A number of wonderful things are said about love in 1 Cor. 13, but we too often let the words flow over us soothingly, rather than letting them do what they do best, which is to arrest us, bring us up short, make us think hard about our responses to others.
Among other things, love “beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (1 Cor. 13:7).
Not only does it bear with affronts, it bears with every affront. Not only does it believe what it hears, it believes everything it hears. Not only does it hope for the best, but it hopes for the best every time. And love endures slights, but more than that, it endures every slight.
Now some might be tempted to say then that love must be some kind of chump. Why would you believe someone who has lied to you repeatedly? Why would you hope for change when there is, in all honestly, no real hope for change? Can’t I love somebody without believing a word that comes out of their mouth? Actually, not usually.
The first thing we should note is how Paul arranges these four. When we rebel against the high standard of “believeth all things, hopeth all things,” we do so on the basis of our worldly experience, and our deep knowledge of the offender’s dirty heart. But notice that a better balance is already contained within Paul’s exhortation—and in a manner consistent with real love. When we are being “realistic,” there is an edge to it that shouldn’t be there. When Paul is realistic, he is bearing with things that refute a glib belief, and he endures things which argue against hope for change.
But he knows what he is bearing with. He knows what he is enduring. This belief then, this hope, is not an exercise in wishful thinking, or naïve projection. It is as hard-headed as it is tender-hearted.