Since I last wrote, the words of 1 Corinthians 13 have been swirling through my mind. And do you what know what strikes me most about them? The type of love illustrated in those verses comes with no strings attached. It is given freely, expecting nothing in return.
If you think about it, that’s impossible to do on our own. It’s easy to act in loving ways toward others when we are loved back. It’s even possible to give in a selfless, sacrificial way for those you love when they are loving you in return. But this love? It flies in the face of everything we know and understand.
By far, the best illustration of this love is found through Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross for our sin. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Even though He willingly gave Himself to die for our sins, we have the free will to choose to accept His gift of salvation or not. We have the free will to choose to love Him or not. There was no, “If you promise to love Me and follow Me, I’ll die for you,” attitude. No. His love for us compelled Him to give His own life for us, no matter what our response to Him would be. There were no guarantees.
And now, we are told in 1 Corinthians 13 that we are to love that way, too! In all honesty, that thought is a little scary. If you have lived past junior high, chances are very good that you have felt the pain of rejection. No one likes to give their heart to someone only to have them take it and stomp on it. But I am not just talking about romantic relationships, here. That same feeling applies to friendships, family relationships, ANY relationship, for that matter. And the closer the relationship, the scarier it can be. Before long, we learn to guard our hearts, not loving fully because we are afraid of getting hurt. Even in our relationship with God, we can cling so tightly to our hearts that we are never capable of fully trusting Him, fully loving Him, or fully yielding to Him because we are so afraid of getting hurt.
But what does His Word say? “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear…” (1 John 4:18) Whose love is it talking about? Not my love. I can’t love perfectly no matter how hard I try or how badly I want to. Only Christ’s love is perfect. Only His love can cast out the fear in our hearts that keeps us from loving others as He loves us. That’s the very starting point of 1 Corinthians 13 love in us. Christ. Apart from Him, it is impossible. And it doesn’t just start with entering into a relationship with Christ either. It goes farther than that. It develops only as we learn to trust Him and begin to understand His character and experience His love for ourselves. This is a journey that I am still on. Some days I get it, others, I don’t. Some days are wracked with fear and insecurity, and others find small victories. But I am learning this as I follow: It is only when we realize our security in His love, that it is possible for His love to flow through us freely to others.