How Do I Love Thee?
This article is courtesy of Living with Teenagers.
The apostle Paul, with paint brush in hand, dips onto his pulsating palate to paint a portrait of authentic love. His masterpiece is recorded in 1 Corinthians 13. He does not try to define love. Instead, he paints different aspects of love across his canvas, showing that love is much more than a feeling. Love behaves.
Love is patient
Love is not in a hurry. Lust can’t wait. Infatuation is instant desire. The Greek word used for patience figuratively means “taking a long time to boil.”
Patience is the picture of a parent showing understanding when his child has trouble catching on to painting a room, mowing a lawn, riding a bike, baking a cake, cleaning a room, and a thousand other tasks.
Love is kind
Love is sensitive. It’s been said, “The greatest thing a man can do for his Heavenly Father is to be kind to some of his other children.” That would go for earthly parents and their teenagers, as well.
In the original language, kindness carried an idea that doesn’t translate well into English. While it referred to grace, it also referred to something useful, serviceable, adapted to its purpose. It is the picture of a God who never gives up on His children and a parent granting second chances.
Love does not envy
Love is not possessive, jealous, or controlling. It doesn’t try to possess the object of its love.
Granted this can be one of the most difficult tasks of parents as they mold their children into men and women of character—only to let them go. But love, like parenting, focuses more on the final result than owning the present. The ultimate goal is freedom, not possession.
Love does not boast, it is not proud
Love is not anxious to impress or arrogant toward others. Arrogant people are centered on themselves, often because of insecurity. But parents who operate in love are secure. They know God accepts them unconditionally through Jesus, so they don’t seek to elevate themselves to a place of greater significance.
This is the picture of parents who give up their place in line—or their hobbies, or their workrooms, or their savings—so their children can succeed. Jesus put others first all the way to the cross. We are called to raise our children with a similar humility.
Love is not rude
Love expresses common courtesy. It personifies politeness, manners, and etiquette. In old England, courtesy meant acting in the way of the court. The family and servants of the king were expected to follow a higher standard.
Christians are called to represent their King, as well. Parents set the example. Dads, this is a picture of opening doors for your daughter. Moms, this is a picture of thanking your son for raking the leaves or taking out the garbage.
Love is not self-seeking
The Message paraphrases this idea in verse 5 as: “Isn’t always ‘me first.’” In other words, love refuses to be selfish.
Selfishness is an obsession that focuses on self and excludes others. It hurts everyone, but parenting means choosing to live unselfishly—again and again—rather than focusing on our own personal needs. Parents can mirror Christ by putting the needs of their teens first.
Love is not easily angered
Love controls its temper. No matter what, it refuses to get ticked off.
Rudyard Kipling said that the test of a man (and of parents) was if he could keep his head when everyone else was losing theirs and blaming it on him. It is the picture of a parent remaining calm when the child breaks curfew, fails a test, or runs through your favorite flower bed. There are consequences, but those consequences are governed by love, not anger.
Love keeps no record of wrongs
Love refuses to keep score regarding insults and injuries. The word record is an accounting term. It refers to the act of writing something in a ledger so it won’t be forgotten.
It’s been said that when wronged, some people get hysterical, while others get historical. The latter group can recite every wrong that has ever been committed against them. That attitude doesn’t reflect love from a 1 Corinthians 13 perspective.
The picture Paul paints is much different. It’s the image of parents who understand how God has wiped their accounts clean through the blood of Jesus. Because they have been forgiven, they can freely forgive others. They refuse to keep a ledger of wrongs that their teenagers have committed.
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth
Love doesn’t ask someone to do wrong. This is a picture of a parent who will not lie—or ask his child to lie—to his boss about being sick when he doesn’t show up for work. It is the parent who teaches his children to play by the rules. It is the parent who strives to teach the important lessons of truth-telling and righteous-living because he knows his teen will face a lifetime of challenges.
Love always protects
Love puts up with a lot. That’s mostly because it displays a passionate desire to protect others from physical and emotional damage. Regardless of the sacrifice, love steps forward to defend the weak.
This is the picture of parents who are strict, yet fair, with their children. They establish boundaries and watch over their children without smothering them. Love knows when to hold the leash loosely and when to rein it in.
Love always trusts
Love is not suspicious. It believes the best about the other person. It respects the other’s identity.
It is the picture of parents who believe in the dreams of their sons and daughters. Love encourages teenagers to pursue those dreams and allows them to become the people God made them to be.
Love always hopes
Love is optimistic. It doesn’t accept the idea that failure has to be final. It predicts tomorrow’s victories despite today’s defeats.
Love’s hope is a parent standing at the door and waiting for the return of their wayward child. It’s a dad standing at the finish line saying, “You didn’t fail even though you came in last. You succeeded because you refused to quit running.”
Love always perseveres
Love courageously hangs in there. Perseverence was a soldier’s word. It described the gladiator who kept fighting and trying—no matter how formidable the foe.
Love is like that—it doesn’t give up. It refuses to quit; it will not throw in the towel. It’s the picture of a Savior loving His creation, saying, “I’ll go to a cross to save my children.” Parents, too, are willing to do whatever it takes for their children.
Paul paints a beautiful and challenging portrait of love, doesn’t he? Tracing his brushstrokes, using the same colors of active behavior, you can paint a picture for your children—a masterpiece of love.
Rick Ezell is a veteran pastor and writer who ministers in Greer, South Carolina.