHAT LOVE IS
1. Love is Patient
Little things inevitably happen in our lives and in our homes. Misunderstanding and conflict come to every home. During such moments, we get angry and impatient. We tend to blame: Why should I accept the slight? Why should I bear the injury? Who can endure the accusation? Why must I suffer the hurt and tantrum? But, for family relationship to flourish we need patience to humbly resolve the conflict. And, patience means accepting, bearing, enduring, suffering the slights, shortcomings, blame, accusation, tantrums, injuries and hurts. More importantly, patience also means a conscious effort to take the time to work towards allowing, accommodating and accepting each other’s differences in ideas, values, personalities and mannerisms. So how do we cultivate this very first and foremost definition of love by St Paul? In order to be able to develop this Christian patience of love we have to learn to forgive readily and endlessly. As Mother Teresa said, “if we really want to love, we must learn to forgive before anything else.” (One heart full of love, 113) “We must make our homes centers of compassion and forgive endlessly.” (“A Gift for God”, 18) St Paul says, “Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any one of you has a complaint against someone else.”(Colossians 3:13)
2. Love is Kind
Am I kind to others? Am I kind to the harassed check-out cashier who makes mistakes in my bill at the supermarket? Am I kind to myself? Can I be kind to someone who keeps interrupting me when I am at the computer doing something I want completed? Am I gentle to displeasing people? Am I tender-hearted or is my heart hard like stone? Do I have to wound with words of retaliation instead of being kind? When I am insulted do I answer back with kind words? St Paul says that, “when we are insulted, we answer back with kind words.” (1 Corinthians 4:13 TEV) Since all Christians are challenged to be kind to people, how do we show kindness? Kindness shows itself by being compassionate, generous, gracious and friendly.
A kind word uplifts the down-hearted and the discouraged. A kind word is often sufficient to make a sad person smile. A kind person strives to make others happy. He seeks to ease another person’s pain or to soothe another person’s anxieties, fears or anger. He extends to others the glad hand of friendship. He shares their concerns and their sufferings. He listens patiently. Kindness is goodwill towards others. So do I hasten to search out his virtues whenever I happen to see his faults? Remember, there is no happiness like that of a person whose heart is filled with goodwill towards others.
A kind heart is a generous heart. A kind hearted person is generous with his time, money, advice and knowledge. His generosity is kind:
o when he does it sensitively---done with great consideration for the dignity and the feelings of the recipient.
o when he does it unselfishly—--done not to seek publicity, praise or rewards in return
o when he does it delicately---done privately and not to be seen by others
St Paul reminds us that, “Whoever shares with others should do it generously; whoever has authority should work hard; whoever shows kindness to others should do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:8 TEV)
One thing a kind person must avoid is to hurt others with his criticism and sick jokes.
We should never be afraid to be kind as kindness will do us no harm, brings us no bitterness and cause us no regrets.
III. WHAT LOVE DOES ALL THE TIME
1. Love is always ready to make allowances
In any quarrel, do I make allowances for the other party? Do I cover his offences towards me? Do I take the time and effort to heal the wounds of division? Can I ‘chin-chye’ and forgive readily? Do I excuse his offences towards me? Since, “love forgives all offences” (Proverbs 10:12 TEV), I need to remind myself that if I can’t forgive, I can’t grow in my relationship and my love.
As “love covers over many sins” (1 Peter 4:8 TEV), love has to cover over a multitude of faults. Love bears hurt in silence. It does not gossip about the hurt to others. There is no limit to love’s forbearance. Love puts up with a lot of faults from people just as God does with us. Love bears all things, including all the faults of others.
2. Love is always ready to trust
Do I trust in the basic goodness of people no matter how bad they may appear to be? Have I put my faith and trust in God? Do I trust that when I go to Jesus, He will work with me to turn the unpleasant event round into something good for me ultimately? Do I believe that all things work for the good of those who love God? Can I trust that Jesus will give me the courage and strength to see through life’s inevitable storm? Do I trust and give all to God? Love believes all things.
3. Love is always ready to hope
Do I always hope to bring joy and happiness to my family and others? Do I fall into despair when the going gets tough? Am I always looking at the dark side of things? Do I perpetually fear the future outcome of events? Do I give in to distress easily? Is my mood always sombre? In this stressful world, people become depressed easily and give up hope. In the great storm of life, when my ship is going down, do I give up hope of making it through? But love does not give up hope and to hope is to choose life and not gloom. Our hope in Jesus begets hope in others. Love hopes all things.
4. Love is always ready to endure whatever comes
Do I have the fighting spirit to endure and triumph over all obstacles? Can I put up with people’s idiosyncrasies and vagaries? Can I endure or do I often get upset by another person’s behaviour easily? Do I firmly and loyally maintain my relationship with my family members, whatever the circumstances? Love endures all things.
IV. WHAT LOVE IS NOT
1. Love is never jealous
Am I glad when someone is doing well? Do I make it a point to give encouragement whenever I see the smallest act of virtue? Am I jealous or envious of people’s good fortune? To detect envy or jealousy, we need to ask ourselves these questions:
Are we chronic critics?
Are we always sarcastic?
Do we gossip?
Do we talk disparagingly about someone’s accomplishment?
Do we belittle what means a lot to another?
Do we assassinate people’s character?
Instead of rejoicing at someone’s good fortune, envy weeps. Envy or jealousy is a vice nobody likes. It is so unlovable that when a person has it, he tries to conceal it. Envy destroys a person’s peace of mind and causes misery.
2. Love is not boastful
Am I a braggart? Am I pompous? Do I keep on bragging at what I have achieved? Do I vault myself in order to bring the other person down? Boasting can be hurtful and unkind since it diminishes others. A braggart does not feel superior to others but he boasts that he is.
3. Love is not conceited
Am I conceited? Do I have to constantly inflate my ego? Am I puffed up with my own importance? Am I full of pride in myself? Pride is extreme self love. Pride smacks of idolatry, for it idolizes self. A proud person brooks no criticism, true or untrue. Hell has no fury like a proud person scorned.
4. Love is never rude
Am I always civil? Are my manners in question? Do I often answer back in a disagreeable way? Do I make it a habit to give others a friendly smile whenever I could? If someone rudely asks me for something would I be willing to give? Am I rude to the driver who suddenly cuts into my lane nearly causing an accident? What would be my response to someone who cuts the queue?
A courteous individual realizes the dignity of the human being and he simply treats each person as a person. But a rude individual does not treat a person as a human being, only as a means to his own end. We know that being nice, kind, courteous, polite, good natured, considerate or thoughtful is a cultivated virtue. But rudeness comes from insecurity or weakness, from selfishness or self-centeredness, from lack of training in manners.
5. Love is not selfish
Do I look out for myself only? Do I consider the other person as well? Am I selfish? Do I always insist on my own rights? Do I only seek my own interests? A self-seeker pursues the adulation, praise and approbation of others.
Signs that tell us whether or not we are self-seeking:
Is God foremost in our thoughts?
Do we try to avoid what is displeasing to God?
Do we accept without complaint all that God sends us?
Do we give free rein to our desires and wants?
Do we let them run wild like an unbridled colt or do we discipline them, tame them and put a check on them?
6. Love is not easily provoked (KJV)
Do I have a quick temper? Am I irritated too easily? Am I quick to take offence? Do I have a short fuse? Am I always resentful? Can someone provoke me easily? A quick tempered person can be:
§ Testy—--flaring up at the least annoyance.
§ Touchy---reacting vehemently when certain subjects are broached.
§ Irrational---just flying into a rage or fury without reason.
We know that hasty temper, impatient rebukes, sullen looks, harsh words--they all never do any good!
The best remedy for anger is delayed action and silence.
7. Love does not store up grievances
Do I keep score of wrongs done to me? Do I brood over every injury? Do I store up memory of every wrong that I have received? Do I plan and calculate my revenge? Do I record in my memory every hurt to repay it later? It is foolish to carry hurts like a haversack on our back all through life.
8. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing but finds its joy in the truth
Am I happy over the failures of others? Do I gloat over people’s misfortune? Do I rejoice over wrongdoing? Do I find pleasure in evil-doing? Do I rejoice in people’s shortcomings or do I find joy in things that are true, noble, just, pure, and lovely and of good report?
Only love makes us acceptable to God, since it is Jesus who commands us to love: "My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you" (John 15:12 TEV). We have to put this love into action on the little things we do every day. It is the intention to love or the choice to love that counts most. It is the little things done with great love that matters. However, all of us will find it extremely difficult to put into practice, for our family members and friends, this definition of love by St Paul. But Jesus challenges us to strive even further to loving our enemies as well: “If you love those who love you, what credit can you expect? For even sinners do that much. . . . Instead, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend without any hope of return. You will have a great reward, and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked” (Luke 6:32,35 NJB). Without the help of His grace it would be impossible to even understand this definition of love with our heart, let alone to put it into practice. So we have to pray daily for His grace and the Holy Spirit to help us, as “the fruit of (Holy) Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22 NJB)
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