“Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth.”
We’ve all heard these verses from 1 Corinthians recited at weddings, and they surely apply beautifully to the beginning of a life committed to another person. However, even more than the symphonies of love that these verses proclaim, I believe there’s something much more valuable within their words.
We share our lives every day with the people around us - whether that’s with friends or roommates, families or significant others, coworkers and churches. And those communities, no matter how wonderful they might be, come with their own conflicts, disagreements, and troubles. We will not consistently get along with everyone, we will not agree on everything, and we will not know how to love the people we want to care for the most.
This is where these verses come in. Love cares more for others than for self. Love isn’t always “me first.” Love doesn’t fly off the handle and doesn’t keep score of the sins of others. Love doesn’t revel when others grovel. These verses tell us that love handles conflict well. Love forgives quickly and asks for forgiveness humbly. This is how we are supposed to operate in our communities.
Instead of expecting that I will eternally be a perfectly loving and gracious person and will avoid conflict at all costs, I believe that Scripture has set us up with a distinct plan for how to handle the issues that will inevitably arise between us and our fellow humans.
Think of it this way - which companies have the highest customer satisfaction ratings? Apple and Starbucks. While they are well-established companies with great products, they run into lots of problems every day - iphone cords breaking and lattes mis-flavoring. What makes them phenomenal companies is that they have plans in place for when things go wrong! They have “We’re-sorry-we-messed-up-here’s-a-free-drink” coupons ready under the espresso machine, and customer service reps ready to respond to your complaints. They understand the importance of being prepared when things go wrong, as they tend to do.
Like these companies, we aren’t called to respond perfectly in every situation. Surely, we aim to do that well. But we don’t stay mired in shame when we don’t. In fact, we choose to consider the other person when things go wrong. That’s what the instructions in 1 Corinthians are all about - setting ourselves aside to love another person.
This is a simple concept, but not an easy one. It goes against our instinct for self-preservation and our selfish egos. It means choosing to love before we argue, before we defend ourselves, and before we consider how to get our own needs met. It means trusting God and trusting the structure He has set up for how we are to relate to one another. May we be known by how we love each other, and may we do that well.