love is a quiet thing, something that requires no recognition from others. when paul lists the second of his "love is not" characteristics, i am reminded of the two men who stood in the temple praying--the story jesus tells in luke 18. one, a pharisee, thanks God that he is not like others men who commit all sorts of sins; he speaks loudly so that those around him may know that he's not like another man who is also in the temple praying. the second man, a "publican," simply prays for mercy, knowing that he, like every other person, has done wrong. the first man is not really addressing God but has come to the temple so that others can see how righteous he is. because he is more concerned with how others perceive him, any good acts he performs are done to impress others with his righteousness, not out of any genuine love for anyone other than himself. the second man recognizes his own shortcomings and senses the contempt that others, especially those like the boastful pharisee, feel for him. his only concern is that God see him for what he is: a human who struggles and fails and continues to try to live a better life.
we all have some of both men in us. we want others to see us as good people, people whose hearts are filled with love, and sometimes we let our need to be recognized for seeking to do good take precedence over the right motivation of doing good for the benefit of others. if our hearts are filled with love, it is not the recognition of others that is important; we act out of love because love is at our very core. the needs of others are uppermost in our minds, and whether others see the actions that flow from the love in our hearts is of no consequence.
may we make the right effort that moves us from being like the self-righteous pharisee toward being like the repentant publican. may we recognize that we all fail to live up to our ideals and keep trying to fill our hearts with love for love's own sake. shalom.