In his book titled ‘Cast of Characters’, Max Lucado wrote something beautiful that lingers in my heart for quite a long time.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it does not proud. It is not rude, 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.
Several years ago, someone challenged me to replace the word love in this passage with my name. I did and became a liar. ‘Max is patient, Max is kind. Max does not envy, he does not boast, he does not proud…’ That’s enough! Stop right there! Those words are false. Max is not patient. Max is not kind. Ask my wife and kids. Max can be an out-and-out clod! That’s my problem.
And for years that was my problem with this paragraph. It set a standard I could not meet. No one can meet it. No one, that is, except Christ. Does this passage not describe the measureless love of God? Let’s insert Christ’s name in place of the word love, and see if it rings true.
Jesus is patient. Jesus is kind. Jesus does not envy, he does not boast, he is not proud. Jesus is not rude, he is not self-seeking, he is not easily angered, he keeps no record of wrongs. Jesus does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Jesus always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Jesus never fails.”
When I read this chapter, I tried it too.
‘Jill is patient, Jill is kind. Jill does not envy, she does not boast, she does not proud.’ And yes, none of those words are true. I said I love my family, yet I often irritate them with my cranky attitude, and be easily irritated by their good will. I said I love my friends but in fact, I often do things that benefit me more than they would benefit others. I envy, a lot. I boast. I am proud.
If God is an earthly teacher, I am his student and this is a test, I would fail, of course. I am not qualified for even one character described in the word love. Not even one, not even once.
Things become clearer when I compare this verse to my relationship. I said I love my partner, and when I said it, I really mean it. However, as time goes by, it is really hard to really love him as it is defined in the scripture. At times I lost my patience during our little arguments, and then, it would lead to the second failure: the failure of being kind. During my disappointments and impatience toward my partner, I failed at being kind. It’s not that I am being bad, but I become unkind. If it continues, I would become rude; rude in words, rude in actions. And here comes the biggest problem: pride. I said I love my partner but more often than not, pride is the source of our arguments. Too often, I hold my pride tighter than I should have had. Too often, I hold my pride tighter when I should have held him. It is the ‘not my fault’ and ‘he is being unreasonable’ and ‘why should I apologize when I only said it right’ things that reflect pride. Furthermore, I kept records of wrongs. I do not always protect. I do not always trust, hope, or perseveres.
But I guess that is the thing about relationships and our failures: to shape us, to make us understand that in any relationships, we desperately need God. Relationships could bring the best and the worse out of us; and it is when we need God as a living example, also as our guidance in love. We might love and hate each other, and then we could grow up in love and in God.
Despite of my failing love, God’s love never fails. And I think that is the reason why God still loves me today: because he is too patient, he is too kind. Because he never fails.
And I guess, it goes the same with you. We are on the same boat: on God’s mercy and love.
And that is how we are supposed to live our lives.
That is how we are supposed to love: just like God has loved us, unfailingly