Love suffers long and is kind – can I be like that?
Growing up, I always thought I was a really easy-going person. But that didn’t mean I had the virtuous love that’s written in 1 Corinthians 13.
Love suffers long and is kind
In 1 Corinthians 13 it’s written about love and there’s a whole list: “Love suffers long and is kind. Love does not envy, does not parade itself, is not puffed up, does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil, does not rejoice in iniquity.” It’s the first two that have always stuck in my mind: “Love suffers long and is kind.” This has been on a board in my house for a long time.
Human love vs. divine love
It’s very normal for a mum to love their kids. We try our best, we don’t yell at them – well, we try not to. But we’re not called to just have a human love, but a love that’s actually divine, as it’s written in 1 Corinthians 13. At the end it says, “Love never fails.”
Godly love is not just a love because of who I am – a mum who loves her kids and wants to do something nice for them. You have to get further than that. It’s the virtuous love that comes out, that replaces what would have been a bad reaction, say when my kids are acting up. It’s the loving reaction that comes out instead when by nature that would not have been possible.
For that divine love to come forth, I have to deny myself – that is, the anger and irritation that naturally rise up in me. There has to be aagainst those tendencies so that the virtues can come. That’s been a huge need for me, and something that I’m still working on. It is when my natural love comes to its limits that I have the opportunity to gain the virtuous, godly love.
Growing up, I always thought I was a really easy-going person. I never got angry with people; people didn’t bother me in general. There was a long point in my life when I was actually not actively going to church, but then I came back because I just really saw that the world was empty. But even so, it wasn’t until different experiences later in life that I really started to see a darker side of myself. I experienced being pushed to a point where I actually felt an ugly part of me coming out. That brought me into need.
We all come to our boundaries at some point. If you saw someone else getting angry about something a little child is doing, you would be shocked, but the same anger comes up in you, maybe in a different situation. It’s in me just as much as it is in anyone else.
When I get to my own borders and try to do it in my own strength, there comes a point where that strength isn’t enough, and I snap. But a virtuous love, a love that comes from Christ, doesn’t suffer long to a point and then stop. No matter what the others are doing, no matter what the situation is, it will just continue. Love suffers long and is kind.
Love does not seek its own
When my kids are acting up, they’re like kids in general: yelling, and not listening to what I’m saying. Then I have to deal with the situation. But how am I dealing with it? Am I dealing with my irritation, just to get through it, saying that everyone has to listen to me now, because I’m irritated and can’t be bothered?
In those situations, I’ve found that the reason why I’m coming out of love and unrest is actually because I’m selfish. I want things to go quicker; it’s annoying me. It’s not because I care for the kids, that I don’t want them to behave like that. It’s often because of myself. As soon as there’s self-seeking, there’s no love there.
It actually says in James 3:16-17, “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”
When I’m being selfish, seeking my own advantage, it’s impossible to have any virtues, or anything divine coming from me.
I have to humble myself
I heard a godly man say this once, that we only have as much wisdom as virtues we’ve received. And that we only have as much wisdom as we humble ourselves, so they go hand in hand. To get the virtues I need to humble myself. People can be easy-natured, and generally I’m like that, so people can say, “Oh you take that situation so well,” but actually it’s not like that. It’s just me being me. I haven’t done anything great to take that situation a certain way. But then I can also start to think that I’m great, or that I have a certain amount of wisdom, when actually I don’t. It takes me being pushed to the limit to see that.
I can’t just say, “Okay, now I see that I need to love that person. I’m going to love them. Next time this situation comes I’m going to act in a loving way.” But that doesn’t work. I actually have to realize my own weakness and humble myself and be prepared, so that when the situation comes, I turn to God. “God, You’ve got to help me, I need all the strength and power so that I can act now in a loving way, rather than in the way that just comes out naturally.”
The physical situation might continue exactly the same. I can’t change how the kids are, but I can change the way I take it. I have to acknowledge the self-seeking, the irritation and the unrest in me, and put it to death by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:12-13.) Then a peace comes over me. Then I can also hear what the Spirit is saying to me. I can love my kids with a virtuous love. Maybe I still need to be strict with them sometimes, but there can be a peace inside. Then the virtues will come out of me.
That’s my biggest desire, that godly virtues will come, and there will be life in me. The human way that I used to react in will come out less and less, and there will come a point where it doesn’t happen anymore. That’s my hope.
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Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.