Public Service Announcement: There are no adjectives in 1 Cor 13:4-7 -- the verses I'm memorizing in Greek for the New Year. There are only verbs.
Paul doesn't say "love is patient." He says something like, "love patients [verb]" or (better) "love suffers long." I was discussing this with a friend recently. "Yeah," he said, "I really need patience right now. It seems like I'm having to wait forever for ____________ to happen." In a world where we want things NOW, that makes sense. But Paul isn't talking about counting down the days until you get married or have your first baby or get your doctorate. No, this patience is exercised toward people, not things. Notice the second characteristic of love that Paul mentions here: "Love
is kind acts kindly." It's a verb, remember? Obviously, Paul is packing a one-two punch. You see, we can act with longsuffering toward people without actually doing anything positive for them. But is that the best way to handle difficult, high-maintenance people? It's not enough to give grace, though that's where you have to start. No, you ask yourself, "How can I best love this person who gets on my nerves?" Here you have multiple options, but simple acts of kindness will not go unnoticed.
Now, we need to be careful here. On the one hand, Paul is saying that love puts up with a lot. As he goes on to say, "Love doesn't demand its own way. It's not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong" (TLB). True. But on the other hand, love "is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out." So there's a fine line here. Yes, we are to prioritize keeping the peace over confrontation. But let's not enable people who demean and humiliate. Yes, long-suffering is required, but it's not grace to put up with constant bullying or neglect. Sometimes you need to walk away from certain toxic relationships because that's the loving thing to do both for you and for the other person.
As I memorize and meditate on these verses, I am praying for perspective on this short, fleeting life of mine. Who do I need to forgive? Where do I need to release a grudge? How can I better live at peace with all? What behaviors do I need to clarify to my loved ones that I will not put up with any longer? I'm asking Jesus to send light into my heart so that I can make decisions that lead to greater health and happiness. Frankly, who could ever lead a 1 Corinthians 13 kind of life without his constant presence and power?