Jesus gave us the key to happiness and harmony when He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”1 What exactly does that mean, in practical, everyday terms? One of the best explanations ever given is found in the Bible’s “love chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13. Times and terms have changed, but the underlying principles are as true as ever. Here’s how the apostle Paul might have put it if he were writing to us today.
1. Though I can speak five languages and talk intelligently on dozens of subjects, if I don’t have enough love to keep from gossiping or putting down others, I’m not just making so much useless noise, I’m being downright destructive.
2. And though I read the Bible regularly and even know parts of it by heart, and though I pray daily and have a lot of faith and other spiritual gifts, if I don’t have enough love to sometimes sacrifice some of my personal desires for others’ sakes, then all of my “spirituality” amounts to nothing.
3. And though I work two jobs to provide for my family, and though I give to charity and volunteer for every community project that comes up, if I don’t show love and kindness to those I live and work with, all my hard work and self-sacrifice are worthless.
4. Love has a long, hard, frustrating day at the office, yet doesn’t get snappy and short tempered. Love is happy for the other guy when he gets all the breaks. Love doesn’t have to drive the flashiest car, live in the biggest house, or have all the latest gadgets. Love doesn’t always have to be the boss or have the last word.
5. Love isn’t rude or crude, isn’t selfish, and doesn’t gripe or pressure others to get what it wants. Love is too busy being concerned about the needs of others to spend much time worrying about its own. Love doesn’t freak out when things don’t go its way. Love is quick to believe the best about people and slow to believe the rest.
6. Love hates to hear gossip and instead wants only to talk about others’ good qualities and the good that they’ve done. Love knows that what it listens to, watches, or reads will affect its attitudes and actions and thereby have an effect on others, so it’s careful about how it spends its time.
7. Love is flexible, takes things in stride, and can handle whatever comes its way. Love is always ready to give others the benefit of the doubt and looks for the best in them. Love wants to see others reach their full potential and does all it can to make that happen. Love never runs out of patience, even with those who are slow to get with the program or do their share. Love doesn’t keep looking at its watch when others are talking.
8. Love never fails. I fail others, and others can fail me. We all can be mistaken, misguided, or confused at times. Our words and deeds often fall short, and our bright ideas don’t always play out the way we want or expect them to.
9. We’re frail, fallible, and often foolish, and our understanding of the world we live in, not to mention the world to come, is only partial at best.
10. But when God’s Spirit of love lives in us, that changes everything.
11. We’re really just children when it comes to practicing real love, but God can help us outgrow our childish ways.
12. Without Him we’re clueless when it comes to love and the other things that matter most in life, but when we live in His kingdom—the kingdom of Heaven that Jesus said is even now within us—we can see things as He does, get our priorities straight, pull out the stops, and live and love to the full.
13. There are lots of nice things in life and lots of good things, but none are as good or as important as love!
—Adapted from Maria Fontaine by Josie Clark
There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer, no disease that enough love will not heal. No door that enough love will not open, no gulf that enough love will not bridge. No wall that enough love will not throw down, no sin that enough love will not redeem. It makes no difference how deeply seated may be the trouble, how hopeless the outlook, how muddled the tangle, how great the mistake. Sufficient love will dissolve it all.—Emmet Fox