This scripture is probably most often read at weddings. We use it to help interject peace into tense situations. We reflect on it anytime we try to define what love means in our own lives.
However, we tend to use this passage to make love sound fluffy. There are times when I’ve heard somebody read it aloud and I could have sworn that rainbows and butterflies somehow worked their way in there. We want love to be this touchy-feely emotion that makes everybody happy. We want it to be easy to understand and easy to execute. Real love is anything but those things.
Looking back at this famous passage about love, I think it is interesting what it does not say. It does not say that love is always encouraging or uplifting. It does not even say that love is comforting. It also does not say that love is always accepting. I think that may be the point that we miss the most.
Especially in our culture that seems to seek out being lukewarm on most things, it can be too easy for us to ignore each others’ faults and problems. In fact, we are encouraged to be open-minded and accepting of everyone’s opinions and preferences. We are chastised for challenging someone or even disagreeing with them. Our culture does not consider to that to be very loving. I completely disagree. And according to this passage, so does Paul.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. (1 Corinthians 13:6 NIV)
While we have no business judging the behavior of non-believers, we are not doing our Christian brothers and sisters any favors by accepting or even ignoring their sinful behavior. If we truly love them as we are called, we will not allow them to continue their self-destructive ways. We will get in their faces and challenge them. We will call them out and hold them accountable.
Love is such a tricky concept. What the world teaches us about love is starkly different from what the Bible teaches, but there are just enough similarities to keep us confused. Just know this: if something does not bring somebody closer to God, then it is not based in love.
Sometimes love can take the form of a hug, a gift, or an encouraging word. It can just as easily be an awkward conversation, an uncomfortable confrontation, or a painful revelation. As you love people today, be willing to do so justly and with conviction. Love can be tough, which means you have to be tough as well.