Summary: Paul describes love’s immeasurabley wide- unassuming-forever dimensions.
So Sonja and Mike, the two of you are “in love.” Can you tell me what that means exactly? Is being “in love” like being “in Hong Kong”? Is love a place? Does it have an address? Is being “in love” like being “in a tree”? I ask this because when couples falter in love they often say they’ve “fallen out of love” as if love were a tree whose branches could no longer hold them.
Philosophers, poets, and most lately, pop stars have tried to define love with little success. Thankfully Christian couples don’t have to guess what love is. God defines it for us in the section of Scripture you chose to be read at your wedding. In 1 Corinthians 13 the Apostle Paul defines love’s dimensions. This will be the standard by which you are to measure your love for one another.
First, Paul speaks of love’s width. “Love is patient, love is kind” explains Paul (1 Corinthians 13:4a). The Greek word for “patient” means “long-suffering,” or “being willing to put up with a lot.” In other words, true love has stamina and is not easily angered. So when Mike has finished his magic in the kitchen and served up a delicious supper but left spaghetti sauce splotches and sullied spatula on the stove again, you could nag him about cleaning it up, Sonja, or in love decide it’s really not that big a deal. What’s even better is to see this as an opportunity to show love for Mike by cleaning up for him. Not because he made supper and this is the least you can do but because love knows no bounds and it has no limits in what it will put up with and do for others. That’s how wide love is.
While love is immeasurably wide its height might surprise you. Paul goes on to say that love “does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking…it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:4b-6). As Paul describes it, love keeps a low profile. It does not draw attention to itself and the things it has done. Mike, when you get up twice in a row to care for Dean during the night, you don’t need to let Sonja know about it the next morning in a way that makes her feel as if she isn’t pulling her weight in the area of child care. Even if Sonja promised to get up but didn’t, you won’t hold this against her for true love keeps no record of wrongs. I’m not saying you shouldn’t point out sin in each other. You should but true love won’t do this in an accusatory manner. Point out broken promises, unkind words, and laziness but always cover over these “revelations” with the words: “I love you, and I forgive you.” And then don’t bring up the issue again. That’s what it means when Paul says that love keeps a low profile.
Love is wide but not tall. What about its length? Listen to Paul again: “[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:7). How long is true love? “Always, always, always, always” says Paul. Love is forever. It never quits. How then can couples say that they have “fallen out of love”? They say things like that because they don’t know what love is. They think love is something you have when it’s really something you do…forever…for others…and for free without expecting anything in return.
This wide, unassuming, forever love is what you are pledging before God and these witnesses today. Are you sure you want to do that? I’m serious. Love is not a customer at a five-star restaurant that expects to eat for free; it’s the sous-chef who works hard and anonymously in the hot kitchen for little pay and under the direction of another. In other words, love isn’t about what you get; it’s about what you give.
I’m sorry, Mike and Sonja. No matter how hard you try, you are going to stumble in your love for one another. How do I know? Because you’re sinners just as I am! I mean take this section of Scripture and replace the word “love” with your names. Are the following statements true? “Sonja is patient, Mike is kind. Sonja does not envy, Mike does not boast, Sonja is not proud. 5 Mike is not rude, Sonja is not self-seeking, Mike is not easily angered, Sonja and Mike keep no record of wrongs… 7 They always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere.” Sure, you may be patient most of the time, but not always. You may not become easily angered when you’ve had your beauty sleep, but what about those days you’re trying to operate on three, four hours of sleep? Doesn’t the slightest provocation set you off? If so, you fall short of the divinely-defined dimensions of love. That’s a problem because lack of love not only damages your relationship with each other; it has damaged your relationship with God beyond human-repair. Because of this there is no reason God should love you. No reason he should provide you a job, food to eat, or good health. What he should do is hand you and me a one-way ticket to the eternal fires of hell.