The verb “love” in the English language is defined according to Webster as follows:
: to feel great affection for (someone)
: to feel love for (someone)
: to feel sexual or romantic love for (someone)
: to like or desire (something) very much
: to take great pleasure in (something)
Every one of those definitions has to do with how the ‘lover’ feels. 1 Corinthians 13 on the other hand would be very hard to live out based on feelings. The dictionary definition is focused on how ‘love’ makes you feel but the 1C13 definition is all about how you treat others. The one is selfish, the other selfless. 1C13 is regulations on how to react to and interact with others. Living out biblical love based on feelings would fizzle out before too long. Try going one whole day living in biblical love motivated by feelings alone.
I never said that this love thing was going to be glamorous.
Patience or long suffering is the first description of what love is in 1C13 and is also a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). I think patience has two definitions. The first is what I originally thought of when I thought of patience. That is to put up with someone’s flaws, inadequacies, and annoying habits. It is to give people grace when they don’t meet up to your expectations. It takes a special kind of self-control to not try and interfere with someone when they are not maturing as fast as you expect or haven’t reached your level maturity yet.
The second definition of patience is much harder. I didn’t understand this second part of “long-suffering” until a read a few commentaries on the subject. Long-suffering is not just putting up with the inadequacies of other but also putting up with the outright attacks of other. Turning the other cheek. One commentary described it as refusing to take vengeance for hurt even when it is in your power to do so. When offended it is natural to want to lash back at the attacker, to protect yourself and prove your point. The idea of patience is so radically different. You would almost see it as a kind of weakness, to not stand up for yourself, but it is actually a quiet kind of strength. It takes a special kind of character to decide to give up your right to revenge, to respond with grace instead of anger in the heat of the moment. And maybe not just “in the moment”. The long in long-suffering means just that, to do it for a long time.
It’s much more satisfying to lose your patience but trust me, if you are a person who suffers long people will see that quiet strength in you and you will be respected. Maybe most respected by your enemies.
Character is rarely a showy thing.