One of Paul's simplest commands I can think of is his command to "pursue love" (1 Corinthians 14:1). It comes as he is writing to a divided church, a church filled with people who are so focused on their own personal gifts, a church that is puffed up in many ways. And in this setting, Paul says simply but powerfully, "pursue love."
What It Means to Pursue
The word "pursue" means to chase after, to diligently seek. It even is the same word used when describing someone persecuting another. It involves a volition to go after something or someone. And here, that something is love. Love, which as he just said, is patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not rude, not insistent on its own way, not irritable, not resentful, and more (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7). It is this we are to pursue. It is this we are to intentionally seek.
But as we all know, we will continue to pursue only what we think is actually worth pursuing. We will only chase after things we think are worthy of chasing after. If we don't have our hearts in whatever we pursue, our striving won't last long. We aren't going to pursue something we don't really care for, or have a reason for–at least not for long. Pursuit begins in the heart. So, pursuit begins with a desire to pursue.
We Must Love Love
Which brings us to the command "pursue love". This means we must think love–biblical, Christ-like, sacrificial love–is worth pursuing. We must think it is totally worth chasing after. We must see it as valuable. We must delight in it. We must, as strange as it sounds, love love. It is only once we see this that we'll pursue it.
Now, it might be said here that everyone loves love. And to a degree, this is true. I don't think I've met anyone who would read 1 Corinthians 13, the famous chapter on love, and say they don't like it, or that they disagree with it, or that they don't want to be like that. Of course we all do! We all want to be kind, nice, not arrogant, selfless, etc.
Yet We Often Deep Down Don't Love Love
But the reason we aren't this way often as we live our lives–even though everyone agrees it would be nice to be such a loving person–is because we don't really love love.
Think about it. We like the sentiment, but when push comes to shove, we don't really love love. We don't really delight in sacrificially loving and putting others first. We don't love giving up our precious time for another. We don't really love being the first to say sorry in an argument, or being the one who decides to begin reconciliation. We love the idea of patience; we enjoy thinking about being a patience person. But when it comes to a situation where patience is actually required, we don't really love being patient. Our sacrifices are filled more with duty than delight, with the feeling of have to than get to.
It's all so subtle, but from my own personal experience, I know this is deeply and sadly true. This is how our hearts so often work. We begrudgingly sacrifice. And this keeps us from pursuing genuine, continual love.
We Need Help to Love Love
This all means that we need desperate help to reprogram our hearts. We deceive ourselves when we think that we're loving people mainly because we love the idea of sacrificial love. Rather, the truth is that we so often don't truly love loving others. In those moments of opportunity to love, our hearts sadly are still self-seeking, non-patient, desiring our own way.
And so, we need to plead to God for help. We can plead that he helps us be more loving people–which of course is good and true. But we want to pursue love. And in order to do that, in order to chase after it, we need to actually delight in sacrificially loving and putting others first.
We need to ask him, therefore, specifically to make us people who deeply love love, who delight in opportunities to sacrifice. To use the same situations as above, we want to be those who smile at the chance to give up our time for another. We want to delight in the opportunity to say sorry first. We want to take joy in the fact that we are given a situation to be patient. And in order for these delights to happen in our self-centered hearts, we need God's help, we need his enabling Spirit, we desperately need Christ in us to radically make us be more like Christ.
And not only will this make us more Christ-like, more sacrificial, and a blessing to those are around us, as we all know from experience, true, selfless loving will also increase our joy and bring glory to Christ.