Do you think love can be learned?
The process of learning love looks quite different from today’s education system.
For students who don’t enjoy school, the thought of learning can be daunting in itself.
But the Bible’s famous “love chapter” encourages weary students of all kinds!
For many of today’s students, education centers on perfectionism, stress, and frustration.
Teenagers and young adults work long hours to make sure they complete assignments to their teachers’ satisfaction.
Even for those who enjoy learning, school can be taxing.
So, the thought of spiritual learning isn’t always appealing. But God’s process of teaching is radically different from the education offered by the world!
The end result of spiritual learning is described in 1 Corinthians 13, the famous “love chapter” of the Bible.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6).
It’s a tall order for imperfect humans, and it can even be discouraging to think about how far short we fall of this standard and how long it can take to learn how to love like this.
But the rest of this chapter offers three refreshing insights on the process of learning love, which can guide students of all ages!
1. Perfection in love is not attainable on earth.
Many students strive for perfection in every assignment. It’s a worthwhile goal, especially for Christians, who are called to work at everything “as for the Lord” (Colossians 3:23), but it can also be incredibly discouraging.
When we see ourselves failing at love — the most basic of Christian ideals — it’s easy to be discouraged and think we’ll never learn what God wants us to.
But Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians that being imperfect is part of the process of learning.
“For we know in part…but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away,” Paul writes (1 Corinthians 13:9-10).
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
We can’t give perfect love as long as we still struggle through life on earth, but we can look forward to the day when our flawed attempts are perfected in the light of eternity!
Students who are discouraged by their failures can rest in the knowledge that God sees their human weaknesses and imperfections and accepts their efforts at love anyway.
2. Maturing in love is a process.
With the advent of technology and ever-shortening attention spans, today’s students are often expected to learn quickly, or even instantaneously.
Many students find a long learning process to be frustrating or boring, but spiritual disciplines — like love — take a long time to sink in.
Growing in an understanding and practice of love takes commitment, struggle, and time. It’s not a change that happens overnight: it’s something that we should always be working at, no matter our season of life.
Paul writes, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (1 Corinthians 13:11).
This verse speaks to the natural — and beautiful — process of maturing in love. Just like physical growth takes place over months and years, spiritual growth is a long process.
Students who are used to learning quickly might be frustrated by their slow learning curve when it comes to love, but they can take reassurance from the knowledge that God doesn’t expect sudden changes in their journey of love.
3. Knowledge should lead to an increase of love.
For many students, it’s tempting to use newly acquired knowledge as a platform for boasting. The constant “one-up-manship” of a classroom environment doesn’t always teach the humblest behaviors.
Spiritual growth can hold equal temptations. As we see ourselves growing closer to God and living more in line with His will, it’s often difficult not to compare our progress to others’ journeys.
This results in undue pride and a perilous desire to flaunt our “greater” knowledge.
But Paul asserts, “If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge…but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2).
In other words, all the knowledge we gain — about worldly things and spiritual things — should lead us to strive harder than ever toward love.
For students everywhere, it’s encouraging to know that God will finish the process of teaching us His perfect love!
And while He’s waiting for us to mature, He “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, [and] endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7), extending grace along our entire journey.