Love is An Action--Between Constitution and Commitment
What do Inauguration Day on January 20 and Valentine's Day on February 14 have in common? Both involve a commitment. In one case, Bush gave his commitment to his country; in another case, a person gives his commitment to his beloved.
When George Bush was sworn in as president, he made a commitment, as did all other presidents before him. They committed to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States" to the best of their abilities. Bush was not asked, "Do you believe in the Constitution?" or "Do you love the Constitution?" or "Do you respect the Constitution?" He was not asked about his feelings or his view and conviction about the Constitution, he was asked to commit himself to upholding it.
I hope President Bush believes in the Constitution. I hope he respects it and thinks very highly of it. But regardless of how he feels and thinks about the Constitution, the most important thing is what he does with it.
When we think of Valentine's Day, we think of relationships and we think of love. There is no constitution to follow, but there is I Corinthians 13. Most Christians know that 1 Corinthians 13 is about love. But many may not know that this chapter does not describe what love is; instead, it describes what love does. It is not about the characteristics of love but the actions of love. The 15 words used in verses 4-7 are not adjectives; they are verbs--action words. This chapter focuses not on one's feelings and thinking about love, but on the behavior of one who loves.
When a relationship is in trouble, you often hear a person say, "I don't love her/him anymore." Usually that person means he does not have the desire to love the other person. He no longer feels he is in love. And since he does not feel like doing anything positive toward the other person, he simply does not do it or may even feel hypocritical about doing it. He needs to know that love is not primarily about thinking and feeling; it is about action.
I Corinthians 13 does not only apply to romantic relationships but to all human relationships. In fact, it applies to all our actions. We are to act in a loving way in all circumstances in life. Needless to say, it is very difficult to love in life's real situations. When we feel helpless and hopeless, it is difficult to stay focused. When we feel that we are mistreated, it is difficult to want to treat the other person in a loving way.
The past presidential election was a perfect example of wrong attitudes. It was easy to imagine that at various times both camps felt unfairly treated by the other side. Both sides probably felt the other was trying to gain unfair advantage of the situation and using the courts to "steal" the election. At one time, one poll showed that 85% of the people were tired of the legal maneuvers from both candidates and wanted to see the matter resolved no matter what. Just get it over with was the predominant sentiment.
In contrast to our culture that is used to speed and rapid change, it is interesting to note that the list of action words of love starts and ends with the Greek words meaning, "be patient." In the Chinese Bible, these two words are indeed translated as "be patient." The loving thing to do, the Bible teaches, is often to just be patient.
By patience, I don't mean to simply wait and do nothing. When I am confused, disappointed and feeling anxious, the best way I can discover what to do is to come to God. With or without hymns playing in the background, I try to focus on God and ask Him, "What can I do?" More often than not, I have learned that the best way to deal with things that have disappointed, angered or hurt me is to focus on the tasks God has already assigned to me. What can I do as a Christian, a husband, a father, a minister and a citizen at this time? Then I ask God to help me to do what I can and leave the rest to Him.
Another thing that is interesting about this list of 15 verbs of eight negatives and seven positives is that the eight negatives, the "don'ts," are sandwiched by the seven positives. Two are at the beginning and five are at the end. It is apparent the Bible wants us to place more emphasis on the positives.
You may be disappointed on Inauguration Day or on Valentine's Day; you may even be disappointed with yourself. But I hope you will come to God and focus on what you can do in a loving and positive way. It is not what you think of love that is important, it is what you do in a loving way that counts.