The Challenge of Love
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. - 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
In the above passage, Paul is challenging the Corinthian community to consider a “more excellent way” of living with one another. It is a community that has been fraught with disunion, mistrust, and a host of vices. For Paul, love is a risky emotion and to love someone is a risky action. Love is messy; it is complicated, hazardous, dangerous, and foolish. With it, you risk investing your very self in a person, a group, an idea, a religion, a race, or anything you find admirable. Love requires that you put yourself out there for another person. It requires that you recognize someone holistically, and see them for a fully independent existence rather than a collection of attributes. Love calls out virtue and shatters your presumptions, prejudices, and ignorance. When Paul speaks of love as “patient and kind”, it is a challenge to open ourselves to transformation. We are called to live courageously and abundantly in the face of overwhelming darkness and strife.
On the other hand, hatred is a safe emotion; to hate is a safe action. It's safe because it allows you to reduce everything you don't like about a person, a group, an idea, a religion, or anything into a set of attributes that you detest. People become facades that you hate. It is such a simple, pure emotion. You don't have to be mindful of your ignorance, of your prejudice, or of where you falter or struggle. It does not require introspection or any examination of the self since the roots of your problems become externalized completely. Hatred denies the need for trust.
In this passage, Paul the challenge is placed before us: do we choose to live in the more excellent way of love, or do we choose hatred instead? The decision must be made every day. Indeed, to love and care for someone or something greater than your self is a challenge you face this day. It’s not easy: love requires sacrifice. It requires the ability to be vulnerable. It requires forgiveness for those who have wronged us, even if forgiveness is not deserved, accepted, or leads a person to repentance.
How maddening! To devote one’s life to a principle and all too often be denied witness to its efficacy? In loving people, we are also confronted with the tragedy that the grace we extend to others may not revisit us, may not have any impact, or any sense of fulfillment we hope it will bring to ourselves and others. In this challenging practice, we don’t always get to see the Promised Land. I enjoy this passage the most because it never describes love as making things right. Instead Paul tells us that love rejoices in truth, endures all things, it never ends, and abides in ourselves and in our relationships with others. The challenge of love then is to endure and believe in promises of God by extending it freely to all whom we encounter, especially those who challenge us in the most negative ways.
Discussion Question: How are you challenged each day to live in love? How has love been risky for you this past year and what came of it?
See more devotions from Kyle and our other Young Adult writers, or find our how you can become a writer yourself at our By Young Adults for Young Adults devotion page.