Couple after couple sits, stupefied, unsure why they kept bumping into the same issues, having the same arguments, causing the same pains. They know they love each other. That’s why they got married, they say, but their actions look like those of vicious enemies out in the streets: Self seeking, list of wrongs keeping, slander slinging and the like are among the arsenal of these married couples seeking counseling and it’s simply because they don’t have unconditional love.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.—1 Corinthians 13:4-7
So one of my favorite assignments for couples who come to my husband and me for counseling and I see love violation after love violation is to have them fully embrace 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. I don’t care that they had the passage read at their wedding or the verses appeared on their wedding or reception program. I challenge them to go beyond cliché to study the passage and study themselves in light of the passage. I want them to see what they should be doing and how what they are doing is opposed to what they should be doing. I want them to take one aspect of love and intentionally practice it until it gets into their core. I want them to consistently check their actions against the actions of this scripture and make adjustments where necessary. I want them to love like the passage; I want them, I want us all, to love unconditionally.
(agape in the original biblical language)—is affection, goodwill, benevolence that is commanded of Christians to show toward others. This also includes giving people what they need and not what they want or what we think they deserve.
This definition can be hard to digest, but with the Holy Spirit and a proper attitude, we can fulfill it. My husband has a personal philosophy about exhibiting unconditional love that he shares with counselees. I believe his philosophy encapsulates most of the aspects of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and will help us walk in unconditional love: When your mate does something that offends you, don’t presume that your mate meant the worst for you. I know this sounds crazy if your husband’s calling you out of your name or some other egregious act directed right at you. But understand this: When you presume they meant the worst, you are likely to act YOUR worst. You will repay evil with evil and allow evil to conquer you; you won’t conquer evil by doing good, by loving unconditionally (Romans 12:17 and 21; 1 Corinthians 13:7).
This admonition is not just for married couples but for all of us in relation to others. Remember, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Of course Jesus understood that the ones who crucified Him knew they were crucifying Him, but He knew that they didn’t understand the depths of their actions. So often those who crucify us don’t know the depths of their actions. They simply respond out of emotions and don’t stop to think about all the ramifications of their actions. Like Jesus, we must believe they don’t know what they are doing and forgive them by loving them in spite of their actions.
Take a Risk Challenge: Intentionally practice one or two aspects of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 that are hard for you. Love like Jesus; love unconditionally, which is truly a radical act of love.
My One Thousand Gifts List
My sister apologizing unsolicited for not keeping up with my writing ministry and thanking me for showing her grace
Being conscious of when I have failed to breathe
Flynn leaving the Elder Board meeting that ran over so he could keep his promise to have family devotion before taking Joshua to tennis class
Family devotion and everyone participating, even Nathaniel giving a thanks for Jesus, singing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ loudly and being quiet during prayer time
Kids waking early and excited to go to church
Seeing Stephanie B.
Being able to hear the sermon and take notes without interruption
My sister, mom and nephew visiting
My nephew falling asleep on my chest
Flynn taking Joshua and Nathaniel to Joshua’s tennis lessons