Walking Our Faith: Love is a verb

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” — 1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:4-7‬, ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬

When I moved to New York City, after college, I bought a beautiful coffee table-sized book with the simple title “Love.” It contained pages of poetry and paintings of Marc Chagall and others like him, describing our idealized view of romantic love. My friend bought the same book, and she had a boyfriend whom she later married. Perhaps there was something I could learn.

This week I’ve been gathering my belongings with a determination to give away half of everything I own before I move. I came across this book and decided to put it in the bag of books I’m donating to the Summit County Library. I felt it was finally time to part with, not only the book, but with the rather immature view I’ve had of love for all these years.

I’ve been reading a book called “Make a List” by Marilyn McIntyre. When I originally picked it up, I thought it might be a means to help me organize this move or my weekly housekeeping, instead the lists described are more a means to explore something meaningful in our lives rather than a list of things that need to be done.

For example, Ms. McIntyre takes a set of verses known to every couple planning their wedding, 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7, and uses it to compose a list titled, “What Love Looks Like”.

It occurred to me that framing a close study of Bible verses, sometimes called Lectio Divina, in this way caused me to think of these verses with new appreciation. In fact, after finishing the exercise I’ll describe below, I no longer see these verses as wedding service filler, but as a guide for living a life of meaning.

In my journal I wrote a list of the attributes of love mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

Love is…

  • Patient
  • Kind
  • Does not boast, not proud (Humble)
  • Not self-seeking (Self-effacing, Generous)
  • Rejoices in the truth
  • Protects
  • Trust
  • Hopes
  • Perseveres

When I opened my Bible to create my list, I saw that I had previously written above these verses that love is a verb that requires action on our part, in the absence of love was a lack of action.

So after I wrote my list, I began thinking of where I would find evidence of these verbs. Where have I found love in action?

Patient: A wife whose deep love for her husband is exemplified with the dignity and gentleness she conveys to her husband living with early onset Alzheimer’s, even as it has drastically changed her own life.

Kind: A boss who chooses empathy and instruction rather than insult when an employee makes a mistake.

Self-Effacing, Generous: A renowned chef who creates an organization to feed hungry refugees of war and natural disaster around the world.

Perseveres: A saint of a woman who perseveres in prayer for the release of her nephew from prison.

As I continue through the list, my feelings of despair over those suffering in war or homelessness changes and I change. I realize what a generous community we live in, and how blessed I am with friends who are angels in disguise.

Saint Paul uses comparison to impress upon us the primacy of love. He writes towards the end of the 13th chapter that knowledge will come and go with time and even faith and hope, although being so important may bend as we are worn down by despair, love is the attribute that will ultimately create the action to save us.

As Saint Paul writes, “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” — 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, RSV

Try this exercise this week: Grab a piece of paper, jot down these attributes of love, and then look around. Can you find an instance of each in your own life and realize how full of love your life is? Then consider for a moment how you can reflect these attributes of love into your world through your own actions.

God bless you.

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