“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” -1 Corinthians 13:13
It doesn’t take too much reading and studying of the Scriptures to realize how essential it is we love one another. It’s the second greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-39).
In fact, loving God and loving one another is so important that Jesus declares that all the Law and the Prophets hang on these commands. Far be it from us that we ever neglect to examine our hearts to see if we are loving as we ought.
I was recently brainstorming some ideas for me to purposefully and intentionally address this area of weakness and immaturity in my life and came up with the following “project” as I like to call it. The project consists of sitting down and taking time to examine my heart to see if I may be neglecting to love one of my own family members, to start with. The more I continue to realize how critical it is that we truly love one another, I also see how difficult it can be. It’s easy to see the flaws in others and react accordingly, often in a sinful manner. If you’re interested, I decided to share my thoughts to encourage others to examine themselves as well.
The Love Project
The first step is to grab some paper and a pencil (or your favorite note-taking apparatus) and make a list of names of those in your innermost circle, to start with (often your immediate family members). For me, this is my parents and my siblings.
Once you’ve made your list, start with one person and honestly write down one or two areas of conflict you have with that person. Perhaps it’s something they do that regularly annoys you, or maybe it’s something very painful they’ve done to you. While you can write down every area that comes to mind, I thought it would be easier to start with just a few so as not to be overbearing. Eventually, it would be good to address everything.
Do this prayerfully, asking the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to any blindness that you might have. Sin, by its very nature is deceiving and we need the merciful work of the Spirit to help convict us and bring us to repentance.
Next, make a list of each characteristic of love described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and take some time to meditate on these verses. Again, go to God in prayer and ask Him to to shine His light of truth on your heart and your life as you examine your character and disposition towards this person.
You can use my list as a starting point if you like (with some sample definitions from Webster’s 1828 dictionary):
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a)
What love is:
1) Love is patient – persevering, not easily provoked, constant, calmly diligent, not revengeful)
2) Love is kind – disposed to do good to others, having tenderness of nature, benevolent
3) Love bears all things – to support or sustain, to suffer without resentment, to have patience
4) Love believes all things – to have a firm persuasion of any thing, to hold as the object of faith
5) Love hopes all things – highest degree of well founded expectation of good
6) Love endures all things – a bearing or suffering; without shrinking or yielding to pressure
7) Love rejoices with the truth – to experience joy and gladness in a high degree; to exult
8) Love never ends
What love is not:
1) Love is not impatient – In what ways am I impatient towards ____ ?
2) Love is not unkind – In what ways am I unkind towards ____ ?
3) Love does not envy – Do I envy what ____ has ?
4) Love does not boast – Do I have an attitude of boasting towards ____ ?
5) Love is not arrogant – Am I arrogant towards ____, and in what ways or circumstances ?
6) Love is not rude – In what ways am I rude towards ____ ?
7) Love does not insist on its own way – In what ways do I insist on my own way towards ____ ?
8) Love is not irritable – In what ways do I get irritated towards ____ ?
9) Love is not resentful (does not count wrongs) – In what ways am I resentful towards ____ ?
10) Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing – Do I rejoice at wrongs done to ____ ?
11) Love is not wavering – Am I inconsistent in my love and affection towards ____ ?
12) Love is not fearful – Am I afraid of what ____ thinks of me ?
13) Love is not conditional – Do I withhold genuine love from ____ based on their actions ?
In light of these truths that Scripture teaches us about what love practically looks like, compare the areas of conflict you have with each person on your list and consider how you might change your actions towards that person, be they be in your own heart and thoughts, or outward.
Write down practical ways you can apply these verses to your heart and actions towards the person you are thinking about. This Scripture clearly shows us what love is and what it looks like. Most often, our flesh wants to scream and fight and shut out the truth of Scripture, so prayerfully examine your heart and ask the Holy Spirit to lead you.
Take some time and pray also for that person. Ask the Lord to forgive you of any way you may find that you have not loved that person.
Make a decision to act in faith, believing God’s Word, and choose to proactively love. Don’t wait for another moment of conflict, but go out of your way to show love towards that person.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)
Do the same for each person on your list.
I would love to hear your thoughts and other suggestions! Feel free to leave a comment; I would love to hear stories of how God is working in your life too!