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?

 

 

 

 

Love

A few weeks ago I did a post about compartmentalization. I think its important to talk a little about love too, in conjunction with the compartments. When I hear the question, “How can he do this?” from a wife it is often accompanied by, “he couldn’t love me and do this”. Most often, this is simply not true.

By and large the guys I work with honestly, genuinely do love their wives. They hate the damage they’ve caused and never intended to hurt the one they love the most on the planet. This was true for me too. I questioned myself most days, asking if I really loved Shelley. I knew I did, but I also knew my actions said otherwise. I was conflicted and confused. Ultimately, I started to question what kind of monster or psycho must I be to say I love my wife but continue to commit adultery.

Truth is, I’m not psycho, nor am I monster. I was and am in need of a Savior.

And the issue wasn’t whether or not I loved Shelley; the issue was that I didn’t know what love was. I had a really shallow idea of love.

I find this to be true for many of the guys I help. They love their wives, but their understanding of love is shallow, self-serving, and rooted in conditions. In fact, guys often tell me they feel like their wife’s love is conditional towards them, when in reality they are simply projecting their own dysfunctional notions of love onto their wives (if you’re a wife reading this, please don’t use this against your husband. Have a counselor help sort it out and unpack it).

Anyway, shallow love… I thought love meant nonstop acceptance, never feeling rejected. It meant the absence of conflict (or only on very rare occasions). I expected love to feel good, most of the time. And to feel safe; which translated into sharing what I wanted, when I wanted, without my wife being hurt, being upset, asking a ton of questions, or invalidating what I was saying. I thought love would mean I got my way a lot. That’s how it was in my house growing up as an only child. Love was supposed to equate to a lot of sex too; sex the way I wanted it, when I wanted it. And love entitled me to have a say in my wife’s weight, wardrobe and way of thinking. Need I go on?

I had no concept of the kind of love I think Jesus talked about. You know, that whole “lay down your life” thing? That was awesome when it was convenient and I ended up benefiting. On this short road of recovery, I’ve come to see that there is a more selfless kind of love; a deeper, more authentic, more messy, painful and joyful love.

 The next couple posts will deal with unpacking Love, as it is described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

 

Watch for a post on the first couple attributes, Patience & Envy soon!