As many of you know, I was born and raised in New Jersey. I’ve often said that Jersey is a great state to be from…haha!
But one thing I do miss is an authentic East Coast bagel. (Even just typing those words makes my mouth water!)
Some good friends of mine from church returned from a trip to New York City and brought back some genuine, East Coast bagels. So after church on a Wednesday night I drove straight home and ate one (Okay, I’m pretty sure I ate more than one).
It’s been a while since I’ve had an East Coast bagel, and those bagels tasted extra amazing to me.
Like I said, I love them.
That experience got me thinking. It’s funny the things we say we love…
We love sports and TV shows. We love authors and ice cream. We love name brands and songs and pizza…and we also love people and God. We use the same word to describe our feelings for our favorite foods and the most important people in our lives.
So what’s the difference?
I think we fall into this confusion because our culture looks at love like it’s a pretty weak and vulnerable emotion. But the Bible defines love as one of the most courageous things a person can do.
Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
Take a step back and let that sink in for a minute. Jesus is such a radical person! He’s defining love by pointing us to His death on the cross. That’s crazy talk by any of our normal standards!
The cross of Jesus is the greatest act of love in human history.
And here’s a nugget of truth: We can only love people the way they should be loved when we’re empowered by the Spirit.
In 1 Corinthians 13, the apostle Paul breaks love down for us again, and he repeatedly uses verbs to define love.
Love is only truly displayed in action, not as a feeling.
You’ve heard the phrase “actions speak louder than words.” And just like the cross of Jesus, our love for others is on display in our actions. Our way of life should be one of absolute and self-sacrificial love. A love that builds up others and ourselves. A love that places others before ourselves. A love that fulfills us by watching others blossom. A love that is selfless and God-glorifying. A love that is obedient, pure-hearted, and righteous.
When we talk about love and loving others, there are two very practical ways to love others. And they just so happen to be the first two characteristics that Paul uses to define love in 1 Corinthians 13: Patience and Kindness.
Love with patience.
Love suffers long because love gives people room to be in process. Love is not circumstantial, so love expresses itself even when it is undeserved. And love levels the playing field for all of us because we love others from God’s selfless supply, not because the other person is lovable.
Love with kindness.
As my bride often says, “Kindness matters.” And she is so right! Love is not rude or offensive. If you feel like that’s part of your “love language,” trust me…it’s not. Instead, love is founded in goodness, gentleness, and sweetness. Love that is kind mimics God’s love for us. And God’s love is not blind…His love sees us for who we are and loves us anyway, with a kindness and a dignity we don’t deserve.
Questions to think about:
Where in your life are you loving people with conditions attached?
What is God asking you to change in the way you apply the verse “love suffers long and is kind”?
Prayer for today:
Let’s pray that God would open our eyes to the people who need unconditional love.