Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends (1 Corinthians 13:4–8a, ESV).
What does real love look like? The Apostle Paul tells us . . .
“Love is patient.” It waits for people to change. It’s long-tempered. It accepts people as they are, not as we want them to be.
Love is “kind.” This doesn’t mean passive endurance but active goodwill. Not just passively accepting people but actively accepting people. Not just standing on the other side of the room, thinking, She drives me nuts—I’m going to steer clear of her, but actually going across the room and finding ways to engage or embrace that person. Love looks for ways to express acceptance to people whom we might otherwise target with our harsh criticism.
“Love does not envy or boast.” Love is not jealous. Even when those around us seem to prosper and succeed more than we do, love isn’t jealous. Love does not say, “I was fine with my friend until she got _____.” Love does say, “I am happy for your successes and will not let jealousy sour my love for you,” and “I am for you. I have always been for you, and I will always be for you. I will not be caught up in comparisons, even when you are more successful, prominent, recognized, or rewarded than I am. I want the best for you.”
When you love the people in your life, you won’t let their successes—or yours—change the way you treat each other. When you’re the successful person, do you continue to love the same people, or do you leave them behind? Love “is not arrogant or rude.” Love chooses not to make another feel uncomfortable by boasting about personal success or highlighting your own life in a way that would embarrass or belittle a friend.
Love is accepting. “Love bears all things, believes all things.” Love bears the weight of misunderstanding and defends the heart of the other. Love gives the other the benefit of the doubt and regularly says, “That’s not what she meant.” It believes the best about the other person and defends him: “That’s not why he did that. There must be more to the story.” When Jesus taught, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1), He was specifically referring to judging others’ motives. Of course we have to judge actions, but we are not to judge motives. We don’t know why others do what they do, and we should assume the best about them.
Love always believes the best about people. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things.” Love sees people not as they are, but as they will be someday, by God’s grace. We are not the people we once were—God is changing us. We need to extend the same grace toward others that we want extended to us.
Love “endures all things.” Endure is actually a military term for driving a stake into the ground. Love does that. Love won’t retreat or back away. Love will be there for the other person and will stand its ground.
“Love never ends.” Love will never fail to accomplish God’s highest and best purposes. If a relationship unravels, it wasn’t because of love. Love always takes things to a better place. If you love others wholeheartedly and embrace the people in your life as they are—warts and all, even when they hurt you—God will use that. Love never fails—not at home, at work, or in the church. That’s an unequivocal, absolute, condition-free guarantee: “Love never ends.”
Father, love is not weak or passive. It’s fierce and active and transformational. Through love You changed the world. Through love please change me. I want to love others with this brand of love—patient, kind, happy for others, humble, enduring, never-ending love. Help me start with this: When my criticism flares today, please help me to believe the best of the other person. When I feel irritated today, please help me to see the other person as who he is becoming by Your grace. Because You first loved me, help me to love others. In the name of Jesus, whose love never ends, amen.