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  • Writer's pictureJonathan.Crabtree

Advent of: Love is patient. Love is kind.

A reflection on 1st Corinthians 13:4 for the season of Advent, the season of anticipating and expecting Jesus to make all things new.

 

The season of Advent, which begins four Sundays before Christmas Day, is a season in which the Church begins a new liturgical year. ‘Liturgical’ simply refers to a specific ordering of Scripture readings and prayers, both daily and on worship days, that is set to the rhythm of Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection. The Church follows a liturgical year to ‘remember’ what Jesus has done, what Jesus is doing, and what Jesus will do. Why? Because we forget, as much as it pains us to admit that. We forget. Even on our best days, we forget. Even with the best intentions and with the best of disciplines, we forget. I forget. But, thank goodness that Jesus is love, and love is patient, love is kind, and this is precisely how the Church begins the new liturgical year: in Jesus’ love, patience, kindness. It’s these elements of Jesus’ love to which I reflect.

 

The context in which we find this scripture is in the form of a letter written by a guy named Paul, and he wrote the letter to the Church in the port-city of Corinth. The Church was a culture melting pot, and thus the Church reflected that, both ethnically and socially. The inter-mingling of vast ethnicities and social classes, as well as simply Jews being in the same worship space of formerly non-believers, really created a tense atmosphere. Paul, who we believe to have written majority of the New Testament [outside of the Gospels], speaks with authority to the Church of Corinth and calls them to unity.

 

In this chapter, Paul recognizes his authority, but admits that if he doesn’t act in love, then anything he says or does is really worthless. Paul poetically, almost romantically, defines love as the greatest quality and characteristic of a Christian. As much as I want to believe that Paul thinks he is a prime example of one who loves such a way, I know that he's not. I think Paul is rhetorically crafting a definition of love that is founded in Jesus, because later in 1st John 4:7 that God is love. God is Father, Son, and Spirit; therefore, Jesus is love. He is patient. He is kind.

 

Now, Paul, especially would know that Jesus’ love is patient and kind because of previous encounters. Paul was a thorough-bred Jew, who loved what we call the Old Testament, studied it, and vowed to protect it from these Christians. In Acts 9, we read of the powerful encounter that Paul [Jewish named, Saul] had with Jesus on the road to Damascus. His eyes were covered with ‘scales’ and it wasn’t until a Christian named Ananias answered Jesus in a vision to go lay hands on Saul’s eyes to see again. Ananias reluctantly agrees. As they say, the rest is history.

 

Paul’s story is one of several stories throughout scripture in which we understand what Paul is saying to the Corinthians: Love is patient. Love is kind. This is a holy love, not a worldly love. There is a huge difference, and even greater blessing to those who begin to understand how this holy love operates in our lives. For me, this phrase has been an anchor in my soul most recently, when I’m struggling with anxiety or lack of self-confidence. I’ve been repeating this phrase, and I’ve noticed a difference in how I understand this holy love of Jesus.

 

Jesus’ love is vastly different than our definition of love, but as a follower of Jesus, I hope to love like him. Before I can love like him, I must know that he first loves me, and this is how the relationship begins: with His patient and kind love, graciously waiting for me to respond. For some of us, it may take moments, and for others, it may take years. Jesus is love, and his love is patient. His love is kind. He waits. Those who know of this love, will love others in the same way, but it takes us a bit longer to grow in doing so. Thankfully, his love is patient. His love is kind.

 

I cannot say that I love Jesus and NOT love others, and the only way that I can love others is to respond to Jesus love, which is patient and kind. Love of others, my neighbor, is predicated on my love for Jesus, which is primarily his action towards humanity. As much as I want to pridefully admit that I love others like Jesus loves me, I know that it’s not true. But, the more I grow in my love for Jesus, realizing how much he loves me, the more I learn to be patient and kind with others who may think, look, and act different than me.

 

Like the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15, the son leaves his father, realizes the mistakes he’s made, and returns home to find that the father sees him and runs to him. I imagine a father sitting on the porch of some farm house, while he scans the horizon, anticipating and expecting his son’s return. That is love. It is patient in waiting and is kind in accepting.

 

The historical culmination of Jesus the Savior coming to earth is the essence of a love that is patient and kind. When the people of God in the Old Testament, the Hebrews [Israel/Judah], repeatedly forgot that the first three of ten commandments instructed them to love God, the love of God patiently waited for them to return to their senses. His love was not a passive patience but an active and timely one. I think Jesus continues to love in the same way; patiently and with kindness.

 

Jesus is waiting on you to realize how much he loves you. No matter how far you think you are. No matter how much you think you don’t deserve it. No matter how much you may be angry at him, even. No matter the distance you think is between you and Jesus, I guarantee that he is closer than you think. He is patient. He is kind.

 

And He loves you.

 

Come home.

 

He’s anticipating.  

 

 

 

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