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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Written by Anne Robertson

Saturday, February 5

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant.
—1 Corinthians 13:4

It's not always easy to tell what a loving action is. If I turn in my drug-dealing daughter, if I take away my aged father's driver's license, if I refuse the financial bailout to a friend, the recipients of my actions don't generally feel loved. We have come to equate love with feeling good, so if you aren't making me feel good, I feel that you don't love me.

What Paul shows us in verses 4-7, however, is that it is not the action that defines love—it is the attitude of the heart. Turning in my daughter could be motivated either by tough love that knows there is no other way to save her from herself or by personal resentment over her wealth. I could take Dad's license either to save his life and the lives of others or to get back at him for the things he took from me as a child.

Either way it's not going to feel good to my daughter or to Dad, but the difference is vast in the eyes of God. Love is the only thing that counts and love is determined by what is happening inside the heart, not by the nature of a particular action.

Paul clues us in to what those heart attitudes are: patience, kindness, endurance, hope, joy. The list sounds very much like what he elsewhere calls the "fruit of the Spirit." On the days when my own fruit is underripe and wormy, and I wonder if I can ever manage to do what I do for the right reasons, this verse reassures me.

The things that I strive for in love—to be patient and kind—are the things God already is. God is both patient and kind with me when I mess up—urging me to be better, but loving me as I am.

Patient God, thank you for enduring our failings with kindness as we seek to love as you love. Amen.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2006.