The chosen Biblical text for many weddings is Paul’s eloquent description of love found in 1 Corinthians 13. These warm words frequently capture the hearts of lovers and are often chosen to either precede or follow their marriage vows. Why then do these same people often find their love declining? Why has the valentine atmosphere vacated their relationship? What causes love to be lost?
The answer to these questions may be found in the neglect of six words in this popular quote that explain what love is all about: “Love suffers long and is kind.” Without kindness, love loses its meaning and therefore doesn’t last.
I once wrote to a friend to thank him for a comment he made when I visited him shortly after his wife’s death. Reminiscing over their years together, he explained the reason for their long and successful marriage in one simple, yet profound, expression of love: “We were good to each other.”
There had been nothing complicated about their warm and lasting relationship. I doubt that they ever found it necessary to consult a counselor and at the time they were married few ministers gave much attention to premarital advice. Still they enjoyed many happy years together because they were good to each other; they were patient and kind.
An old song says, “You always hurt the one you love, the one you shouldn’t hurt at all.” That once popular tune could be the theme song of many hurting homes.
Looking back on more than twenty years of a good marriage, Jerry Jenkins, co-author of the best-selling “Left Behind” book series, explained how he and his wife kept their home a safe haven for love, writing: “We know each other’s weaknesses, and we don’t exploit them. Long ago, we discussed how unattractive it was to hear spouses bad-mouth each other, or to find some quirk, some irritating habit, and make a joke of it. That’s not love. Love is building up each other.”
In his book “Love is the Greatest,” George Sweeting says “People are always hungry for kindness” and adds, “Kindness then ought to be a natural part of relating to those we love, but sometimes it’s when we’re with those closest to us that being kind is most difficult.”
Preparing his readers for such times, Sweeting wrote: “A large part of being kind is the patient willingness to put up with the abuse or ridicule that comes our way. Usually that patience is needed most just when it is exhausted.”
If you long to be consistently kind but find your patience running on empty, try Peter Marshall’s well known prayer: “When I am wrong, dear Lord, make me easy to change, and when I’m right make me easy to live with.”
My friend and his wife had discovered how to welcome God into their marriage and He made their mutual kindness possible. They were faithful in the services of their church, prayed together and were eager to help others. The love of God flowed through their marriage and brought an atmosphere of kindness to their home.
Be kind to your valentine today.
You can’t start being kind too soon because you never know when it will be too late.
Roger Campbell is an author, broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org