Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, it is not pompous,
It is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing
but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
St. Paul’s beautiful treatise on Christian love is a reminder to all of us of how we are to conduct ourselves in this world, in our relationships with one another – friends, family, spouses, and enemies. This is not just about a husband and wife’s married love (although it is “spousal” love). This is love that gives, that looks our for others, that suffers.
We who hear these words today need to hear them; we need to be reminded about who we are and how we are to conduct ourselves. That is the purpose of coming together in community – here in church – to hear God’s Word, not our own, to measure ourselves against that Word, and to make the adjustments to our lives if we find ourselves lacking somewhere. Jesus offers us that opportunity, and it is an expression of God’s mercy and compassion for us to do so.
When Christ taught in His hometown synagogue, He was offering the people of Nazareth a better way – a way that didn’t discount people for where they came from, a way that opened their ears to hear true wisdom (regardless of where it came from), a way that sought God in even the ordinary events of their lives. They could not do that, and they ran Jesus out of town with their closed-mindedness, It must have been heartbreaking to the Lord.
But we who hear this account – who also hear this story in the light of St. Paul’s exposition on love – should be careful not to dismiss the Nazarenes for their hardness of heart. I admit, I can also be closed-minded in my interactions; I can be caught up in my own ego and pursuits to the point that I miss what God is trying to say to me. It is then that these words about true Christian love call me back to who I am supposed to be.
When we listen to St. Paul today, are we patient– or do we dismiss people at the first sign of hurt that they inflict on us? If love is not quick tempered or does not brood over injury, what do we think when we look for reasons to be offended in conversations or online? If love is not jealous or does not seek its own interests, why do we cling so tightly to our possessions, our security, or our opinions when others come along in need?
This is the love that married couples should always show – not because it is exclusive to marriage. Married couples are called to show it as a lesson to the rest of us. The patience of a wife with her husband’s foibles – even the huge ones – is a lesson in God’s true love for us. The kindness of a husband for his elderly or infirm wife when she struggles is a reminder of how God picks us up and guides us in His great love for us. This is not the love that chooses sides in Facebook battles, or that dismisses vulnerable people as “illegals,” or that murders children in the womb for capricious reasons of “health.”
When we hear this beautiful ode to love, we are meant to see it as a mirror for ourselves. In all circumstances, this mirror should stand before us and it should judge us. Not in the same way that my mirror judges me after the holiday season – but in the ways that matter. Am I reflecting the same love that Jesus shows me? Is that love available to everyone I meet, bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things? That kind of love can never fail.