Summary: Most couples when they walk down the isle think that it’s going to be Happily ever after because that’s what’s portrayed for us on the screen. But it can be a few days, months or even year, you begin to realize that marriage isn’t all happily evert after
“Hold on, There’s Hope!”
1 Cor. 13:1-7
Our Scripture today is Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth which was experiencing a lot of turmoil and infighting as a new body of Christ. Paul’s answer was simply one word: love. This was a prescription of how the body of Christ should be living out their faith together. What’s interesting is that these same words are the ones most chosen for wedding ceremonies. Paul gives us a picture of love, one that not only gives us a new understanding of love but also new ways to practice love. This may be one of the most beautiful Scripture in all of the Bible but even so, I’m not sure we fully understand what it means or how we can love as Paul encourages. Part of the problem is that we have a broken image of love. We get these images from either our parents or past relationships or friendships we’ve been in where we’ve been hurt. Others of us get these images from our culture or even from Hollywood. But when we compare our marriages or relationships to that, we’re in trouble. We begin think, “Where’s my Prince Charming?” or “Where’s the person who completes me?” Most couples when they walk down the isle think that it’s going to be Happily ever after because that’s what’s portrayed for us on the screen. But it can be a few days, a few months or even a few years when you begin to realize that marriage isn’t all happily ever after. Some of us are married and may be beginning to wonder, “Where’s my happily ever after?”
The problem is that most of us go back to the beginning of a relationship when it’s filled with excitement, tingling feelings and romance. For some of us, that lasted a few months and for others a few years but we want to try to recreate that passionate romantic love which filled our days and nights and made us feel like we were walking on air. We want to feel that love all over again but love is not a feeling. A lot of time we hear people say, “I just fell in love” like they’re walking down a sidewalk and there’s a sinkhole of love they just fall into. Love is not something that happens to you. It’s something you choose to do. Love is not a noun. It’s a verb. Love is a choice. It’s something we do over time, day after day. We have to commit ourselves to love daily. We have to be intentional about loving. Love is more than just about our relationships. It’s about us, how we relate to God and even ourselves. Love is not easy. It’s not easy to love God. It’s not easy to love our spouse. And it’s not easy to love others.
But what is love? When Paul speaks of love, he’s intentionally uses the word agape which is self-giving, sacrificial love. Perhaps the best image of agape is Jesus’ sacrificial suffering and death on the cross for our benefit. It is that love from Jesus Christ that we are called to share with others. Agape is placing the needs of others ahead of your own. It is loving others as Christ loved us.” With this understanding of love, Paul says, “Love is patient.” When Paul speaks of being patient, he’s not talking about waiting for your spouse to pick up their socks when they promised to or put their laundry away that’s been sitting there for days. It’s not that kind of patience. It’s actually much worse than that. The kind of patience Paul is talking about is long suffering. Whenever Paul is talking about suffering, he referencing the suffering the early church was experiencing as a direct result of their faithfulness to Jesus. What Paul needed them to know is that their suffering was an expression of their love for Christ. Paul writes in Romans 5:3-4, “we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” How can suffering produce hope? We never know what life’s going to throw at us but what we do know is that we get to choose how we respond, that is, whether we love or not. Love is patient and it’s in the suffering and the difficulties where you’re not driven away from each other but instead are driven to each other, that hope springs forth. Because together centered on Christ you can overcome all things.
There’s another element to this patience and it’s endurance. When you go through the years and the years turn to decades, you need endurance. I was reminded of this in November when my wife and I celebrated 20 years of marriage. In her card, she put, “I can’t wait to see what the next 20 years holds.” And I thought, “Boy, she’s a glutton for punishment.” But it was a message of endurance. Marriage isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon. You have to make a commitment that the person you’re with is the one you’re meant to be with. Not because you were “meant” to be but because you chose to love them. And you have to make that choice again and again and again. Love is enduring.