by Rocky Glenn
One of my favorite things about blogging is the ability to return to my previous writings and remind myself of what I’ve previously written. While reflecting on a thought from the past recently, I set out to write about it only to remember I had previously shared the thought a couple of years ago. It was a thought I needed to remind myself of and the realization caused me to stumble upon a trio of posts I shared at the time. Over the next three weeks, I will be resharing my thoughts on Paul’s famous description of love.
One of my favorite parts of being a musician is raw, acoustic music. Whether playing it, or listening to it, there is something I believe intrinsically pure about instruments and voices that are not amplified or modified. On Valentine’s night (2017), I posted Love Amplified which is simply 1 Corinthians 13:4–8’s description of love taken from the Amplified Bible. As I lay in bed that night trying to sleep, I couldn’t shake the familiar description of love listed in the passage and began the process of examining myself to see if I really reflected these qualities in those I say I love. Thus began the research of what each word actually meant and what kind of picture of love they painted. The research is how I stumbled upon the Amplified Version and, being that it was late at night, I stopped after finding and posting it. Now, with a nod to musicianship, I intend to actually take those verses, share my thoughts, and hopefully create the same raw environment that comes with acoustic music as I investigate practical ways they may apply. The image below shows the popular passage in four different versions of the Bible.
1 Corinthians 13:4 from The Amplified Bible: Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant.
Love endures with patience and serenity. Patience, according to Merriam-Webster, is defined as the capacity, habit, or fact of bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint. It is not hasty or impetuous and manifests forbearance under provocation or strain remaining steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity. Serenity is the quality of being clear and free of storms or unpleasant change and being of utter calm and unruffled repose or quietude. King James described this as suffering long.
Love is without complaint and calm. How many times have I missed the mark on this quality of love? I am a man that seeks routine and I thrive on it. There are certain things that must be completed in a certain order every morning or my patience and serenity are lost. Now that we are the parents of a teenager and preteen, as well as new dog owners, patience and serenity are tested often, and are, just as often found lacking. However, despite these testings, I’m pleased to say that most mornings in our house are quite often lacking complaint and are calm, but when things do go south, they have the tendency to escalate quick and I’m certain I could not be described as having utter calm and unruffled repose! Quite sure when the king used the phrase “charity suffers long” he didn’t mean the suffering itself would be long!
Love is kind and thoughtful. To be kind is to be of a sympathetic, helpful, or forbearing nature. Thoughtfulness is characterized by careful reasoned thinking given to or made with heedful anticipation of the needs and wants of others. The original Greek translation of the word kind means to show one’s self mild or useful.
Love is mild and useful. Continuing with the thoughts and examples given above, once patience is lost, it’s pretty much safe to say mildness and usefulness is gone! The last thing I want to be towards my wife or one of my kids once my patience is gone is to be mild. I feel it is very important that they know they are the cause for my lack of patience and I need to tell them emphatically and in great detail. It’s interesting that both words that begin the scriptural description of love, patient and kind, include a form of the word forbear in their respective definitions. To forbear is to control oneself when provoked. Suffice it to say, I need a little more forbearance to show my love at times . . . (While writing this post, we are actually in the process of grilling pork chops on the grill for dinner. Forbearance really gets tested when you search the kitchen for your grilling utensils, questioning each and very member of your family because they are the ones who put the dishes away, only to discover them hanging on the grill from the last time you had cooked there!!)
Love is not jealous or envious. Jealousy and envy could be considered twin brothers. Both involve hostility and resentfulness toward someone else having a supposed advantage. The difference lies with jealousy occurring when you think someone is seeking an advantage over something you have and envy occurs when you think someone has an advantage to receive something you desire. No greater place are these two prominent within families than in household with siblings. If one kid’s class wins a pizza party and the other doesn’t. Or it could be a birthday celebration for the older child and the younger child is pouting. It’s such a common tale that numerous Bible events from Cain and Abel all the way to the disciples questioning Jesus about who he considers greater occur due to jealousy and envy. There is no room in love for holding something or someone so tightly to “protect” what is yours. There is also no room in love to despise what others may receive that you may not.
Love does not brag and is not proud. For this explanation, I really like what King James has to say, “charity vaunteth not itself and is not puffed up.” To vaunt means to make a vain display of one’s own worth or attainments. Love does not puff itself up meaning it does not make a big deal of itself. If your sole purpose in any relationship is simply to convince the other person how great you are, then it’s not love. To shower gifts on your spouse just so others see how wonderful you are, and not because you seek to truly honor them, is not love.
So, putting this altogether, to begin this study we see that love is without complaint and calm, it is mild and useful, it has no resentment or hostility, and it does not seek to make itself great. One thing I’m being reminded of through this study is that a true love that reflects all of these qualities mentioned in this passage is not something I can attain on my own. It must come from God, for God is love. More on that later.