A few years ago I was having ongoing difficulties with someone. This person was treating me badly — criticizing me, giving me the cold shoulder, badmouthing me to others — but at other times being friendly and talkative. I never knew what I would be facing with each encounter, and this was a person I needed to be interacting with often. It was painful and humbling yet I knew God was asking me to grow in the exercise of agape love.
Most of us are familiar with chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians. It is frequently read at weddings, written out in beautiful calligraphy for wall art, and sung about in poetic songs. But in my opinion it is one of the most demanding passages in the bible if we take time to think about what is being asked of us.
But this is the love that Jesus calls His followers to. “Love one another as I have loved you,” He says. It’s not an option. It’s not a special call reserved only for the great saints like Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II. It is the very core of what makes us disciples — “they will know we are Christians by our love, by our love,” goes the old song.
So back to the person I was struggling to love and get along with. There came a time when he was in need of my help. He asked for assistance as if it was a matter of course — no big deal. I said yes right away, but inside I was filled with a host of negative emotions. Flashbacks of the previous few months flooded into my mind — the unkindness, harsh words, impatience with me. I was steeped in a sea of resentment and bitterness.
“Lord, why do I have to serve this person now who has treated me so rudely. It’s not fair!” I complained.
Like a clear sounding ringtone cutting through a noisy din, a line from the famous “love chapter” pierced my grumblings: “Love does not keep a record of wrongs.” (1 Cor. 13: 5) Love does not keep a record of wrongs. Ouch.
As I let that verse percolate down into my heart, the next thought was of the parable of the servant who owed the king a huge debt. The king forgave the enormous sum, and the man went on his merry way. But when he saw a fellow servant who owed him a paltry amount, he immediately called in the debt, going so far as to have the borrower thrown into prison.
Our innate sense of justice is glad when the king in this story hears about this harshness and takes action by throwing the exacting servant into prison until he pays back all he that owed.
“I’m like the first guy,” I thought to myself. “Jesus has forgiven me so much, yet here I am griping about this poor, misguided person in my life.” I got the Lord’s message loud and clear.
“I’m sorry, Lord. Give me the gift of agape love so I can serve him, not grudgingly, but with a smile on my face.”
Joy entered my soul, the negativity washed away, and I was set free. I actually enjoyed helping him out.
Is there anyone you’ve been keeping a detailed “record of wrongs” on? Try asking for a dose of the 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love from the One who showed us what it really looks like.