Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
I’ve started playing a little game with myself at weddings. It’s called “guess the Bible verse”. If I had a pound for every time 1 Corinthians 13 has come up I’d soon have enough to pay for my own wedding.
1 Corinthians 13 isn’t really about romantic love at all. When Paul says “love is kind”, he isn’t talking about giving flowers and chocolate hearts and Valentine’s Day cuddles. He’s talking about the gritty reality of what it means to love – the reality that love is a choice, sometimes a difficult one, and requires a lot of hard work.
Recently I’ve become a bit addicted to refreshing the BBC news app on my phone. Every morning I wonder what horrific headline I’m going to see next. World politics seems to be everyone’s favourite conversation topic at the moment, but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to talk about it without getting really angry. I catapulted my fork off the dinner table last week… it was a low point.
Many of my friends are as upset as I am about the growing discrimination in society and the message of fear spread by some politicians. But equally I know a lot of people who are saying we should accept what’s happened and pray that our leaders would make wise decisions.
It’s a tricky one to navigate.
If I’m honest, my natural reaction is to call certain people “total ******* idiots” and sit in my bedroom stewing. But fighting hate with hate doesn’t work. Responding with love means practicing forgiveness, praying for those you disagree with and remembering that everyone is loved by God, no matter how wrong you think they are.
But equally, I don’t believe love is just about being sweet gentle Christians and turning the other cheek. 1 Corinthians 13 teaches that love is an ACTION, not a passive emotion. It says love “hopes”, “protects” and “perseveres”.
When Jesus saw injustice in the world, he acted out of compassion to stop it. The same guy who turned the other cheek also turned over tables in the temple. When something wasn’t right, he spoke up. So when we see people being discriminated against we need to stand up for them. When political decisions seem self-centred and isolationist, we should be even more engaged with the rest of the world.
I also think love means not getting so caught up in these issues that we forget the injustices happening every day around the world that aren’t getting news coverage.
I think the bit about perseverance is key. We need to do these things again and again and again. That’s probably the hardest part, but the one that will make the most difference.
Beth Keeping is a singer/songwriter from the UK. You can follow her on Instagram at @bethkeeping and keep up to date with her musical journey.