If you’ve been to a wedding, Hobby Lobby, or logged on to Pinterest at any point in your life, you’ve probably spent some time with 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.”
I’ve heard this verse so many times that it almost seems like a cliche. But the reality is, this true and enduring witness to authentic love cannot be overstated. Today, the world desperately offers us the false illusion that love is interchangeable with things such as comfort, convenience, pleasure, and even sin. Hookup culture and the normalization of pornography beg us to accept the objectification or use of our brothers and sisters for the sake of convenience or enjoyment. Dating apps allow us the option to pursue any number of relationships based on a shallow split-second judgement reflected in a swipe left or right. Social media often constricts the caliber of our relationships to Snap Streaks or a filtered image. All of these things can seem like a quick-fix for loneliness or need for affirmation, but often times leave us feeling isolated or insecure. This illusion that love is disposable is not only incompatible with our dignity as sons and daughters of Christ, but can be damaging to both our heart and soul.
When we invest our hearts into these counterfeit ideas of love, we are selling ourselves short of the real, life-giving encounter that the Father desires for us. Love is meant to be a light in the world, not to dispel us to the darkness of sin and insecurity.
Love is not self-serving.
The Catechism defines love simply as “to will the good of another” (CCC 1766). The greatest good we can desire for our brothers and sisters in Christ is heaven and the greatest form of love we can offer is the pursuit of the Kingdom. We don’t reach Heaven by chasing our worldly desires and we are not sanctified by selfiness. The temptation to pursue relationships to satisfy our own desires rather than encounter the goodness of another person is promoted by a culture that places our physical and emotional responses at the forefront of our identity. But the Gospel calls us to a love that doesn’t rest in fleeting emotions or superficial attributes.
True love calls us to surrender ourselves and meets us at the foot of the cross. It asks us to persist in the pursuit of goodness at all times, not just when it fulfils our own desires. It allows us to view others in their complete God-given dignity, rather than a means to an end for our own desires or selfish goals.
Love is not use.
It’s important to consider our motives when we pursue any type of relationship with another person. Our dignity as sons and daughters claims the truth of who we are – good, worthy, beloved (Ephesians 5:1-9) – and the same is true for our brothers and sisters in Christ. United in this dignity, we cannot approach relationships with ulterior motives or selfish desires that can cultivate use or manipulation. As Christians, we are called to lead a life of greatness sustained by the victory which Christ has won for us (Philippians 3:20-21).
Just as we are called to love others in this way, we are also made to receive it. Use and manipulation, often characterized by “if you really loved me..” ultimatums, perpetuate the lie that we are not worthy of real love and we should simply settle for what we can get. But the truth is, each of us are called to receive love that imitates the love of the Father who always calls us worthy. This love is not a quick fix for loneliness with a swipe right or a late night text message – it is enduring and freely given.
Love is not convenience.
We confine ourselves to mediocrity when we pursue convenience over goodness. St. John Paul II said, “genuine love … is demanding. But its beauty lies precisely in the demands it makes.” When Jesus endured the weight of our sins, He showed us the beauty of authentic love. He did not show us a love that counts the cost or acts in haste. He didn’t show us a love full of confusion and false signals that operated solely on convenience. His love for us is intentional, freely given, and completely inconvenient. This is the way we are called to love our brothers and sisters in Christ and the same way we should accept love in our own hearts. Our hearts desire and deserve to be pursued, not measured.
Love never fails.
If you’re anything like me, maybe you’ve accepted these false notions at some point in your life and they’ve left you feeling alone, unworthy, or unloved. But real, authentic love will always orient us towards the Father. It never abandons us in selfishness and isolation.
If you’ve been hurt by a false notion of love, or if you’ve struggled to accept the love of God the Father, please know that you are not alone. Your heart was created in His image to give and receive real love that is contradictory to what the world offers. But as St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians, real love always rejoices in the truth. As Christians, we can rejoice in the truth that our dignity rests in the victory Christ won for us. There’s nothing we can do that will change His love for us. No matter what you’ve done or what you’ve been through – Jesus pursues your heart with the perfect love that continually casts out fear (1 John 4:18) and calls us on to a life of greatness.
This life of greatness invites us to let Jesus into the dark places that have been broken by false love and receive the restoration that real love brings. When we remain steadfast in the truth that we are fully known and fully loved by God above all else, we are inclined to know the genuineness of true love and rejoice in its truth. Real love speaks the truth of who we are in Christ – good, beloved, worthy – and postures our hearts towards the Kingdom.
You were made for real love.