Conventional wisdom tells us that there are several words that we should avoid using when speaking or writing. Notably, the words “never” and “always”. This wisdom suggests that we should play it safe, because when we go out on a limb and use an absolute word such as a “never” or an “always” we are leaving ourselves open to that one time out of a million when the phenomenon that we said would “never” or “always” happen does/does not occur.
If conventional wisdom gives us this advice to apply as a general rule whenever we are speaking or writing, then certainly this same line of thinking would advise us to follow that sentiment in our relationships. People are unpredictable. Just look at the most personal of relationships, marriage. Conventional wisdom would point out that the divorce rate in the United States is approximately 50%. If our supposedly strongest of relationships, our unions of marriage, succumb to failure at roughly a coin’s flip percentage, then certainly we should be guarded from using those taboo words “never” and “always” when talking about any relationship, including marriage.
But what does the Bible say about how we should approach relationships? What are the key words to focus on, the words that we should look to for guidance? In 1 Corinthians 13 the Apostle Paul provides us with a beautifully written chapter about “the most excellent way.”
Paul tells us that “love” is the key word that we should focus on. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, 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. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
Paul didn’t mince words — he went right after it, using the taboo words of “never” and “always” a combined five times in that short excerpt as he described what love is all about. The audacity!
Paul goes on to conclude 1 Corinthians Chapter 13 with verse 13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
So, let’s break it down bit-by-bit as we look to answer the question that was asked previously about how the Bible guides us in regards to relationships. The answer is that, “the most excellent way” (1 Corinthians 13:1) is to know that, “love” is “the greatest.” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
If love is indeed “the greatest”, then we would naturally want to know what love is comprised of? Paul again delivers for us, as he provides that answer as well. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, 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.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6).
And finally, as we seek to define/understand what the absolutes of love are, we ask about the “always” and the “never” aspects of the emotion. Right on cue, Paul informs us that, “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8).
The chart below was developed as a way to help encapsulate how love is defined in 1 Corinthians 13. This chart can serve as a quick reference to assist with keeping our efforts regarding love on point. It may be helpful to print a copy of this chart and keep it in a strategic place where we will be sure to come across it throughout the day, which will help us stay on track in demonstrating love in our daily lives.
It is likely that the word “love” has been misconstrued in our society, and that it gets used in a manner that is contrary to how Paul intended it. How committed are we, really, when we say that we love someone or something? Are we willing to fully commit to living up to “the most excellent way” as outlined in the chart above?
It is also possible that, as sinful beings, we are not capable of living up to the “always” and “never” elements of love - particularly as applied to our human-to-human relationships. But we can try our best to continue to grow in our embodiment of love, and, as Christians, we know the good news is that there is someone who does live up to those absolutes!
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:7-11).
Let us embrace those taboo words that Paul used in his description of love, and follow Jesus’ commandment for us to, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35).
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11).
Coach Shane is an International Coach Federation (ICF) trained life coach and graduate of the Certified Professional Life Coach (CPLC) program from the Christian Coach Institute (Charlotte, NC). He also holds a Bachelor’s Degree (BA) and Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA).
PHONE: (920) 428-1564
FACEBOOK: Shane Hansen, Christian Life Coach, LLC