Yesterday, I saw a post on an Instagram page with 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, and I couldn’t even get past the first attribute.
In this part of his letter to the Corinthians, Paul is exhorting the church about the importance of love. This love is the love characteristic of God, the Father.
The word Paul uses in describing this love is the Greek work agape. This is not the same as brotherly love (phileo) or romantic love (eros). Agape is characteristic of God, love with an infinite capacity.
So, when I was rereading that passage of Scripture yesterday I felt the Lord speak to my spirit, “Look what attribute is first.”
Love is patient.
The more I dwelt on this attribute, the more I realized what a distorted view of agape love I had.
It’s easy to love people with a phileo sort of love. Friends, siblings, family can all fall into this category.
It’s easy to love that man or that woman with an eros kind of love. He’s handsome, she’s pretty, we enjoy being around them.
But agape, the love that sent Jesus to a cross at the Father’s appointed time. That’s the kind of love we are called to live in and to live out.
Loving others in a phileo or an eros way is exhausting and stressful. Some days you aren’t in the mood to act friendly or the one you’ve set your eye on walks right on past you. When you rely on these finite forms of love, frustration is sure to follow.
Trust me, I know.
But why, God, is patience the first attribute of agape love? Why not kindness or humble? I can deal with those more easily. Those I can manage.
That’s one word that will stop me in my tracks and bring me to my knees. Because naturally, I am not a patient person.
In some areas, I have learned to manage my impatience. Or, better yet, disguise impatience. I’ve found myself relying on phrases like “Oh yeah, all in God’s timing” or “I’m trusting God to send me a husband in the right time.”
But in my mind and in my spirit I’m not living these things out. I go to bed confused and frustrated, replaying various events in my head and asking God what’s going on.
Even in my prayers I’m impatient, pouring my heart out to an understanding, good God, but all the while not giving Him a moment to speak. He bids me “Be quiet and watch,” or “Be still. Listen.”
But I’m determined to get out all I have to say first.
And He listens.
When I fail to trust Him yet again, He forgives.
When I doubt His faithfulness for the billionth time, He woos me back to His arms.
He is immeasurably, unfathomably, indescribably patient.
His love does not depend on me. It all depends on Him, on His goodness and truth. He is agape love.
And He calls us to love with patience. In the waiting period, in the valley, in the uncertainty, in the battle “Love is patient.”
Patience is learning to hope in God again, remembering that the periods in-between are a time of growth and maturing.
I’ve always told my family that I want to be able to give the best version of me to my future husband. In order for that to happen, I need to go through the fire of waiting. I need to be refined. I am desperate for the grace of God to cleanse and guide me.
I have to wait, because I need to learn.
The Israelites spent forty years in the desert because God needed to teach them something during that time. He needed to remind them that only in Him can they find their sustenance and life. Not in Egypt and not in the Promised Land. Only in Him.
And I feel that is what the Lord is trying to teach me and teach this generation. Love is patient. We can’t fully love someone with agape love if we haven’t ever learned the value of patience or the glory of God’s timing.
Can we truly understand God’s kindness if we never realize God’s patience? If we don’t understand how long-suffering our God is with us, then we miss a key aspect of what He intended for love to be.
Love wasn’t designed for temporary pleasure or personal satiation. God’s love extends beyond the barriers of time and the limitations of this life. He knew before the world was created how we would fall short of His glory, but in His patience and in His perfect timing, He sent Jesus to die on a cross for our sins. He provided a way for us to spend eternity with Him.
His patient love was extended in ways we would have never imagined. And that’s the beauty of patient love. It surprises and it woos. It’s intentional and it’s eternal.