“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

1 Corinthians 13 is read most often at weddings because it is not only so beautiful and poetic, but it also succinctly captures the essence of love. But, to Paul, love is not a mere abstract quality, a physical urge or even an emotional feeling marked by good will, kindness or passion. Love is action. Love is behavior. Anyone can say “I love you.” But true love is expressed in actions that are totally centered on giving to the other person. Love never seeks its own.

This idea is contrary to the popular notion that equates love with lust or emotional feelings. Paul tells us that the highest good is love, not achieving personal growth, wealth or fame is the highest good. The one who loves is not interested in self-gain, self-justification, or self-promotion. The one who loves seeks to build up and edify others with tangible actions. The one who loves does not seek thanks or appreciation. This is because love is so much more important than any other quality, attribute or gift: it is eternal. It is the quintessential attribute of God, the reason why He came to earth as a man to die for our sins, the reason why He does all He does. He is focused on doing for us, so we may be focused on loving Him by loving others.

Now seriously, how loving are we really? At best our motives are mixed. This is why we need the Lord living in us, why we need a savior! Thinking of love’s perfection and our own imperfection will help us remain humble and confess we need His help. Love is the highest gift, the one gift we should all be manifesting and using every day of our lives.