This is the last post in the series on I Corinthians 13 and parenting. It is not possible or even wise to attempt to say all that could be said about love in these posts. Rather, I have just focused on making specific application to parenting. Even with this restriction, my comments are summary at best.
We have focused on verses four through seven. This section begins with two positive statements about what love is and then follows with eight statements about what love is not. The Holy Spirit then ends with five positive statements of what love is. We looked at verse six, “love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth”, in a recent post. Now we come to the last four statements in verse seven:
“It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
These words are clear and convicting. They are bold and full of hope. The Holy Spirit defines love in these nine words in a way that makes human imitation impossible. Before genuine, biblical love can be an emotion, a feeling, a mood, it must first be a commitment. The world makes many attempts to counterfeit genuine love. These attempts, though false, are powerful. Emotion and feelings are strong pretenders in and of themselves. But if they are not based on the reality of self-sacrificial commitment that is found only in Christ, then, they will remain alluring counterfeits.
To be sure, emotion and feeling can and should be part of what it means to be loving. But these two things can only be reliable if they are rooted in the love of Christ. Remember that Jesus is the one who defines what love is by his sacrifice on the cross.
These four attributes of love – protection, trust, hope, and perseverance set the bar so high that genuine love cannot be achieved apart from Christ and his power. Note that always is repeated with each attribute. This means genuine love is not something that can be accomplished by human will and effort.
Children need the relational environment that only biblical, genuine love can provide. Love cannot be earned. Sadly, too often, parents and children try to do just that – earn each other’s love. But it does not work. When failures to earn love occur, they are often spectacular. What Paul is talking about here is modeling God’s love. In my strength I will never be able to always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere. Thankfully, this is what God does all the time. Rather, love is not something that can be earned. It must be given.
When love is about performance, something I earn, it becomes a cruel tyrant. When love is about the gospel, something that God gives, it becomes the sweetest, safest, comfort possible. Love is not something we have the option to withhold from others. Remember, love always…
Love is about showing Christ to your children and others. Christ is committed to love me because of the promise he made to his Father. I must be committed to love my children because of the promise God made to me in Christ. Will I fail? Sadly, yes. However, I must not make my child’s behavior the basis upon which I love. It is the love of Christ that does not fail.
Ask God for the courage to look deeply and honestly at the way you love your children. Does your love come with a price tag? Do you withhold your love when your children sin and are unlovable? Are you teaching your children that love is something that must be earned? If so, seek God’s face in repentance.
Feebly, weakly, earnestly show your children that love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Don’t make love about you. Make love about Christ.