1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NASB
Love… bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
How long must I put up with you?
Jesus’ actions answered His own question…
Until the rooster sings and the sweat stings and the mallet rings and a hillside of demons smirk at a dying God.
How long? Long enough for every sin to so soak my sinless soul that heaven will turn in horror until my swollen lips pronounce the final transaction: “It is finished.” How long?
Until it kills me.
* * *
My parents were not too big on restaurants. Partly because of the selection in our small town. Dairy Queen offered the gourmet selection, and everything went downhill from there. The main reason, though, was practicality. Why eat out when you can stay home? Restaurant trips were a Sunday-only, once-or-twice-a-month event. Funny, now that I am a parent, the philosophy is just the opposite. Why stay home when you can go out? (We tell our daughters it’s time to eat, and they head for the garage.)
But when I was growing up, we typically ate at home. And every time we ate at home, my mom gave my brother and me the same instructions: “Put a little bit of everything on your plate.”
We never had to be told to clean the plate. Eating volume was not a challenge. Variety was. Don’t get me wrong, Mom was a good cook. But boiled okra? Asparagus? More like “croak-ra” and “gasp-aragus.” Were they really intended for human consumption?
According to Mom, they were, and — according to Mom — they had to be eaten. “Eat some of everything.” That was the rule in our house.
But that was not the rule at the cafeteria. On special occasions we made the forty-five-minute drive to the greatest culinary innovation since the gas stove: the cafeteria line. Ah, what a fine moment indeed to take a tray and gaze down the midway at the endless options. A veritable cornucopia of fine cuisine. Down the row you walk, intoxicated by the selection and liberated by the freedom. Yes to the fried fish; no to the fried tomatoes. Yes to the pecan pie; no, no, a thousand times no to the “croak-ra” and “gasp-aragus.” Cafeteria lines are great.
Wouldn’t it be nice if love were like a cafeteria line? What if you could look at the person with whom you live and select what you want and pass on what you don’t? What if parents could do this with kids? “I’ll take a plate of good grades and cute smiles, and I’m passing on the teenage identity crisis and tuition bills.”
What if kids could do the same with parents? “Please give me a helping of allowances and free lodging but no rules or curfews, thank you.”
And spouse with spouse? “H’m, how about a bowl of good health and good moods. But job transfers, in-laws, and laundry are not on my diet.”
Wouldn’t it be great if love were like a cafeteria line? It would be easier. It would be neater. It would be painless and peaceful. But you know what? It wouldn’t be love.
Love doesn’t accept just a few things. Love is willing to accept all things.
The apostle is looking for a ribbon to wrap around one of the sweetest paragraphs in Scripture. I envision the leathery-faced saint pausing in his dictation. “Let me think for a moment.” Checking off his fingers, he reviews his list. “Let’s see, patience, kindness, envy, arrogance. We’ve mentioned rudeness, selfishness, and anger, forgiveness, evil, and truth. Have I covered all things? Ah, that’s it — all things. Here, write this down. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Paul was never more the wordsmith than when he crafted this sentence. Listen to its rhythm as originally written: panta stegei, panta pisteuei, panta elpigei, panta upomenei. (Now when people ask you what you are doing, you can say, “I’m reading some Greek.” Say it humbly, however, for love does not boast.) Did you notice the fourfold appearance of panta?
Expansions of panta appear in your English dictionary. Pantheism is the belief that God is in all things. A pantry is a cupboard where one can, hopefully, store all things. A panacea is a cure for all things. And a panoply is an array of all things. Panta means “all things.”
God’s view of love is like my mom’s view of food. When we love someone, we take the entire package. No picking and choosing. No large helpings of the good and passing on the bad. Love is a package deal.
Excerpted with permission from A Love Worth Giving by Max Lucado, copyright Max Lucado.