Picture this… an unseasonably warm October afternoon – a refreshing babbling brook ahead of you which is shadowed by a gorgeous arbor draped in flowing white lace and adorned with an expertly crafted floral arrangement. Rows of white chairs flank either side of the aisle hosting their smiling visitors. The air is fueled with excitement for the vows that will soon be uttered.
As the music plays, the bridal party makes its way down the aisle to the arbor. They have set the stage and are ushering in the bridal entrance. And then, here she comes, resplendent in her angelic gown. She glowingly walks arm in arm with her proud father and thinks of nothing other than committing her life to the soul-mate that longingly awaits her. In a few short moments, they will be joined as one and will begin a new life in unity, best friends, partners in life… for the rest of their lives.
The minister begins: “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to witness a union of two hearts…” The groom looks at his bride, a tear of joy escapes and runs down his cheek. She lifts her face to look into his loving eyes and gently wipes the tear with her thumb. “I love you,” she whispers.
“Today we have a reading from 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8. I’m sure you have heard this several times before. This passage is a picture of what real love is. It is a benchmark to strive to throughout your marriage - not because you will be able to do this perfectly, but it is to remember that God loves each of you this way and it is an example of how you are to love each other. Let God fuel your hearts to love as He does. Here is the passage: “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…” (NASB)
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This Bible verse is poetic and beautiful. It is full of what we all hope we receive in order to feel valued and appreciated. It is a standard in many ceremonies, but, while we know it well and can recite many of the words, it is, unfortunately, also forgettable – a passing paragraph we hear at weddings… and sometimes leave at weddings. I spent some time digging into the words that are so often uttered to commemorate a union and wanted to understand the type of love that God desires for us.
In the original Greek text, the word used for love is agape. It is defined as “love which centers in moral preference.” Strong’s concordance further defines it this way: “to prefer; divine love; what God prefers.”
So this agape kind of love is the type of moral, divine love that God prefers.
The verses in 1 Corinthians is then, basically, an expounded definition of this beautiful, soul-filling, joy-making kind of love. Real love.
Each of the defining qualities of this agape type of love shows us what real love entails. I’ve taken the liberty to rewrite the verses to drive the point home deep into my heart. In sharing this with you, I pray that not only will you seek to love in this way, but that your heart would be full to receive this love from Father God – from a God whose grace is beyond measure and beyond earning. A gift of love this big can only be shared as we cannot possibly contain it all. Let us not leave this verse at the wedding celebration – let’s carry it with us each day and everywhere we go.
“Love is patient (defers anger and refuses to retaliate in anger), love is kind (full of service to others, is gentle, acts benevolently) and is not jealous (not eager to possess something); love does not brag (does not show off , is not excessively proud of one’s achievements or overly vain) and is not arrogant (not puffed up, egotistical, inflated, proud), does not act unbecomingly (does not act improperly or unseemingly); it does not seek its own (is not self-serving, only looking out for #1), is not provoked (is not roused to anger or emotionally stimulated into action), does not take into account a wrong suffered (does not count the wrongs or ruminate on the bad, wicked, or evil things), does not rejoice in unrighteousness (is not glad about pain, injustice), but rejoices with the truth (shares joy and grace in moral and divine truth, sincerity, straightforwardness); bears all things (endures patiently, covers closely, protects), believes all things (has faith in everything, views the whole in terms of the individual parts, sees the value in the individual), endures all things (remains under the load by God’s power, perseveres, stays behind). Love never fails (is never defeated, doesn’t perish)…” (NASB – expounded text in parentheses are my additions -consulted with Strong’s concordance as well as www.dictionary.com and www.merriam-webster.com ).