Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful;
I Corinthians 13:4
For the past few days, we’ve been discussing love. In I Corinthians 13, St. Paul uses many words to describe love. Today I want to focus on just one verse. A go-to verse is supposed to be a short passage that one can memorize, so that he/she can “go to” that verse quickly when needed, and not even have to look it up. It is embedded in the mind, and hopefully over time, more importantly, it becomes embedded in the heart.
So, if God’s greatest commandment is to “love God and love our neighbor” then the most important words to describe love is that “love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful.” If you are wondering how to behave in a situation or in a relationship, just remember this verse and you will know what to do. Today’s verse acts as almost a checklist for us. So, in a given situation—conversation, meeting, argument, etc.—if our desire is to show love in all situations, then we must ask ourselves:
Am I being patient? If the shoe was on the other foot, how would I want to be treated?
Am I being kind? Is what I am saying kind?
Am I saying something or doing something out of jealousy?
Am I being more boastful or more humble?
Patience, kindness and humility are the pillars on which love is built. There is no love without these things.
For example, what is the key to a long marriage? Patience. Because how many times in a given year will we annoy our spouses? Many times. As the years go by and the number of annoyances goes us, how can any marriage survive? The key is to be patient with the shortcomings of a spouse, just as they are to be patient with yours. The key is to be kind in your words and hopefully they are kind in theirs. The key is to be humble and recognize “I’m not always right and I don’t always get it my way.”
How do you raise children with love? Raising children takes a lot of patience, while they learn, struggle, disobey and disagree. If you don’t have a sense of kindness, the words you use with your children will be overwhelmingly negative. Why? Because little kids have more failures before they have successes—think about potty training.
Patience, kindness and humility are the pillars not only of love in marriage and child-rearing. They are the foundation of a long-term job, or a long-term friendship. To love is to see the good in people and in situations, to use words of kindness rather than hurtful words, to quickly forget mistakes rather than keeping a record of them.
Love is also the key ingredient to a relationship with God, and for His relationship with us. God is patient with our faults, and quick to forgive us. He shows us acts of kindness even when we don’t deserve them. Are we patient with Him? Do we patiently follow His call for our lives? Or do we insist on our own way?
Christ tried to make it easy for us to understand what we are supposed to do—love God and love others. This is hard to do, but it is easy to say. Saint Paul took the concept of love, a complex idea, and he boiled it down to a few key words—patience, kindness, humility. If we can do these three things, we are well on our way to being loving people.
Lord and Master of my life, do not permit the spirit of laziness and meddling, the lust for power and idle talk to come into me. Instead, grant me, your servant, the spirit of prudence, humility, patience and love. Yes, Lord and King, give me the power to see my own faults and not to judge my brother. For You are blessed unto the ages of ages. Amen. (Lenten Prayer of St. Ephraim, translated by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Be patient with people, use words of kindness, be humble!