by Patti Richter
“Isn’t love the most important thing?”
My friend’s mother had just repeated the question for me a second time as I attempted to share my born-again faith.
“Of course,” I had to agree. We both knew the Apostle Paul’s admonition to love: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal . . . and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-2, ESV).
I was a college student at that time, maturing but still growing, and my concept of love was yet unformed. But even as a new follower of Christ, God’s Spirit and His Word were already transforming my heart and mind.
I was much like a woman who marries a man with children and later realizes her commitment entails much more than one relationship. Loving God requires loving others, and I had a long way to go in this area.
When I shared my testimony of coming to Christ with long-time friends who also needed a Savior, they didn’t respond as I hoped. But instead of praying for them and keeping in touch, I gave up these friendships without considering Paul’s words from that lyrical chapter, “Love is patient and kind” (v. 4 ESV).
My superior attitude likewise threw cold water on the home front, where I tried to enlighten my parents by comparing their longstanding faith traditions to my fresh understanding of the gospel.
And when my younger brother interrupted me, I yelled at him.
Obviously, I needed to memorize those verses in 1 Corinthians 13 regarding love, which “is not arrogant or rude… does not insist on its own way… is not irritable or resentful” (vv. 4 – 6 ESV).
Though I valued the biblical way of love, I seemed to fail at every opportunity to practice it. My heart throbbed with love for God but harbored some stubborn deposits of selfishness.
When I look back at those early days as a believer, I can easily see how much I needed to grow. The challenge of loving as God loves had barely begun for me.
God had much in store for that young woman all those years ago. He would use her eventual marriage and then having children to continue her education. Through those challenges, she would learn to lean into Christ’s power, which would enable her to love in a way that would please and glorify him.
Yet, while God saw every dark spot in my heart, He would never give up on me because of his amazing love—so patient, so kind. Experiencing His awesome love must have inspired Paul’s clear descriptions, “Love bears all things… endures all things” (v. 7 ESV). God is our foremost example of offering truly selfless love.
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him…. We love because he first loved us…. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:16, 19, 21 ESV
Patti is the co-author of Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering. It is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.
Join the conversation: What have you learned about love since you came to know the Lord?