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St. Paul says: How does the Bible define love?

While being in love is surely wonderful, the acts of loving aren't easy.

Published: April 18, 2024   
A couple displays their wedding rings, one of the best known symbols of marriage. (OSV News illustration/CNS file, Sam Lucero)

"Love is patient, love is kind ... love never fails." This beautiful passage about love comes from St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians.

This reading, the one that reminds us that love is patient and kind and so many other things, is often chosen by engaged couples for their wedding ceremonies. I would imagine it is because those who are on the brink of starting their married lives together feel it seems so relevant to their lives.

I would imagine also, that for many married couples, these beautiful words from St. Paul bring back memories of their own weddings, but perhaps, too, because they have come, through their years of married life, to realize how right Paul was about love.

While being in love is surely wonderful, the acts of loving aren't easy. Love means putting aside one's own needs and wants for the sake of the beloved, the one you love. And Paul spells out just how difficult that can be.

  • Love means being patient even when you'd like the other person to hurry up already!
  • Love means being kind when being mean might seem more satisfying.
  • Love means not being jealous — of your spouse or of others.
  • Love means not being pompous or inflated, not thinking yourself so important.
  • Love means not being rude but rather speaking and acting with courtesy to everyone.
  • Love means caring about others before one's own self-interests.
  • Love means not showing one's temper, no matter how angry you are.
  • Love means not brooding, not holding on to hurts.
  • Love means not gloating when the other is wrong or makes a mistake.

St. Paul reminds us, too, that love can withstand any pressure, is always full of hope, and can last through any crisis.

And, as any married couple will tell you, love changes and grows.

The depth of the love an engaged couple feels for one another is surely wonderful, but the way they love today will not be the way they love tomorrow or next year or 50 years after they are married.

Just think about how much you would love a person who is never impatient with you, who is always kind, who never loses their temper, is always courteous, doesn't brood, and always puts your best interests ahead of their own.

It would be as if Jesus himself — that perfect human being — were inside — a part of — your beloved.

My sincere hope is that all who will be married this year and in the years to come will see Jesus in the one they love and that they will see Jesus in you.


The late Archbishop Harry J. Flynn was the head of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minn. He died in 2019.

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