Everything God does is for our own good, and the Bible says that He is quick to forgive. We live in a culture, however, that is self-absorbed, loves to argue, and is quick to burn bridges when it comes to hurt and offense. So when Jesus taught us to love others the way He loves us, He was calling us to something radical, something completely counter-cultural.
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For most of us, it’s easy to perceive love as kindness and mercy, but in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul extends the definition to our selflessness and our ability to forgive. As Christians, we are called to live by a much higher standard than simply being kind to those around us.
- Love does not demand its own way. In other words, love isn’t self-centered. We live in a culture that teaches us that we have the right to pursue our own happiness and success… even if that means stepping on others to get there. We do what is right for us, and we want to do things in our own way. Now there is nothing wrong with finding happiness. But when did we become so self-absorbed that we are willing to step on others to find it? When we truly love someone, their needs should trump our own. We stop making ourselves the only focus of our lives.
- Love is not irritable.When was the last time you got irritated or offended? I personally struggle with this one on a daily basis. Another translation of this passage says that love is not “easily provoked.” As the mother of two toddlers, it is often hard for me to not show my irritation when my daughters are “provoking” me! True love makes time for others. We need to be patient with them and demonstrate self-control… even when being provoked.
- Love keeps no record of being wronged. I have often been taught that we as Christians are called to forgive, but we don’t have to forget. I’m not sure that’s necessarily true. God’s Word calls us as believers to do all that we can to live at peace with one another. Jesus tells us in the gospel of Luke:
“Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.” – Luke 17:4 (NLT)
Jesus speaks of forgiveness in the book of Matthew as well:
Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” – Matthew 18:21-22
I know how hard it is to forgive… especially when someone has wronged you multiple times. True forgiveness, however, isn’t for the person being forgiven. God asks us to forgive because it sets us free.
Until we choose to forgive, the pain that we are holding on to has the right to control us.
Even if the other person has moved on, we still live in bondage to what they did to us. When we let things go, however, we are the ones who experience true freedom.
True love doesn’t keep score. It doesn’t bring up past mistakes that have already been dealt with and forgiven. When we come to God with a repentant heart, His love wipes our slate clean, and we become white as snow. We are called to demonstrate that same forgiveness and love towards others.
True love allows the love and mercy God has shown us to flow into the lives of others.
*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.