Of course, 1 Corinthians 13 is known as "the love chapter" of the Bible. I believe this chapter points out the importance and depth of love. It simplifies life down to "love" but does not hide how complicated love is.
In verses 1-3 we see just how important love is. As a wife and mother, for instance, I can say all the right things to my husband and children in the sweetest, kindest voice but if I don't have unconditional love for them, my words mean nothing. I can read all the best marriage and parenting books and know all the right ways to be married and to parent children, but if I lack unconditional love, all that is worthless. And I can sacrifice all my desires, "rights" and needs for the sake of my family, but if I don't do it out of unconditional love, my sacrifices are in vain.
So, if love isn't watching what I say, knowing how to be a good wife and mother, and sacrificing for the sake of my family, then what in the world is it? It is the complete puzzle (vs.4-8). It is being patient with my husband and children all the time. It is showing kindness to them when they are not showing kindness to me. It is choosing not to get jealous when my husband goes out to eat at a fancy resturant for work. It is not telling him that I have figured out how to deal with a particular situations with the kids, but he has no idea. It is not tossing my head in disdain to any of his ideas. It is politely listening to my children every time the talk to me. . . unless I'm in the middle of a conversation with someone else, in which case I teach them to be polite and wait. It is not insisting that the birthday party be done my way or that the day go according to my schedule. It is realizing that it is not okay to "be irritable" no matter how little sleep I've gotten. It is not resenting my husband for how much sleep he has gotten. It is not laughing when my children are naughty -- even when it is cute. It is taking the time to notice and praise them when they do the right thing. It is bearing all the sickness, heartache, changes, and struggles that come along with being part of a family -- bearing them with the right attitude. It is believing that, with God, all things will work out for the good of my family. It is hoping with my husband and children for all their dreams. It is enduring this particularly physically exhausting season of our family. It is never ceasing to do all these things things together all the time. It is making sure I have the love puzzle completely put together -- no missing pieces.
It is interesting. . . when we were going over the fruits with the kids, J and I were discussing how we thought self-control was the most important of all the fruits. If you have self-control, you can excell in all the other fruits; if you don't, you will struggle to bear fruit. 1 Corinthians 13 paints a different picture, doesn't it? Sure, I can have self-control and every other fruit of the Spirit; but if I don't have unconditional love, none of those other fruits matter. "The greatest of these is love" (vs. 13).