As I read through the thirteenth chapter of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, the classic rock song of the 80's comes to mind - Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love is." In chapter twelve, Paul outlines and explains the different spiritual gifts that are given through the manifestation of the Spirit. These are wisdom, knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing between the spirits, and finally, speaking in tongues. Paul then goes on to explain that while no one person has all of these gifts, as the body of Christ, we do in sum and on the whole. Each of us participates by offering their part to the larger body. Nevertheless, there's something even more significant...
A simple answer to Lou Gramm's vocals would be to have a look at I Corinthians 13 - what is commonly referred to as The Love Chapter. What Paul is saying here is that while we can have all these manifestations of the Spirit, it doesn't really matter if we don't have something else; that something else of course is love. We can have all the wisdom and knowledge in the world and yet we really have nothing. In the words of Solomon, a life without love is meaningless.
As I look over the characteristics of love found in verses 4 and following, I'm honestly a little bit troubled. I'm perplexed because I too, want to know what love is and I'm afraid that I don't have it? But it's right here, in these very verses that we find out precisely what love is and isn't. First of all, what is love? It is patient, kind, and rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. Secondly, what love is not? It does not envy, it doesn't boast, it isn't proud. It is not rude, nor self seeking, and it is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs and it doesn't delight in evil. Last of all, it never fails or ends.
Wow! What a list and yet how do we live up to such a high calling? How often am I patient and kind; content with my life as opposed to envious of others. As opposed to some of the other loves that we find in the greek language, the type of love Paul is referencing here has nothing to do with how we might feel. For example, we might not feel like doing the dishes or cleaning the bathroom, but we know that by doing so we take some of the weight off the shoulders of our spouse so that they don't have to do it. That's agape love. Maybe we're in a situation where we could be everything but kind. In other words, we don't FEEL like responding in a kind way. Well, as before, the type of love Paul is talking about here has little if nothing to do with how we feel. It's about responding in a kind way despite our feelings to do the opposite. This too is agape love. It's an act of the will.
The simple fact is there may be days, weeks, or even longer periods where we might not feel "in love" with our husbands or our wives. This might be for a variety of reasons, but know this: we can still respond in a loving way. By an act of the will and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can respond with love despite how we might feel. So, if you want to know what love is, let not your feelings be your guide. Think of love as a verb instead.