By Mary Wenzl
“Agape.” This was the Greek word chosen by Paul to describe the kind of love Christians should have for each other in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. This type of love requires a deliberate choice be made by the person wanting to express love, rather than concentrating on the one who is the recipient of love. Agape love goes against our natural human instincts because it involves selflessness, an expect-nothing-in-return kind of love. Today’s pro-charity culture is all in favor of showing love to others, so long as people watch out for their own interests first.
In this summer’s blog series, we have been concentrating on the definition of “love” as beautifully described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. We’ve been given examples of what love is, and what it is not. Last week’s blogger, Courtney Lee, described the final 4 attributes of love as “verbs,” action words describing what love does. She explored the concept that “love always protects” (never gives up; bears all things). I am going to look at the next “action” word, TRUST. Love Always Trusts.
What does it mean to trust? The godly trust described in 1 Corinthians 13, has everything to do with what is true and right, and nothing to do with evil. In various scriptures, Trust means to “believe all things,” “to have faith,” “to always look for the best in each other.” It also means to maintain hope for all things. I reviewed several secular dictionaries and found that the word trust is defined various ways:
- the firm belief in the reliability, ability, strength, or truth of someone;
- assured reliance on the character of someone;
- freedom from suspicion/doubt;
- absolute faith.
Since I have a legal background, I am interested in legal definitions. In legal terms, trust means: an arrangement whereby a person (a trustee) holds property as its nominal owner for the good of one or more beneficiaries; allow someone to have, use, or look after (someone or something of importance or value) with confidence. This context provides more depth to the meaning of trust if I view “love always trusts,” as a Law of God. He (as the Trustor) is instructing me (the Trustee) to hold on to His precious property (human lives/beneficiaries) for only good purposes that help the Beneficiary. This view acknowledges that we all belong to God as His property, and that He has entrusted the lives of other people to our care, as Christians.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is often read at marriage ceremonies, as a guide for the kind of love the couple should have for, and show to, each other. It is actually the type of love we, as Christians, should show to all other humans, but that is not always easy to do. Christ showed us how to do this in the way he treated the people he encountered, even people who turned out to be enemies.
To me, having trust is the key to any relationship enduring over time. I have seen people struggling in relationships who are supposed to love each other, but have forgotten how to trust. A lack of trust poisons a relationship. Lack of trust will slowly erode the initial foundations of a relationship. What once was good, now will seem tainted, ugly, undependable. Once trust in a relationship is lost, it is very difficult to regain. I have seen the relationships of my adult children and friends fractured because of lack of trust. Trust in a relationship means that you should be able to rely on your partner to only make choices or exercise judgment which make your best interests paramount, and to not do anything that will hurt you, by word or deed. Without trust, there can be no “happily ever after.”
Trusting that your loved one will do the right thing, or behave in the appropriate way, does not mean that we have to exercise blind trust, or be naïve when faced with knowledge that is contrary. “Trust Me,” is a common refrain in the dialogue between spouses or lovers. It is included in the plots of good and bad movies. The supposed hero entreats the damsel to “Trust Me,” but too often those words only signal the probability of betrayal. Repeated bad experiences condition us to lack trust, to not believe someone. It seems like a fairy tale dream that we can actually have full faith in someone to follow through with doing what they say they will do, that we can “trust” them. That is why the concept of always trusting may seem unattainable to us, going against our nature as human beings. But Paul described love (which includes always trusting) to be the better way, “ a superior way to live, that is beyond comparison” ( 1Corinthians 12:31).
As I said before, we do not need to exercise blind trust; we can still recognize that our loved one has problems or failings, and yet still treat them with love. Trust means we do not lose faith in the possibility that people can change. Love means never giving up, having faith that God can make things better and change people. Having hope that people or circumstances can change is part of having trust. “Love Always Hopes” will be the focus of next week’s blog, so stay tuned.