In his well-known chapter on love, Paul lists positive and negative character traits of love. Today, I want to compare and contrast four of those.
In 1 Corinthians 13:4, Paul writes, “Love is patient, love is kind.” In 1 Corinthians 13:5 we read, “Love is not rude, it is not self-seeking.” In so many ways, these two sets of words — two positive and two negative — explain what it means to love.
First of all, Paul says love is patient and kind. The word patient often is translated as “long-suffering,” and that perfectly captures the idea. It’s easy to be patient when things are going well; I don’t mind being patient when you are on time and do what I want you to do. But being patient means that I will not become frustrated and hateful when things do not go my way. It is the opposite of quick tempered — and it is the opposite of rude.
Think about the last time you had to wait in line, whether at the local supermarket, the post office or somewhere else. Did you get antsy and frustrated? Did you lash out? I know that we all are busy. We don’t want to waste our time. But do you really think it is the fault of the minimum-wage clerk that the store does not open enough checkout lines? To be patient means we will not be rude.
Then there is the idea of kindness. The word means good, pleasant and gracious. Again, it is the opposite of self-seeking. I can choose not to be kind because being kind may cost me something. I would rather do what is to my own benefit, but Paul says that to be kind is the calling of God; it is the calling of love.
Jesus once asked Peter if he loved him. When Peter said that he did, Jesus gave him the same commandment three times. Though worded differently each time, the task was the same: “Take care of my people.”
Paul emphasizes the same thing in this chapter. It is not enough to say that we love each other. It is not enough to say that we love others. It is not enough to say that we love the Lord. If we love, we will be patient and kind. We will not be rude and self-seeking. We will act on behalf of others. We will look to serve them.
I have to admit something to you. Some days, I act loving. Some days, I am patient and kind. Other days … not so much. I have been guilty of rude and self-seeking behavior. Of that I am ashamed, and of that I must repent.
But with the Lord’s help and guidance, I can be patient and kind. I can practice love — and you can, too.
I challenge you to practice love. Be patient and kind. Try it today; it will be worth every effort you make.