I Corinthians 13:1-7 is one of those passages that I have heard and read so often that I probably do not really listen to the words as I should, if in fact I ever did. Maybe you aren’t like me… hopefully you aren’t. I chose to reflect on the first part of verse 4. Or maybe God chose it for me because I needed to understand it and apply it to my life in a new way.
Here, Paul challenges the believers to not live as the world lives. The church had fallen into serious problems because they had chosen to live by way of the culture. The pluralistic society had invaded the church and arrogant understanding of spirituality had caused deep divides among the believers. Instead of building up God, individualism dictated building up themselves.
Paul was calling those believers to another, better way to live; a “holy other” as some have called it. The more excellent way as others have called it. To love, as Christ called it. Verse 4 picks up after his comments on the necessity of love and follows through the next four verses depicting the activity of love, i.e., how love works.
Different Bible translations often help in clarifying words or, in a sense, pounds the meaning into you. If we look at different translations for these two active words, we see the word patient represented as long suffering, long endurance, charitable, never gives up, and great-hearted. Kindness is represented in various words such as thoughtful, respectful, showing kindness, looking for ways to be constructive, and caring for others more than self.
I always tried to follow Jesus’ teachings to love people, to respect all, to be kind and considerate of others, and to be patient with others’ shortcomings. That worked pretty well for quite some time until I ran into the “depends on” people. You know those people… the ones that it depends on how much they have really hurt you. Mine were those who had been unfair and unjust or who had hurt my pride and self-esteem. I’d like to say I lived a better way, lived the excellent way, even lived the holy other. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I prayed that God would help me love the “depends on” people. Isn’t that what the Holy Spirit does? Somehow my prayers seemed not to go anywhere.
And then one day, I realized and told God I just didn’t want to “feel this way” anymore. I believe God was waiting for me to stop asking Him to fix or get me out of the situation I was in. Instead, I was now ready for Him to change me. I was ready to put myself aside in order for the Holy Spirit to work in me. I Thessalonians 5:23a-24 says, “ May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” Oswald Chambers called this the “cost of Sanctification” in the believer’s life. What it costs me is giving up everything that is not like Him in order to become more like Him.
Holy Father, may I put myself aside and allow Your Holy Spirit to work in me, sanctifying me through and through, so I may show a family resemblance to You in the way I love… even with the “depends on” people. Amen