The Greatest of These

We hear a lot about love, especially in the month of February. Valentine cards expressing sentiments of devotion fill gift shop kiosks and mailboxes. Heart-shaped candies sweeten the air. While the origins of celebrating Valentine’s Day are, perhaps a little more than sketchy, and many who know the history may find it distasteful, I suggest that any time of the year we focus on love, the world is a better place.

Without getting too technical, the word “love” exists in different forms. God is the Author of love in its purest and deepest definition called agape, or unconditional love. Many of us have attended weddings where someone reads about love from First Corinthians, chapter thirteen, verses 4 through 7, including verse 13 in the Bible. I would like to offer this beautiful rendering here:

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance…Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”

How wonderful if every person would live each day and each relationship within this philosophy; imagine this idea for a moment. What is it that makes doing so seem impossible? No doubt there are any number of reasons that are too vast to address here but perhaps it goes back to the idea of love being “unconditional,” which expressed a different way says, “I will love you no matter what!” Whereas conditional love says, “I will love you if…” I invite you to try an experiment; read the Bible passage above out loud, but after each period, say the word, “if.” Do you prefer the unconditional passage or the “if version?” What stipulation would you include after the word if?

We could consider the necessity for setting boundaries within our relationships, and my intention is not to make light of this important aspect. I am not a counselor, nor do I have the skills to address the broken psychological needs that exist in our world. I am, however, a member of our human connection and know that love expressed is not contingent upon the actions of others. Love, or the lack of it, begins with you and me. Loving unconditionally is possible even while setting boundaries.

We will never love perfectly. We are not perfect beings. Having the willingness to try loving unconditionally is a step in a positive direction. Beginning with the month of February, I hope you are the recipient of unconditional love that lasts all year long. Like money in the bank, the more we deposit, the greater the return. So, what do you have to lose? Fear of rejection? Remember, “the greatest of these is love.” It is yours to give. Take a risk. Love recklessly!