Why Can Love ‘Bear All Things’?
THEY were happily married, and their business prospered. But most of all, they were fully dedicated Christians. For 25 years they shared a large variety of joyful experiences. Then, one day, the husband had a stroke. For 20 years he lived on, getting more and more helpless, until finally death intervened and relieved his devoted wife of her burden. What enabled her to care for him tenderly, uncomplainingly, even though it meant never having a good night’s sleep? It was her love for him. “He was such a fine, loving husband,” she will tell you when you ask about him. Yes, she proved the inspired words true, “Love . . . bears all things.”—1 Cor. 13:4, 7.
Life at times does bring things hard to bear. Daily we read about or see persons who have concluded that their lot is too hard to bear. Feeling overburdened, youngsters become school dropouts, people quit jobs, married folks walk out on each other or get divorces, and some persons even go to the extreme of committing suicide. Why did they find things too hard to bear? In view of the inspired words, we may well conclude that it was because of a lack of love. Had love been there, it would have ‘borne all things.’ Or, as other translations render those words of the apostle Paul: “Love . . . is always ready to excuse.” “Love knows no limit to its endurance.” “Love never gives up.” “There is nothing love cannot face.” “Love can stand any kind of treatment.”
What sort of love can stand “any kind of treatment”? Can any kind of love, as long as it is “love”? What about love in the form of special affection for another? Perhaps at times, for the Bible tells us that the patriarch Jacob served many years for Rachel, the object of his affections, and it seemed to him to be but a few years. Moreover, the work he had to do, that of shepherding, was filled with all manner of hardships.—Gen. 29:18-20; 31:36-42.
Also, strong love among members of a family enables them to put up with severe treatment. The Greeks called this kind of love storgé. Judah, for example, was willing to become a lifetime slave of Egypt’s food administrator to spare his father the grief of losing his much-beloved son Benjamin. (Gen. 44:18-34) Love between friends who have much in common, a kind of love known as philía by the Greeks, also enables persons to put up with unpleasantness. Was not this the kind of love that Jonathan and David had for each other? It certainly was. Because of his love for David, Jonathan was willing to risk even his life.—1 Sam. 18:1; 20:32-34.
Above all, love based on principle, called agápe by the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures, enables one to bear all things. Such love has enabled the great Creator, Jehovah God, to be so patient, so long-suffering, with his imperfect wayward human children. (2 Pet. 3:9, 15) It also enabled Jesus to bear all the things he had to endure from his enemies, as well as to put up with the failings of his disciples. Finally, in expression of his love, Jesus gave his life for others.—John 15:13.
The apostle Paul was an outstanding example of an imperfect human who ‘never gave up’ and was able ‘to stand any kind of treatment.’ His love for his fellow Christians was comparable to that of a nursing mother who cherishes her children, and to that of a father who is concerned about his sons. (1 Thess. 2:7, 11) And look at all that he bore! Truly, his love ‘knew no limits to its endurance.’ He was beaten time and again, found himself in all kinds of dangers, went without food, experienced sleepless nights and often suffered many other things—all out of love for his God Jehovah and his fellow humans.—2 Cor. 11:23-33.
Why is agápe love able to stand any kind of treatment? One reason is that it is unselfishly concerned with the welfare of others. The love that a nursing mother has for her child well illustrates this. How trying an infant can be!
And do not Christian overseers today show love by putting up with the shortcomings of others? Love enables these overseers to instruct with mildness even those not favorably disposed.—2 Tim. 2:24, 25.
Love also helps us ‘never to give up.’ Because it has empathy, love enables us to put ourselves in the place of others. Love gives us understanding so that we are “always ready to excuse” and to make allowances for others’ shortcomings. Love enables us to bear with the irritating mannerisms of others—such as a grating tone of voice, certain gestures or simply talkativeness. Yes, we will lovingly cover over even a multitude of such idiosyncrasies.—1 Pet. 4:8.
Among other reasons why “there is nothing love cannot face” is the fact that love is not proud. “It does not brag.” (1 Cor. 13:4) Pride makes one critical of others, makes one resent having to put up with the weaknesses and shortcomings of others. But the humble person is not unduly sensitive, not overly concerned with his own well-being and interests. The one who is humble is ready to be of service to others and is only too ready to put up lovingly with persons having a weak conscience.—Rom. 15:1, 2.
Today, many dedicated Christians have gone forth into foreign lands as missionaries, and others have gone to serve where the need for proclaimers of the “good news” is great. These persons have put up with inferior living conditions, with less income, with indifference and opposition—all because of the love that they have for their neighbors. They also demonstrate that love “bears all things.” What about you?
Do you have that kind of love? Are you working hard to express it?