Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:7
This year I had an experience that I would not wish on anyone. I learned that someone I loved and trusted deeply had betrayed me in a way I had never anticipated. The crisis brought what was probably the worst pain I have ever experienced. My life changed dramatically and I had to regroup. There was one thing I knew early on: I did not want what had happened to keep me from being open and loving to others. I would not allow myself to become afraid, cutting off intimacy with preemptive acts of self-preservation. I had known others with similar tragedies whose wounds created an emotional handicap, stunting the growth of interpersonal relationships. To be fully Christian, and fully healthy, I could not let this breach of trust poison the rest of my relationships.
This commitment not to become disillusioned was in my mind the other evening as I took a stroll. That verse from 1 Corinthians came to mind. We all know how easy it is to be hurt by the ones we love the most. They disappoint us, they fail to understand us, they break promises – the litany goes on. In the face of these painful experiences it is tempting to shut out the offenders. We want to stop our investment, cut our losses, and retreat. C. S. Lewis touches on this in his book The Four Loves. He writes:
There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to keep it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal.
The way to protect ourselves? Love no one. But this is not a viable option for us. Jesus taught that love is at the root of what is required of us. We are to love God and each other; that love is how others will know we are His. In the face of all this inevitable hurt, what is the response of love?
It bears all things. Love enables us to forgive and live with each others shortcomings. Love described here is unconditional.
Love believes all things and hopes all things. Through the eyes of love we see the flailing sinner and also his potential for good. Love believes that potential can be realized. This approach leaves no room for cynicism or pessimism. We do not allow experience to destroy our hopes; we continue to hope for the better we know is possible.
And what about when that “better” is not forthcoming? When, as is often the case, the potential for good is not realized? Love endures all things. It never gives up.
This is a tall order. But Love Himself strengthens us to meet the demands of this, our highest calling.
Father, please do not let us become jaded or hardened by experience but instead gives us hearts that are unselfish and open. Grow in us the love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. As You help us to love each other more perfectly, may others be drawn to You, the Lover of Mankind. Amen.