Based on 1 Corinthians 12: 4-8

“Love is patient, love is kind. Love is not jealous, it does not put on airs, it is not snobbish. Love is never rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not prone to anger; neither does it brood over injuries. Love does not rejoice in what is wrong but rejoices with the truth. There is no limit to love's forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its power to endure. Love never fails.”

There is probably no Scripture passage better known than this one, at least not in the New Testament. Yet, it is also one of the most misunderstood. Most people look at one another and, if they do not see Paul's reflection on love, they conclude that they are not looking at a loving person. But Paul was not setting a foundation for the Christian life. Rather, he was establishing a goal. It is the life-long work of the Christian to become more loving--to reflect in his/her life what Paul says about love. It is only at the conclusion of life that we look to see if, indeed, one has lived out the Christian call to love and has become a reflection of that love.

Sometimes we take love for granted. Like everyone else, I was not able to choose into what family I would be born. To some extent I could not even choose whether or not to love my sisters and brother. It was expected. I was fortunate enough to have a family that loves me. Therefore, loving them was easy--most of the time. Yet much of what we do to and with our families is predetermined and does not indicate a choice or desire to love. It is ironic that the situation most often perceived as the closest of loves, the family, is often the most difficult to model. Try to be patient with a bratty little five year old. Or be kind to your brother who borrowed your best sweater and lost it. As for anger, once it flares it is much easier to brood and hold a grudge than it is to forgive. But even in the family the Lord calls us to love.

Love between friends, what is called "agape" love, is much easier to live. After all, we choose who our friends will be. If we are attracted to someone, or see good in someone, we find it relatively easy to develop a relationship and to express love. Of course, there are those people who are different. Those who don't think and act like friends. Why not just shut them out, draw the circle of friendship a little tighter? Sounds a bit like rudeness or snobbishness. Paul said, "Love is never rude. It does not put on airs." Paul understood that the Lord calls us to love even those who are different--even those we dislike.

Sometimes attraction becomes overpowering. When that happens, we enter into the most enjoyable of loves--the "Eros" love. Erotic love is a total giving of self to another. This is not an accident. It is a beautiful reflection of the love God has for his people. The Lord looked upon and fell in love with his creation. So powerful was this love that He could not remain apart from it. God had to become one of us. So Jesus was born. In that act, God gave himself totally to us. Although some people have trouble with the concept or image, God truly is erotic.

The giving of self in Eros is not unlike the giving of self in agape. But ideal agape demands nothing in return. Jesus, in dying on the Cross gave everything and asked for nothing. He only extended an invitation to follow. The Christian who accepts that invitation is guided into charity.

This Christian “agapic” love not only transcends the others, it embraces and transfigures them, giving all love a new and radical dimension. Not coincidentally, this brings us back to Paul's letter to the Corinthians. At any point in life we exhibit different aspects of love. Sometimes we are more kind or patient. Sometimes we may be more angry or self-seeking. What matters most is what we become. When I die I want only that people say, "He loved."