Even to this day, no other description of love has surpassed the simple—yet powerful—words that the apostle Paul put on paper nearly 2,000 years ago. Writing to a group of people he had worked for, prayed for, and labored over, he poured out his heart for them in describing how he wanted them to put aside their differences and truly love each other:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” (1 Corinthians 13:4)
Many a bride and groom have used this phrase as the anchor of their wedding; many a homeowner has adorned a wall with this passage—and for very good reason. This timeless description shows us exactly what God revealed about love through Christ (2 Timothy 1:10). It’s the same type of love we’re called to model in our lives.
Here are just a few inspiring ways this love spills out.
1. Love is Patient
Even when you clench your teeth in anger at Him or shake your fist at the sky, God’s love doesn’t suddenly stop. He doesn’t love you on the good days and despise you on your worst. His passion doesn’t ebb and flow with Monday blahs and weekend euphoria. Instead, His love is patient and unfailing through health and sickness, anger and sorrow, triumph and failure.
Our love for one another is meant to echo His.
It’s the type of love that would make a woman stay with her husband, even when an accident takes away his ability to move. It’s the type of love that would cause a talented athlete to give up a lucrative contract in order to feed the poor in his community, despite the criticism he takes. It’s the type of love that would cause the Son of God to put aside the amazing riches of heaven and enter the fray:
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5–8)
Patience isn’t just a virtue. It’s at the heart of what real love is all about.
2. Love is Kind
Real kindness isn’t a manipulative effort to get what we want. Instead, it’s giving something without the hope of a reward. God loves us and blesses us continually, though there’s nothing we could ever give back to Him. He doesn’t need anything, but He still shows kindness—even to those who refuse to love Him back (Matthew 5:45).
For us, our kindness comes through when we give up what rightfully belongs to us because our love for someone trumps what we think is “fair.” We put aside our claims and expectations because we’re more interested in what’s good for someone else—even if they don’t deserve it. It’s much like the famous “Good Samaritan” that Jesus talked about, a man who put aside centuries of cultural hate to care for someone in need (Luke 10:25–37).
God shows us exactly what this kindness looks like:
“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” (Titus 3:4–5a)
3. Love Does Not Envy
In our culture today, envy isn’t necessarily seen as a bad thing. We’re told by movies and commercials that envy can drive us to be better, to get the thing we want, to overcome challenges. If we want something that someone else has, surely we’ll be motivated, right?
But God doesn’t see it that way. Part of the reason He warned so sternly about envy and wanting what others have (Exodus 20:17) is because He’s the one who takes care of us. That’s His job (Matthew 6). When we envy, we’re showing our dissatisfaction with what He’s provided, our desire to have more than what He’s planned.
The same is true in our relationships. Envy rots away at the connections between us because we want something we feel like we deserve (Proverbs 14:30). Our frustration grows and grows while our intimacy shrinks and shrinks.
When we put aside envy, however, we’re left with a love that always feels like the “perfect fit,” that’s always fresh. Why? Because we find what we’re looking for. When we’re looking for the best in another person, when we’re on the hunt for the good in them, we’re much more likely to find it. And much less likely to look somewhere else for what we “deserve.”
And we can be very glad that God is like that—not wishing for better humans, but seeking us out:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
And that’s the kind of love that makes any relationship work best.
This article first appeared on BibleStudyTools.com