"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 If this is God's description of love then I have regrets.
These verses are not new to me, but God has brought them to my attention and challenged me with them. If this is His description of love then I have failed miserably at loving. I am not always patient, kind, humble, or selfless. I can at times be easily angered. There have been moments when I have remembered some of the wrongs that have been done to me as a way of protecting myself from getting hurt in the future. I don't always trust. There have been times when I have lost hope in having a healthy relationship with certain family members. I have even given up and chosen not to persevere.
If this is what God's Word says love looks like, then I need to love this way. This is easier said than done especially when there are people in this world who are difficult to love. I've been asking God for some time how to love a particularly difficult person. Through most of the sixteen years that I have known this person, I have given it my best shot. I can honestly say that anything God has asked me to do to love them, I have done. There have been times when loving them has been a choice of obedience to God, rather than an emotion I have felt. I have struggled with these questions: What boundaries should I have? What does loving this person look like? What actions do I take or not take? In recent years I have chosen to keep some distance between us because it's easier and it keeps the peace. There are people in this life who will take your words and twist them to cause problems for you or to make themselves look better. I find that if I give them less words to work with, there is less opportunity for this to happen. I have regularly questioned God as to whether this was the right approach and have not gotten an answer. Perhaps this is why I am looking intently at this description of love in 1 Corinthians. It shows me where I have lacked love with this particular person. I see it in the words,"always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres". I regret that I have not loved them better and that in certain ways I have given up.
1 John 4:16 says, " God is love." If God is love then 1 Corinthians must be a description of Him. I find this encouraging because of the words, "Love never fails". I know my love has failed but God's love does not. The only way to love the way the Bible describes love is to ask God to change me and to make me like Him. Without Him it is impossible to love this way, especially when it comes to difficult people or as the Bible calls them "enemies". It turns out that Luke has some answers to the questions I've been asking. I never saw them as answers before because I never really thought of this particular person as an enemy. According to the dictionary an enemy is someone who rises up against you or someone who is antagonistic. The Bible has some valuable insights for handling an enemy. "But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." Luke 6:27-28,31, 35-36
The solution is to love my enemy because even God, my Heavenly Father, "is kind to ungrateful and evil men". I am to pray for the one who mistreats me and to treat them the way I would like to be treated. This is such an incredibly difficult task but I am told to be like my Heavenly Father, to "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." It's not about boundaries or what to do or not to do with a difficult person. It is all about doing what God tells me to do and He has spelled it out clearly in Luke.
All I can do is ask God to help me love like He loves. If I follow His directions in these passages of Scripture I won't have any regrets. After all, who wants to live life with regret? I want to love this difficult person in my life in such a way that they cannot help but know who my Father is because that's all they see is Him. We all have enemies. Who are yours? Start loving them today by naming them in prayer and treating them the same way you wish to be treated. I won't lie to you. It may hurt a bit to love them, but in doing so they will know who your Father is. Meeting your Father could very well change their lives forever!