By Dr. Harold Sala
Love… bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:7
For every negative there is a positive, and sometimes we define things most clearly by stating what they are not. When John described heaven in the book of Revelation, he talked about streets of gold and gates of pearl, and so forth. Then understanding that streets of gold and gates of pearl are hard for us to comprehend since we don’t find them where we live–at least not on my street, he began to tell us what is not in heaven: no night, no suffering, no angry oceans, no farewells. Ah, yes, we can identify with those things.
When Paul, writing to the Corinthians, provided a lesson on love, he made seven negative statements telling them what agape love is NOT. He said that it is not envious. It is not boastful. It is not proud. It is not rude, it is not selfish. It is not easily angered. It does not delight in evil.
Then returning to the positive, he made four powerful statements–ones which quickly put some distance between the sensual love practiced by the Corinthians and the agape love manifest in the lives of believers. He said love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).
These four give us powerful guidelines for loving today.
First, love bears all things. The Greek word Paul used means “to cover, to pass over in silence, to keep confidential.” Another translation puts it, “Love throws a cloak of silence over what is displeasing in another person.” (Arndt-Gingerich Greek Lexicon). Possibly you have heard me speak of one of my heroes, Florence Alshorn, who was sent to Uganda by the Church Mission Society in 1920. Upon arrival she quickly discovered why the previous seven missionaries who preceded her had all failed, packed up and returned home. The problem was not the super-sized cockroaches, the headhunters in the bush, or the sparse furnishings in her humble cottage. The number one problem was the senior missionary, a very moody old girl who was the only one who knew the language.
Florence almost quit, but she decided to read 1 Corinthians 13 every day and to pray for the cantankerous old missionary. What happened? God changed the old girl, right? I’m not sure, but I do know that God changed Florence. Why not take the 1 Corinthians 13 challenge? Read it every day and pray for the one whom you dislike.
Then, says Paul, love believes all things. This explains why the mother of a criminal almost always says, “I can’t believe this about my son. He’s such a good boy!”
Love hopes all things, as well, which means that in the face of the greatest odds, agape love hopes that everything will turn out all right, that the cancer will respond to chemotherapy, that the operation will succeed, that your lost child will be found, that the one you love will be waiting for you when you return. That’s the hope of agape love.
Love also endures all things. Paul uses a military word which means “to sustain the assault of an enemy,” or “to remain instead of fleeing… to stand one’s ground, hold out, endure” in trouble, affliction, or persecution. It was used of an outpost which was attacked by an enemy, but those defending the outpost dug in and withstood the attack instead of fleeing, running for a safer, more secure spot.
This agape love which Paul describes is pretty tough stuff. It isn’t sentimental, warm, make-you-feel-good stuff, but raw, sinewy, strong stuff which makes a big difference in our world. Agape love makes you a stronger, more lovable person who knows who you are and how you want to treat others in the journey of life. It’s what we need today.
Resource reading: 1 Corinthians 13.