During the month of February, you simply can’t miss the message of love. Valentine’s Day paraphernalia has popped up from department store windows to drugstore displays. Television commercials have morphed from jolly holiday commercials to jewelry advertisements.
When the world starts talking about love, believers’ thoughts often shift toward a favorite passage tucked away in Corinthians. I read it again the other day, and I realized I had missed an important part of Paul’s message. Let me share this section of Scripture here before I explain:
even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr,
but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere.
So, no matter what I say, what I believe,
and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.”
I Corinthians 13:3-7, The Message Bible
Perhaps it was reading this contemporary language version of the Bible that highlighted the concept I hadn’t quite caught before: God’s love is all about accepting idiosyncrasies. In other words, just because you do something differently than me, I should still be able to care about you. When someone else’s ideas don’t mesh with mine, I ought to be okay with that. And when anyone challenges, opposes, or simply annoys, we’re told that true love “puts up with anything.”
Now, this doesn’t mean that when an individual is doing or thinking wrong that we must agree with him or her-rather we’re encouraged to live right yet still love. This means the Lord is asking us to love His way: loving the sinner, not the sin. This includes accepting the rude without being discourteous, and ignoring the cantankerous while not being cranky. Most of all, loves looks past what seems odd, idiosyncratic, perhaps even idiotic to discover what is best and good about that individual, no matter what.
As I mulled over these verses, I realized this is what I hope others would be willing to do for me. You see, despite my best attempts, I’m really just a floundering perfectionist-and I need others to forgive my flaws and foibles to feel truly loved. But God is asking me to love His way first and to care for all of the “others” in my life, not looking back-being faithful in His love until the end.
This is a different kind of love, dear friends, but it’s exactly the type of compassion those around us desperately need.