1 Corinthians 13 is more than just a nice wedding Scripture

You’ve probably heard 1 Corinthians 13 if you’ve ever been to a wedding.

“If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.  Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.  And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” (NRSV).

 

Certainly are great words for a wedding aren’t they.  Except that’s not what Paul, the author, was writing them for.  Weddings were the furthest thing from his mind when we wrote this.

The chapters preceding 1 Corinthians 13 talk about the institution of the Lord’s Supper, spiritual gifts, and the church being one body and having many parts.  This is about community, beyond the community of marriage.  I think the words Paul wrote certainly fit for our understanding of marriage in the 21st century.  I also think that his words have deeper meaning in the midst of pandemic.

Let’s take a short look at that middle paragraph from ch. 13.

“Love is patient.”  Why?  Because life can be frustrating.  Patience allows us to recognize that we are not in control.  Patience allows us to recognize that we don’t get to determine the speed at which things happen.

“Love is kind.” Why?  Because there is so much meanness and anger.  Love is an alternative way of being in a world that is traumatized by so much.  kindness isn’t sappy and weak.  It’s is confident that it’s way of being will outlast any emotional burst that tries to stop it.

“Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.”  Why?  Because Love isn’t self-centered.  Love isn’t narcissistic.  Narcissism is envious, boastful, arrogant, and rude.  Love is the opposite of narcissism.

“It does not insist on its own way.”  Why?  Because Love isn’t about the self.  The self is incomplete.  It is only in community that there is completeness, wholeness.  Even God is not alone, but rather a Trinity – an eternal relationship in community that works together in perfect harmony and oneness.  Love is voluntary in response.  Force is not a part of love.

“It is not irritable or resentful.”  Why?  Because Love is all the things we have already mentioned.  Love isn’t focused inward on itself, but rather, Love is so confident of what it is that its focus is outward.  Love exists to expand.  Love grows.  It isn’t resentful because love isn’t in competition with anything.  Love sees the image of God in all.  If the image of God is in all, then what competition is there?

“It does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.”  Why?  Because love doesn’t need to hide behind lies or falsehoods.  It doesn’t skip out on harsh reality.  It faces it.  Love desires to know what the truth is so it can be dealt with – so there can be wholeness and completeness.  Love rejoices in the truth because it has nothing to hide.  Love is vulnerable and hence risky.  A risk like that needs the truth and it does not fear the truth.  Love doesn’t manipulate data in order to tell a different story.

“It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  Why?  Because love is expansive, breaking past all barriers that are intended to restrict it and contain it.  Love cannot be contained or walled off.  Love does not fear death.  Because Love knows that death is not the final say – just a stop on the journey.  Love is what resurrection is all about.  Love is what God coming to creation to spend eternality with renewed creation is all about.

Love never ends.  And that is a good thing – not just for a marriage.  But for all of us, regardless of our station in life.

 

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