“Love is Patient…”
“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NRSV)
Love – the greatest commandment, the most beautiful commandment, and yes, the hardest of commandments. Often, I get asked to qualify and delineate the concept of this “neighbor” that we are called to love. The simplest answer to this is to think about whom Jesus loved; he loved… everyone! Therefore, everyone is your neighbor. Even the ones who test your patience, your faith, your very sanity. Even the ones with whom you cannot sit in the same space. Even the ones with whom you vehemently disagree on almost everything. Especially the ones who you would rather not have included in the idea of “neighbor.” Jesus never really made things easy for us, did he? Sometimes we wish there were an exception clause or two, a loophole. But there are none – we are called to love EVERYONE! Clearly, the apostle Paul must have had similar questions around the idea of loving neighbor from the churches, and in the passages for this week, Romans 12:9-13 and 1 Corinthians 13:1-7, he expands on what this commandment to love one’s neighbor entails. The answer is essentially the same in both passages: we are to love others as God loves them. Sincerely, with genuine devotion to their well-being, not seeking to place ourselves over them. Loving them into their best selves, even when we feel we have no more love to give. For we know that when we love God and know God’s love, we will never run out of love to give to others. Paul goes on to describe what love is and what love is not in the passage quoted above. He tells us to be patient with one another, be kind, be humble, meet people where they are, and really listen with interest and attention to what they might have to say. Love them as Jesus loves them. Love them as Jesus loves you. It may not be easy, but we also know that Jesus promised joy to those who follow his commandment to love one another as he has loved us (John 15:9-12). It is a joyful thing both to love and to be loved. Practice the patient and kind love of neighbor in your daily life, and may your joy be full!