Love – ego, brownie points and modesty

Love does not boast. When I think of boasting, I think of an arrogant narcissist. I sometimes resemble that definition. But, that isn’t exactly what the verse is pointing to. The idea herein is that of vainglory (a new word to me, but one that I like), which means “having or showing too much pride in your abilities or achievements”. Add to that, the idea of love not being proud. The Greek word there is, physioō. It means to be puffed up, to bear one’s self loftily. This falls under a broader definition, meaning to inflate, blow up, to cause to swell up. It is rooted in the context of a bellows; a device that produces a strong current of air when its sides are pressed together.

That’s interesting isn’t it?

Love isn’t full of a bunch of hot air!

Okay, that’s not what the verse it pointing to either.

Loving well means not getting an inflated ego because of loving well.

When we love well we don’t have to bring our spouses attention to where we’ve loved or served them. Ever feel inclined to do that? I sure do. I want to make darn sure Shelley knows how well I’ve loved her! So sometimes I try to point out those places – “Did you notice I unloaded the dishwasher?” “Remember, I came home early the other day so you wouldn’t have to worry about picking up our son from school.”

I notice that I am most likely to do this when I’m angling for something personally. Like when I want to get some extra time solo, or I want to go do something that will stretch how much time Shelley will have to be with our 3 boys without my help.

Another take-away: Love doesn’t use service as brownie points or leverage.

Well, crap. Here again, love doesn’t seem to be benefiting the lover, only the loved.

Let’s keep going.

Love does not, some translations say, behave unseemly or unbecomingly. This one is really difficult to unpack. The word origin casts a wide net from dealing with nakedness, shame and modesty to simply being rude or crude. Honestly, I don’t know where this one lands. So I’m going out on a limb a bit.

After researching it, what strikes me is the notion of decency and modesty. In a sense, it’s like Paul is saying that Love doesn’t make crude remarks, jokes filled with sexual innuendo, or lewd comments. Love wouldn’t behave in a way that brings disgrace or embarrassment to the person who sees or hears it. Further, Love would seek to protect against those things. Applied to loving my spouse, I wouldn’t make those types of comments to her, towards her, nor about other people. I would protect her from that stuff; including from people who might act that way and from media that would perpetuate that junk too. Have you ever noticed how casually the crude comments are used in prime time television?

Boiling it down, Love protects the virtues of decency and modesty.

Wow, how sexual integrity issues are the antithesis of love. By the very nature of the thing, I cannot love my spouse and be using pornography, visiting strip clubs, massage parlors or prostitutes. I cannot love my wife and insist she mimic what I’ve seen a mistress or the women in porn wear, do or say.

Wrapping this post up, I feel convicted, yet again. And I’m looking forward to seeing how all this ends up benefiting the lover, not just the loved one.

Love – Kindness and Envy

A quick hit post, continuing our attempt to understand Love.

In this post we’ll look at a couple more attributes. The next one is kindness. “Love is kind” the verse says. The Greek word is chrēsteuomai, meaning to show one’s self mild, to be kind, use kindness. This is the only place in the entire bible the word is used. The word is a verb, thus the connotation is that kindness is an act. It’s not saying love is static, but instead that love acts in kind ways. Some commentators suggest that Paul is specifically pointing to practicing kindness at the end of patience.

Practical application: when we’re at the end of our rope, even if we’re angry, we don’t move into character assassinations. We refrain from degrading the other person and/or treating them with contempt. We still show love even when we don’t like them anymore.

Ugh. Difficult.

Next; envy. Love does not envy. Some translations say love is not jealous. It’s rooted in the idea of heating up or boiling with emotion. Another word used as a descriptor is ‘zeal’. People often quote this in relationships where one spouse or the other is jealous of time spent with other people, or the relationship a spouse has with someone outside the marriage. But it’s really not intended that way in this verse. Here again, Paul seems to be aiming at this idea of a kind of love willing to withstand the heat when the temperature in the relationship gets turned up.

Further, unpacking the meaning of envy/jealousy, a distinction is made with respect to the Greek words. “Envy” desires to deprive another of what he has, “jealousy” desires to have the same sort of thing for itself. Envy is directed outward, jealousy is more of an inward thing. Either way, the end result is selfish gain. Thus, we can see again the idea that Love requires self-sacrifice for the sake of our spouse.

Do we even need to continue this study? Its painful already! If you’re like me, you are already starting to ask, “when do I get any benefit from this?”

We’ll get to that. Just not quite yet.

 

Love – Patience and Anger

 

Love_Overlooks

Before we dive in and unpack thes attributes, I want to point out the kind of love we’re dealing with. Remember, in the Greek there were 4 different types of love: eros, storge, philia and agape. Each had a different meaning and application. These all get lumped into our modern day term, “love”. So we use the same word when we describe our affinity for certain foods (I love fried okra) and our affection for our spouses (I love my wife). Without getting too far into the nitty gritty, what Paul is describing in these verses is Agape. To keep it simple, think of agape as “loving even without any self-benefit”. Of the 4 types of love, this one requires the most of us. It requires the most work.

P.S. – I already don’t like where this is going….

The first attribute of love that Paul names is patience. The Greek word is: makrothymeō. It means ‘to be patient in bearing the offenses and injuries of others. To be slow to avenge or punish.’ I like what one commentator, Matthew Henry, says about it:

It will put up with many slights and neglects from the person it loves, and wait long to see the kindly effects of such patience on him.

Patience is a powerful, strong, and willful thing. It is having the position and power to punish, yet choosing not to. Isn’t it interesting that the first thing Paul says about love is that it’s slow to punish? Logically it makes sense to me; if we avenge or punish our partner quickly after an offense, there is no time for sorting things out, explaining intentions, reconciliation or redemption. It just explodes.

Let’s think about it for a minute: what does it look like to hold back punishment? For me it means not popping-off with some hurtful comment. It also looks like engaging the conversation rather than giving Shelley the cold-shoulder. Another angle is that when I am hurt I withhold compliments and/or affection; that’s punishment too.

How do you punish your spouse and what might it look like to practice patience?

This patience thing leads me to another question though:  does Love ever get angry? Does the text say that Love means I’ll never be angry with my spouse?

No, it doesn’t. In fact this is addressed by another attribute: being slow to anger. Depending on the translation you may also see it as “not irritable” and also “not easily provoked”. Here again, background is important. The Greek word is, paroxynō, meaning to ‘provoke, irritate or rouse to anger.’The concept this term conveys is easily misunderstood. We might be inclined to read it as “love does not get angry”, which misses the heart of the matter. Instead, think of it as a quick temper; Love doesn’t have a quick temper. Loving in this way means we don’t fly-off-the-handle. While we may in fact become angry, it is only after we have practiced patience. It is similar in notion to what is described in Isaiah 5:25; “Therefore the Lord’s anger burns against his people. “ God wasn’t irritated so he wanted to quickly prove his point. Nor was he responding to being provoked or taunted. He was roused to anger, over time, by the idolatrous lifestyle of his people. He didn’t just lose his stuff one afternoon and make a rash decision to punish his children. It took time. He was patient.

Thus, the gist of what Paul is describing for us is a love that is going to overlook as many offenses as it can, for as long as it can, in hopes of a change in relationship.

That is so counter to my concept of love. I thought love meant Shelley should change what bothers me so I don’t have to overlook anything. If she would act differently, then I would act differently. See the conditions on that? Thus the work of love was on her, not me. We now know that’s not love at all; its selfishness.

The question I’m asking myself in light of this new understanding, and perhaps you’d like to ask yourself, is this:

In what ways am I asking my wife to change to make it easier for me to be patient and slow to anger?