Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not
boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love…always rejoices with the truth. It always protects…trust…hopes…perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NIV)
Experiencing and expressing real love is essential since we live in such a world of selfishness, busyness, distractions, and constant change. Real love is easy to miss since many define love as a feeling first of all. Popular “love” songs focus on the visual, the superficial, and fleeting emotions. Sexual arousal and feelings of attraction to another person are often called love. This kind of so-called love is self-centered and conditional such as the words in an old song “Please release me let me go, I don’t love you anymore.” Of course, this is not love — it’s a feeling that focuses on what we want now and not on what the other person ultimately needs.
Real love arises out of the heart of God who is love — expressed in the heart and life of Jesus! The word for love in the Bible verses above is the word agape. Used in the biblical context (hesed in the Old Testament and agape in the New Testament), it is first of all, a decision of the mind – although it also includes an emotional compassionate response toward others. This love is supremely expressed in Jesus in His life, death, and resurrection. It is others-centred, unconditional, and sacrificial. This is the love that we can experience when we respond to Jesus and allow Him to live out His love in us and through us to others.
According to the verses above, we can express the love of Jesus and the Jesus of love in the following three ways to others.
First, a loving heart relates to others with purposeful generosity. The word for patience in verse 4 above is makrothumia — it means to be large with self-restraint or self-control for the sake of the other person. Instead of responding with impatience, you see others through the eyes of Jesus and realize that God has a purpose for them as well. So, be generous to them with your time, abilities and resources in a way that reminds them of God’s love. Practise this in how you treat your spouse, family, friends, and neighbors. I heard a story about a woman who often shouted in frustration at her husband and children until she understood what the meaning of real love of Jesus as seen in these verses. Soon, she realized that she needed to change her perspective and attitude toward them. As she meditated on First Corinthians chapter 13, her focus shifted from herself to them in light of God’s purpose and plans for her husband and children. In dependence on Jesus, she began to love them unconditionally. She saw their God-given potential and so treated them with compassion and patience. An amazing thing happened — each of them began to blossom into the kind of persons that God desired them to be — in heart, attitude, and character!
Secondly, a loving heart responds to others with gentle empathy. The word for kind in the verses above refers to one who is gracious and sensitive to those around him or her. Kindness has a companion word — “empathy”. It means to put yourself in the shoes of another person, to imagine how they might feel in their pain, hurt, sorrow or need. Hebrews 13:3 reminds us that having a loving heart means that we remember those who are suffering as if we ourselves were suffering. Completely identifying with others in this way motivates us to compassionate praying and sacrificial service to those who deeply need our help. So, we do this gently, seeking to connect with the real heart of a person and prayerfully understand those around us before we seek to help them in their specific need. Thirdly, a loving heart serves others with joyful tenacity! The original biblical text says that “Love rejoices not at evil but rejoices [is joyful] with the truth.” When you possess a Jesus-like loving heart, you reject all evil and hold tenaciously to the truth of God and the God of truth. If you have chosen to know Jesus Christ and live in Him by faith, you are gripped by God and He will never let you go (John 10:28-29)! When we are sure of our eternal security in Jesus, we will joyfully connect with others, persevere in praying and serving them so that they may know Jesus who is the way, truth, and the life (John 14:6). Notice that in First Corinthians 13:7, expressing a loving heart means that you will persevere and not give up on someone who needs your help! Since God holds you and will never give up on you, you should also not give up on that family member, friend or neighbor who desperately needs God’s offer of eternal life and enabling power so that they, too, can live daily from Him and for Him!