Many people have thought Paul was joking in 1 Corinthians 13:3, when he said, among other things: “…and if I surrender my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” To say that love is the foundation of everything is so simplistic, so elementary, that many people pass it off as being a necessary by product of human emotions. Believing it to be a feeling that we get whenever we experience something enjoyable, love becomes less of a choice and more of an accident. With a misunderstanding of such a foundational concept as this, it’s no wonder that many people walk around basing their entire heart, soul, and mind hoping to “fall into it.” We curse the heavens and scold the ground we walk on for the fact that we ourselves haven’t personally “found it” yet. But if love were something we just happen to fall into, why would Paul declare that it is a necessary part of all Christian activities? Paul wouldn’t base his entire soul on a feeling, would he?

He didn’t. To say love is nothing more than a human emotion is to say getting a degree is no more than dumb luck. Everyone knows that it takes time and effort (and a lot of your parent’s money) in order to attain that piece of paper that we stick on our walls, claiming to be an expert of something. In the same way, love is a concept that needs to be researched, discovered by each individual person, and understood. All of that, quite frankly, takes a lot of work.

We commonly ascribe in many brethren circles, that “love is a choice, not a gooey feeling,” and in many ways that’s right. But I would argue that by making that choice to love, the fuzzy emotions that come along with it are only natural. Take, for instance, a hermit that is locked away inside a cave for 20 years. Believing himself to be the only thing he has, he may develop a contempt for the outside world, thinking if there’s any happiness that he is to enjoy, it must come from himself. And so he embarks upon a series of depression based rituals, striving for happiness but never being able to find it. Why? Because by knowing what causes the happiness is “created,” he is unconsciously ridding himself of any enjoyment that can be gained. Why do you think most people enjoy surprises so much?

Looking at the list of love “requirements” in 1 Corinthians 13, you’ll find tucked away in verse 5, the phrase: “…does not seek its own.” At the heart of true love is a dependence on other people. The old, antiquated idea that the “greatest thing this life has to offer is to love, and be loved in return,” is absolutely correct. And in order for us to get love, we have to start the process ourselves, to “create” it by our own initiative. So Paul embarks on this list of love “how-to’s,” all of which revolve around an action that we do for someone else:

4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails…

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Brady, ‘not rejoicing in unrighteousness’ doesn’t have anything to do with other people specifically!” You’re right, but it does have to do with our relationship towards our God. To initiate a reaction of love towards our God means that we appreciate the same things that He does and hate the same things that He does. It works the same way in a marriage where two people “love” each other, so why not in our spiritual life?

I’ve known of people (and I’m sure you do too) that for a long time were generally unhappy, and frankly, not a lot of fun to be around. Notwithstanding the few who have been through unspeakable events in their lives, most of these Johnny Rainclouds bring the misery on themselves. Believing their unhappiness goes hand in hand with emotions that are, at best, unpredictable, they sit and wait for that divine intervention that will lead them back to sanity. Rather than doing that, why not create opportunities for ourselves, rising above our situations and looking to help others, letting them create that love for us. After all, we don’t want to be a hermit, do we?

Last modified: January 22, 2019