Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Children are a blessing. They give us much joy. But let’s be honest, there are days when they stretch our patience. Raising a child is no easy task. Parenting author Paul Tripp said it’s mission impossible.
However, while recognising the challenge, it’s sad and appalling to read in the newspaper about parents whose frustration went overboard. A five-year old boy developed a limp as a result of a misaligned kneecap he sustained after his mother allegedly hit him repeatedly with a broom over biscuits she found scattered on the kitchen floor. And sadly, there were many other situations where wrath was unchecked and unleashed leading to a tragic end.
As imperfect beings, we stumble and fall. We often do not react to situations in the best way. We need God’s grace to redeem our mistakes and prevent us from continuing down the path of destruction—for ourselves and for others.
In 1 Corinthians 13 the apostle Paul outlines what perfect love looks like. His standard sounds wonderful, but putting that love into practice can be absolutely daunting. Thankfully, we have Jesus as our example. As He interacted with people with varying needs and issues, He showed us what perfect love looks like in action. As we walk with Him, keeping ourselves in His love and steeping our mind in His Word, we’ll reflect more and more of His likeness. We’ll still make mistakes, but God is able to redeem them and cause good to come out of every situation, for His love “always protects” and it “never fails” (vv. 7–8). We can read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 this way:
Jesus is patient and kind. Jesus is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Jesus does not demand his own way. Jesus is not irritable, and he keeps no record of being wronged. Jesus does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Jesus never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
Now, let us consider how we can follow Jesus’ example by practicing love.
“Love is patient and kind”.
The word “patient” means “patient endurance under provocation.” The literal meaning of the word is “long-tempered”. A patient person is a person with a long fuse. In ordinary life, patience is not a difficult virtue to manifest. When life is stressful, however, patience becomes hard. When you are worried about bringing bread to the table, and a child is throwing a tantrum and do not heed your instructions, we can quickly lose our patience. We need God’s grace to be patient.
Well, being patient does not mean we silently endure everything . That’s when we need to remember that love is kind too. It’s interesting to note that the bible states, “love is patient and kind” instead of “love is patient, kind”. Perhaps, we are to see these two qualities as a couplet, one phrase.
The word “kind” refers to “active goodness that goes forth in behalf of others”. J.B Philip translates it as “look for a way of being constructive.”
So what does that mean: we need to be patient in disciplining our child. After all, we are all work in progress. God is not done with me. He is not done with our children too. He is at work in us and in them.
Keep practicing love
And here’s where it’s helpful to remember that Paul’s description of love are in verb form in its original Greek text. Emphasis is not so much upon what love is as it is upon on what loves does. The fact that these facets were written as doing words is a reminder to us that if we merely read the word and hear the word but do not put them into practice, then it is of no avail to us.
Verses 4 to 8 are not simply instructions but transformation. It must be truth applied, not truth simply learned in the head, but truth that is channeled to the hands and the feet and so on.
The present continuous tense denotes action and attitude which must become habitual in our lives. This characteristics of love must be factored into our life as we employed them on a daily basis making them part of our habitual activity. They will be employed, and seen gradually by constant repetition. In much the same way as we build our muscle by way of exercising, and would seen an atrophy when there is an absence of exercise.
In short, we must keep practicing love.
Thankfully, we are not our own. God wants to work in us so that we may bear the fruit of the Spirit, which includes love (Galatians 5:22). He will change us from the inside out, allowing us to bear fruit of the Spirit.—Chia Poh Fang
Lord, You know how much I struggle against sin.
Help me to presevere and not to give up,
for You have assured me that
You will help me overcome.
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