1 Corinthians 13:7 says: “Love endures all things” (ESV)
But what does it mean to endure something? The dictionary defines it thus: “to suffer patiently”, or “to remain in existence”.
I work with kids quite a lot, usually babysitting. One of the funniest things I have seen done among parents (it’s quite common in parenting advice columns) is “counting to ten”. This is a method in which when your child is misbehaving you are supposed to breathe deeply and count to ten in order to avoid getting angry with your kids. Some parents will dramatically throw their heads into the air and count to ten – and then yell anyway, others will truly try and calm their nerves before dealing with their child. When I heard that “love endures all things” I immediately thought about this method. It is one of the ways parents try and endure with their children.
I think endurance is one of the things we see so clearly in God’s love towards us. We are always messing up. We are always following our own paths. And at the end of the day we go back to God and we say “Lord please forgive me” and He always does. He suffers patiently with us and His love always remains.
Even when we “count to ten”, we don’t always have that endurance in love that we really should have. Once when my dad was teaching me about how we should forgive others, he told me this story:
Imagine you meet someone and you politely begin conversation about things such as the weather. The person you meet suddenly and unexpectedly hits you hard across your face. You pull back as you get a fright. “I am so sorry!” he says with clear regret in his voice “I have such anger issues. Please will you forgive me?” You know that it is the right thing to do and so you accept his apology and continue the conversation, even though your cheek stings a little bit. A few minutes later he hits you again. Hard! Again he says “Please forgive me! I don’t mean to do it, I just can’t control myself.” This time you’re a little dubious but you nod and smile and accept his apology. But he hits you again a third time, and a fourth. By now you are completely livid and you are almost guaranteed to lose your temper. In fact, no one would blame you for not forgiving this person when they view the situation with earthly eyes. The problem is, we “slap Jesus across the face” several times a day and every time He forgives us. He doesn’t pull away, he stands close by and renews the relationship every time we ask. Can we learn to forgive like that?
That story taught me a lesson. The thought of being slapped across the face like that (even once, never mind three or four times) is not likely to end up in me being patient in my suffering and remaining in a constant love for that person. But it’s what Jesus did and does for me.
There are some powerful words found in Isaiah 53:5-6:
“But he was pierced (never mind slapped) for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.“ – NLT (Emphasis mine)
We turn against Him often, like sheep. In order to heal our relationship with Him, Jesus suffered greatly, ultimately to the point of death. (This is far greater suffering than we have ever had to endure). Even after He brought us back to Him we continue to turn our back on Him and cause him suffering. Yet He never has and He never will cease to love us.
That kind of love, it’s unfathomable. As humans, sometimes counting to ten doesn’t even help us to endure, and yet look at what Christ has endured for our sake. A love like that is the kind of thing that will shine our light through the nations. If we love like this, we can truly love as Him who loved us first!
“We love because he first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19 (ESV).