It’s that all too familiar verse that fits perfectly in an Instagram square with water color flowers embroidering its edges. That verse that glares at you on the wedding invitation. You know, the verse that decorates picture frames in swirling calligraphy.
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (I Cor. 13:7).
Yes, that one. The one that’s pulled out of context, overused, and rarely understood. And yet, it’s a verse I find myself returning to often for instruction and comfort.
Love bears all things. It’s easy to think about bearing a burden for a short time or a season, and it certainly makes it easier when you have an end in sight, a date of relief. But, when you don’t have an end in sight, no relief date, and the season lasts more than days, or months, or years, the call to “bear all things” quickly tests our ability to “believe all things, hope all things” and “endure all things.”
The Apostle Paul was a man acquainted with sorrow like our Lord, a man who was burdened for the Church always. He pressed on in the faith, like Abraham, he hoped against hope and endured with patience. Paul knew well the order of love – bearing, believing, hoping, enduring-and how it was perpetually cyclical.
How often I am reminded that we do not endure trials or suffering for the sake of enduring, not even for the sake of faith. Christ said the greatest commandment was not “to muster your faith in God” or “just be patient.” No, the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind (Mat. 22:37). It is why Paul writes in verse 13, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
In prolonged seasons of burden-bearing, I have returned multiple times to this passage in I Corinthians. I consider Paul often as an example of one who loved Christ and His Bride, the Church, bearing all things. Christ calls us to love Him, to submit to Him, to suffer with Him, and we are called to love His Church, to bear one another’s burdens, to suffer long and exercise Christian charity to one another. What a joyous gift it is to have others bear all things with you, and sometimes, for you – to have brothers and sisters who love you.
Bearing with one another is not easy, though. Our sins mar our efforts to live righteous lives like potholes on a smooth road. It’s easier to walk away from relationships than it is to reconcile them. Praise be to God, He did not see us as something to be done away with, but children to be reconciled to Himself! Christ told His disciples that their love for one another would tell the world that they were followers of Christ.
A way to measure your own love for the Lord, your love for the Church, and your community is to consider how well you bear all things:
- Do you strive always for reconciliation?
- Do you care enough to share hard truths with a brother or sister?
- Are you willing to listen, consider, and respond to a brother or sister with grace?
- Do you extend the benefit of the doubt, or judge harshly?
- Do you walk away when things get hard, or do you press into community and relationships with resolve?
Faith may move mountains and hope may produce character and patience, but without love they are meaningless. When the strong winds come and the waters rise, what compels you to bear all things, believe without faltering, hope against hope, and endure the tempestuous journey that is faith?
Co-laborers, let us love one another well – bearing all things.