By Susan Bullard
In light of the recent holiday filled with its sweet tokens of human affection and proclamations of such great favor bestowed upon others, I find myself heaving a bit of a sigh. It’s more so during this time of year that I’m reminded too often of the many interpretations of the definition of love.
When I see the word “love,” my first thought is of a short passage in 1 John 4:7-19 describing that “God is love.” It’s the essence of who He is. I begin to ponder that this is an attribute of His “being” and not this mere verb that the rest of us use to profess to others, in varying degrees, our sincerest emotions. So, what does Love actually look like? Well, of course, we have the “Great Love Chapter” of 1 Corinthians 13 that most of us immediately consider, but before we go there, I initially tend to think of Philippians 2: 1-11 instead. Let’s look at this passage together. Here the chapter opens with “if” clauses to exhort unity by comforting, fellowshipping and displaying mercy within the body of believers. Years ago, this segment of Scripture made such an impact on me, because I was seeking diligently to understand the “Greatest Commandment” (Matthew 22:36-40 ref. of Exodus 20|The Ten Commandments) and what it is to love God and my neighbor as myself. This passage described to me in a simple, practical way how to execute this on a daily basis.
The chapter continues in verse 3 with the unity of like-mindedness, (“let each esteem others better than themselves”) – not to exclude self, as further explained in verse 4, (“look not every man on his own things”) but to also prefer another (“but every man also on the things of others”) as being just as significant as oneself is in contributing to the functional factor of one unified body. There’s no room for pride here but a sober understanding of one’s place within the body. Then, the remaining verses (5-11) provide the example of how we should emulate this same like-mindedness beginning in verse 5, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Though being very God in human flesh, He expressed Himself as a servant filled with great humility as our daily example to follow.
Now as we steal a look at 1 Cor. 13:1-8, if we’re honest, we find it’s not an easy task to love others. We have the chance to exhibit it at all times as we seek to be more like Him. However, even though we fail so often, it’s encouraging to know than an unloving act can be followed by an act of forgiveness and/or the choice to “love” instead of harboring bitterness, jealousy, etc. This is an ongoing state of mind… “blessed are” as introduced in Luke chapter 6, that continues with the application thereof, found in verses 27-38|section of the Beatitudes. Remember, it’s a continuous behavior for us, “our verb” to love which expresses kindness, truthfulness, longsuffering, not given to arrogance nor being self-seeking, etc., and His continuous state of being, “His attribute.” God IS Love.
In closing with the original question, “What does Love look like?”, I see throughout the pages of Scripture that Love looks just like Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 4: 8-10 opens with “…love shall cover the multitude of sins.” Albeit, the next time you sense a prompting from within to “grant grace” to another, know that you’re just emulating the traits of your Father. This type of meekness is a great strength to possess. Nurture it and wield its virtue wisely, knowing that the possessor has the character to love another enough to rebuke in private while pardoning just the same should the offender ever attempt a reply to shame in a public forum. The 1 Cor. 13 Love Chapter passage makes me feel like I’m reading a beautiful poem that ends with sudden clarity for the truest definition for Love. He’s the Greatest, 1 Cor. 13:13,… and His love never ends! 1 Cor. 13:8 / 1 John 4:19 “We love Him, because He first loved us.”