Disheveled Theologian: Some thoughts on love in this Valentines week
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” If I say the things that a mother is supposed to say to her children, but don’t do it in love, I am no better than a blaring YouTube video.
“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” If I can see that no good is going to come of a situation because I was a teenager once, too, and if I have enough faith to discipline my children, believing that it is best for them, but do not do it out of love, I’m really just a babysitter.
“If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” If I give to charities and stretch my energy to the utmost so that I can show what a great person I am at serving others, and do not serve out of love, then all I have to show for it is a worthless award, a finite honor.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” Love waits its turn; love is friendly. Love doesn’t compare how many Facebook friends wished you happy birthday. Love keeps her mouth shut when words will do more harm than good.
“It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” Love does not point out fault needlessly in her spouse, in order to build up herself. Love knows that she messes up, too. Love does not bring up past wrong and rub it in his face.
“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” Love does not cheer when things go wrong for those she does not like. Love is oh, so glad when her children tell the truth, even if it makes life harder for them.
“It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Love takes his wife to the doctor when she’s scared. Love believes the best of a person. Love expects good things. Love goes out late at night to pick up the kids even though he is tired and would rather stay at home.
“Love never fails.” Love doesn’t stop just because it doesn’t really like him so much right at that particular moment.
“But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” This stuff on earth: it’s going to fail. It’s going to fade. It’s going to die.
“For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.” Right now, we just don’t get it. But someday we will.
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” Children have messy rooms. When they grow up, they’re supposed to clean them. It’s called responsibility.
“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” I don’t really “get” God. I can only see part of who he is. But someday I’ll meet him in person and I’ll understand more simply by being in his presence. I’ll hear his tone of voice. I’ll see the way Jesus holds out his arms for me to run into them. Someday I’ll be able to ask him all my questions and have them answered, each and every one. I’ll understand him, even as he already understands me.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Yes, I believe in God. Yes, I cling to my certainty that He is who He says He is. But none of it matters if I don’t truly love.
Really, and truly and ferociously love.
1 Corinthians 13 NIV
Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.