“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
I have often read this verse through the filter of a Hallmark Christmas movie. I don’t want to say I’m obsessed with them, but once November 1st hits it’s all I watch. I know they are cheesy, predictable, and at times downright silly, but I love the simplicity of it. I know in every episode the main character will start out one way and through some predicament meet a man that will push her to change (or vice versa) and with a little help from Christmas magic they will overcome all the obstacles and fall in love, happily ever after. It does not matter to me that almost every movie is the same, I eat it up. In fact, every year over 85 million people tune in to watch, “The Countdown to Christmas.” Which just goes to show you that people are in love with love. Who doesn’t want to be loved like a Hallmark movie? Where all your annoying quirks are endearing and the only thing that really needs to be changed is your attitude (oftentimes by cutting down a tree or ice skating). We want to be fully accepted and embraced with little change.
The problem is, I have watched hundreds of Hallmark Christmas movies and they have never done a thing for my marriage, except maybe, at times, make me resent my husband for not loving me the way Hallmark says I should be loved and if I’m being honest, the way 1 Corinthians 13 makes me think I should be loved. I read 1 Corinthians 13 and think, this is how my husband is supposed to love me, and I’m right, it’s in the bible after all. He should be patient and kind, he shouldn’t insist on his own way or be irritable and resentful, he should bear, believe, hope, and endure all the things I throw at him. He should be a Hallmark man who happily follows and accepts me at all times. Only, David is not a Hallmark man and neither was Jesus.
The problem with the Hallmark filter is we read 1 Corinthians 13 as though love were a feeling and not a choice. If love like this is a feeling, then it sounds great! I want to live a life where I feel patient and kind towards everyone and never feel irritable and where my husband and fellow believers feel that way about me too. Only, it’s unrealistic. I’m far too human to never be irritable, there are going to be far too many nights where I don’t get enough sleep or lunch is late and I get cranky, or times where my adorable quirks drive my husband nuts and he might feel resentful, or one of my friends might get something sparkly and new and envy sneaks its way in. My life will never be a Hallmark movie because God never told us to be perfect, he told us to be obedient. In order to be obedient, we must make the choice to not act on emotions, especially when it comes to loving others.
When we take the filter off and see that in order to love well, we will have to battle our flesh, it doesn’t sound nice, it sounds hard. It means that I am the one that has to be patient and kind to people who I feel don’t deserve it. I have to be the one to put my differences aside and endure all things. Paul was writing to us; we are the ones who have to choose to love this way.
So, how do we do this? How do we love not only our friends and family this way, but strangers and enemies? The answer is simple; we can’t, but Christ can. In fact, he already did. He loved us so perfectly that He chose to die so we could be saved. He chose to include us in His kingdom even though we have done nothing to deserve it. He chose us and because He chose us, we have the Holy Spirit living within us ready to help overcome impossible tasks.
Galatians 5:22 says that love is a fruit of the spirit, so in order to tap into this fruit that Paul is talking about we must cultivate the Holy Spirit in our lives by living in obedience, denying our flesh, repenting of sin, reading our bible, praying. When we choose to put God first in our lives it is amazing how He softens our hearts and what was impossible for us, is possible for Him.
So, I encourage you this season to stop loving like a Hallmark movie with selfish emotions, it will end up empty and unfulfilling. Instead turn to Christ and let Him show you not only how to love fully, but also to be loved fully.