“So, I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.”
Love is a battlefield. A famous line from Pat Benatar’s 1983 hit song and an appropriate theme as we come to this day, Valentine’s Day. Love is a battlefield. When you think of this song, what is the image that comes to mind? For me, I tend to think that love is fraught with danger and risk! Has loving someone ever cost you something? Anyone who has been woken up in the middle of the night by a crying child knows that it does. Ever dealt with heart break? Or disappointment from a spouse or significant other? Maybe the apostle Paul said it best when he said it this way in 1 Corinthians 13:4, Love suffers long (NKJV).
The Greek word there, makrothymia, almost always refers to a persevering and patient love towards a person. It’s a form of sacrificial love that we extend towards someone else. Love is fraught with costs, both great and small. That’s why we want people to display makrothymia towards one another! In the context of relationship to people we’re related to, that can be easy or difficult. However, Paul is suffering long for a church that he dearly loved in Ephesus. Why? Because he wanted the church to understand the mystery of the gospel and of the kingdom! That in the kingdom, we are all on equal footing with one another and that we are all one in Christ.
Here’s the reality though. This love doesn’t come to us naturally. This love is not easy. This love is almost always going to cost us something. That’s why it takes a great deal of love that suffers long. We all want to be unified, but what are we willing to sacrifice for the glory of God and his church? What are we willing to suffer for the sake of others?
All of us have been called to “fight the good fight.” Paul is a prisoner of the Lord Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles. When Paul said this, I imagine him thinking of the many landmines that he stepped on in the battlefield. He was kicked out of towns, nearly executed, and imprisoned on behalf of these people that he dearly loved and for the sake of the church. Paul knew what it meant to sacrifice for the sake of others. Loving others sometimes requires suffering, and yet as Paul reminds us, we don’t suffer in vain, we suffer not just for others, but for the glory of the Lord, who is in us, always with us and understands our sufferings. (John 15:13)
Pastor of High School Ministry