Saint Paul’s Simple Questions That Inspired My Love Life
When I was a kid, the first Bible verses I memorized were from 1 Corinthians 13.
It wasn’t because I was a particularly holy kid, but because it was my favorite VBS song. To this day, my family still knows every word—to the song and the verse. (Lucky you, reader, I found the song here!)
As far as good verses to have memorized goes, I’d say this is a top pick because it comes up everywhere.
If you need a refresher, you can find the whole passage here. But the gist is:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] 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. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
If you’re looking for advice on how to use your spiritual gifts, improve your relationship with the holy spirit, or grow in charity, read further into the chapter. But the verses that spoke to my heart were Saint Paul’s thoughts on love.
For as far back as I can remember, I have been obsessed with love.
I loved the love between families, between us and the Lord, between strangers, brothers and sisters in Christ, and romantic relationships. So I was absolutely tickled pink when someone gave me a relatively easy way to give and understand love as its truest core.
I was told that you can tell what true love is when you can replace the word “love” in the beginning of these verses with the name of that person. It changed my life and the way I love forever.
As in: Erin is patient and kind. Erin is not jealous, not pompous, not inflated . . . and so on.
This concept became an incredibly important measuring stick for me in how to assess and improve my relationships.
Am I being loved?
We should strive to not put ourselves first. But it happens pretty naturally sometimes. So it makes sense that the first way I applied this logic was to the boy I had a crush on at the time.
While he technically met all of the criteria, I am now willing to admit that not only was I squishing him into a box of caveats and passes—“it’s not rude if he was just joking,” I’d say to myself—but it also wasn’t love.
This particular passage from Paul’s letter to those in Corinth gained more meaning the older I got and the more people I met. Some of the most challenging moments of my life have been walking away from friendships that began as loving relationships and over time corroded into something else.
In certain friendships, I began to feel let down and defeated more often than not.
I asked myself if my friend was being kind? No.
Polite? Forgiving? Understanding? No, no, and no.
With this clear set of New Testament directives, I was able to see clearly that the love that once existed didn’t anymore. Then, I prayerfully changed the course of that relationship.
Am I loving?
After I applied that logic to friendships and romantic relationships, I started using it to determine my own behavior.
Is this action patient? Is this sentence kind? Do these words bring hope, or do they make me sound more like a clanging gong?
It helped me to be a better friend by first approaching conversations, advice, or disagreements with this line of questioning first. Not only to check what I was going to say, but why.
I would ask myself, do I feel like I want to say this because I want to be right? Or because I genuinely think it’s kind, patient, understanding . . . ?
When I first put this in practice, I’ll be honest, my answer was almost always: I want to be right.
So I wouldn’t say it until the reason was a better one. But as time went on practicing this, my heart was truly transformed to a place where before I even ask the question, the words or actions that come to mind in friendships are born of those virtues.
How can I be more loving?
Lately, I’ve come across more intricate situations than ever before. My life until now has been relatively black and white, but as an adult working in a large corporation by day and the girlfriend of a man with a child by night, there are new challenges that present themselves in what it means to love.
It’s a lot easier to simply say, “I don’t like that person, and that’s okay. I don’t need to like everyone.”
Which is technically true. However, we are called to love everyone. And the difference can be found in these verses.
I don’t need to ask Coworker X about a hobby I have no interest in, or follow up on a discussion that I am morally opposed to. I don’t need to debate the presidency or defend why I pray before a meal again and again if it falls on deaf and belligerent ears (Proverbs 26).
What God is calling me to do, though—calling all of us to do—is to uphold the virtues that create love with these people. Be patient. Be kind. Do not be rude. Don’t concern yourself with their failures, or judge them when they fall.
Sometimes when I read and reflect on that, I think, it might just be easier to pretend I care about something that I don’t! Instead of going through the hard work of being patient with someone I have no natural patience for!
Here’s the best news of all: God is love. All we need to do is show up and be open, and God will do the rest. Grace will grant us patience, kindness, slow temper, a soft heart, and much more.
I challenge you to keep 1 Corinthians 13 posted in some form or fashion in a place you’ll see it daily.
Maybe you transcribe the entire passage. Or, you could just keep a few sticky notes with the qualities of love as a reminder. Whatever you do, make sure the verses are in a prominent place. Then watch as your heart begins to change.
Erin is a Catholic writer living on the windy plains of Kansas. She loves reading, dark chocolate, sunflowers, and learning to cook.