Suffering and Smiling

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Love suffers long and is kind; (I Corinthians 13:4a NKJV)

One is struck so hard by the first character of love declared in this portion of scripture and I am afraid that unless one appropriates grace to receive the fullness of it, we would find ourselves stuck and unable to ever rise to the life of love that God calls us to.

Whether we simply take the rendering of this verse as has been done in the King James Version or seek a clearer (or easier; depending on our motives) rendition in versions that replace suffer with endurance or patience, our efforts at escaping the imperative of the verse remains futile.

It is the foremost character of love to patiently endure suffering (to combine the three commonest renditions). We see it in the purest example of love: God reduced himself to become man and endures the insults, slaps and beatings of his own creation just so he can pay for their sins and restore them to the bounties he once gave them, which they lost. In the face of hurtful taunts and painful scourging, God pursues us still, relentlessly with his love.

Can we then truly call that uncertain (here now, gone a moment later) emotion we feel love? Do we love the brethren (not to talk of all men) as to patiently endure the suffering that our relationship with them sometimes brings? Are we able to bear false accusations and like Jesus “answer nothing”? Can we have dinner with someone who we know will betray us in a few hours and another who will deny having ever known us even though he had enjoyed our goodness for years?

Meanwhile, the remarkable thing about love is not that it merely suffers, it is that it suffers for long and remains kind. It may be easy to remain kind in spite of momentary suffering like someone stepping on your toes but to remain kind to someone who stands on your toes…

To Love… May God help us all.

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