In 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul says that there is only one stat that ultimately matters in your walk with God - one thing that that truly tells the world who you are, and that is your love (or lack thereof). The real question is, how do I grow in love? What does love look like? What does love do, and what does it not do? What is love?
10. Love Doesn’t Get Fed Up
You watched the Avengers movie, right? Of course you did. Everybody watched it. Okay, let’s talk about the Hulk. I’ve loved comic books all my life, but I never read the Hulk comics. I was never all that pumped about some dude that just gets really angry and that’s his thing. I was always like, “What’s the big deal? He’s just angry guy?” As far as I knew, the Hulk’s story went like this: At some point, an experiment went wrong that changed him in such a way that when he gets angry, he just becomes this uncontrollable mass of anger. As a kid who loved comics, that just didn’t appeal to me. Then I watched the Avengers movie and changed the way I felt about the Hulk. The dude doesn’t just hulk-out when he’s angry… turns out he’s always angry! No, the hulking out has more to do with destruction. He doesn’t just lose control when he’s angry - he loses control when he gets hurt and he’s ready to end the situation by force with total destruction.
Okay, so what in the world does the Hulk have to do with the Bible and the Apostle Paul and his teaching on love in 1 Corinthians 13? Well, check this out: Paul says in verse 7 that love “always protects.” Literally, he says that love “covers everything.” That word we have translated ‘protects’ is a word that means to shield or cover up, like with a roof. It’s also used in the New Testament to mean ‘bearing with’ or ‘putting up with.’ In other words, he’s saying that people who love know how to put up with one another. They endure everything.
I was thinking about this and trying to figure out what these words ‘protecting’ and ‘covering’ and ‘enduring’ had to do with each other. I was trying to wrap my head around it when I finally looked up some more verses where this word ‘cover’ or ‘protect’ or ‘endure’ is used. In one place, Paul is talking about how the missionaries have a right to get paid for their ministry, but he says he would rather ‘put up with’ anything than get paid for his ministry. In another place he and his companions were in one place ministering and he says, “When I could stand it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out about your faith.”
So, this word for ‘protecting’ or ‘covering’ has to do with not reaching the end of your rope. When you are completely fed up and you’ve had all you can possibly stand, you act. Or, if you’re able to ‘endure’ it, you don’t act. Maybe you end a relationship. Maybe you tell your other friends, “I’ve had it with her!” or “I’m done with him!” Maybe you’ve heard people say stuff like, “We’re through, here!” Some people say that stuff when a relationship has built up so much hurt that they simply can’t forgive anymore and they just have to end it.
It’s as if we all have this little hulk inside us when it comes to our relationships. If we get too hurt or if someone pushes the right buttons with us, we can let that little hulk lose and he’ll come roaring out and destroy the relationship. If we let the lid off that little hulk, he’ll smash everything, burning bridges and crushing love and declaring things like, “I’m done with you! We’re through!”
I think what Paul is saying is that the love we have in Jesus is a love that says, “I’ll never get fed up. I’ll never burn this bridge.” The love we have in Jesus is a love that allows us to endure anything and keep the cover on the little hulk. When Paul says that love “always protects,” I think he’s saying that love protects everyone else from me. This love protects other people from the hulk inside me that wants to destroy stuff when I get too hurt. Love shields everyone from the monster that I could be because this love doesn’t get fed up.