If you’re like me and have been to quite a few weddings, you’ve probably heard the passage about love from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 about a thousand times. If you haven’t, the passage lists characteristics of love, beginning with, “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.” The description goes on for several more verses and perhaps you could quote it to yourself just as easily as you can read it.
The trouble with being so familiar with a passage of Scripture is it can lose its poignancy. It is easy to say to yourself, “Well, I know that…” and not soak in the richness of God’s word. When my husband and I were in premarital counseling, the couple counseling us gave us this advice and I am passing it on to you. When you are struggling to love someone, whether it is your spouse, family member, friend, co-worker, or someone you hardly know, this easy exercise will help you out. I can almost guarantee it.
Take the passage from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and write it out like this: “God is patient with me, therefore, I am patient with ______. God is kind to me, therefore, I am kind to ______.” Put whoever’s name you need to in the blank. Write it out, pray through it, and quickly the Lord will illuminate areas where you can grow in love. Thinking about how God loves you so perfectly despite all your shortcomings will inspire you to grow in your love towards others.
The beautiful thing about this exercise is that it doesn’t require anything of the other party. Even if the other person is completely wrong and you are completely right, you can grow in your patience, you can be slower to anger, you can always have hope. This isn’t meant to be a trite exercise. This very thing has rescued my marriage a number of times. The couple who shared it with us told us about a season when they had a lot of family strife. They and their four adult children meditated on this Scripture and it helped them work things out.
I challenge you to try this out the next time you recognize a conflict with another person in your life. It doesn’t have to be your spouse—it could be a friend or a co-worker or sibling or anyone. Chances are, there is a way you can grow in love and be more like Jesus. Each time you do this, there will be different areas of love that stand out to you where you can grow. What a wonder that God loves us so well, and he teaches us how to love like him too!
by Lauren Bratten
“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8 (NIV)
God, teach me how to love others like you love them. Thank you so much for extending your perfect love towards me and loving me no matter what I do.