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Love is a powerful force.  But for it to work fully we need to look beyond ourselves and see.  We have to stop announcing what we think and listen. When need to put aside our offense and feel.

And then?

Most important of all, we need to do.

–SueBE

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Remember the greater good? It sent us to war against the Nazis. It induced us to pay taxes to build interstate highways and fund police and fire departments. It rings out melodiously every time we sacrifice for the good of others.

The common good seems to have gone out of vogue, along with war bonds and victory gardens. Today, it’s every man — or woman — for him/herself. The scrabble to have and keep what we’ve collected, as if life were a giant game of Monopoly, takes precedence over pretty much everything else. There are towns in Indiana where the paved roads are so pitted and ruined, they’ve been ground up into gravel and left that way. There’s no money to pay for their improvement. That might mean a tax increase, and the words “tax increase” hold roughly the same degree of distaste as the words “full body cavity search.”

We’re like a bunch of sullen teens, griping at the world-at-large, “Don’t come in my room, Mom and Dad. Gah! Can’t you just leave me alone?” Well, guess what, kids? You’re living under God’s roof now. And as long as you are, you’d best follow His rules.

As people of God, we’re asked to act for the common good. As 1 Corinthians 13 tells us, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” And while a tinkling cymbal may sound pretty, it’s not gonna get you seats at Sardi’s, if you know what I’m saying. Effecting change for the better takes a much bigger set of lungs.

Charity isn’t easy. I know this. Thinking of the common good means abnegating your own selfish wants and needs in favor of what we all need: as a community, as a country, as a world. And every time the scope expands, the amount that’s asked of us increases…and it hurts just a little bit more. It doesn’t help that most of us are so struggling to get by that we hardly have the energy to look beyond our own nests.

But there are things we can do that cost little in terms of our time and bank accounts. We can vote for those who will ensure better conditions for the most people. We can refrain from selfish pursuits that will benefit us at the expense of others. We can pray for change. And we can stand up to corporations, banks, governments and yes, churches, that prey on the weak or take more than their share, or ignore the root causes of poverty in favor of patriarchal control. (Just sayin’.)

It’s time for the common good to come back into favor. If we all push a little, we can move mountains.

I knew exactly what I was going to blog about this week, but before I finished writing my post I decided to read my e-mail. I clicked open the Daily Lectionary, five Bible passages that I get each day from the Presbyterian Church USA. It amazes me how often these passages dovetail with my life and this blog.

Among the readings was 1 Corinthians 13. Most often, you hear this passage at weddings. This time I read it with our discussion about God’s Love and being Communities of Love in mind.

Here is 1 Corinthians 13:1-8a.

“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.”

There are so many debates going on in the church right now. What role should women have? Is it possible for gay marriage to be a sacrament? What about birth control? So often these debates contain no love. None. Instead, the Bible is used to slam people.

Think about that and read the above selection from Corinthians again.

You can claim to speak for God, but if you don’t have love, you’re just making noise.

You can have incredible Faith, but if you don’t have love, it doesn’t matter.

You can give all in the name of God, but if you do it with pride in your heart, pride that you are above someone else, you have failed.

Some people will argue that this passage refers to love for God but if you truly love God, can you justify treating others badly? (Hint: See Matthew 25:40. “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”)

Get it?

Got it.

Good.

–SueBE

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not ambitious, it is not selfish, it is not easily provoked to anger. It rejoices not in iniquity but rejoices in the truth; it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.  (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8)

I’m willing to bet that 1 Corinthians 13 (see above) sounds familiar to you, even if you’re not much of a church-goer. Probably because you heard it at a wedding. 1 Corinthians 13 is practically de rigeur at weddings. Heck, it was read at my wedding. But with so many marriages failing these days (Mr. and Mrs. Humphries, we hardly knew ye), perhaps it’s time someone took St. John to task for his writing. Because clearly, 1 Corinthians 13 isn’t telling us everything we need to know. To wit:

1. Love is weird. It doesn’t always make sense, so don’t expect it to.

2. Love can’t be judged. Just because you don’t understand it or condone it doesn’t mean it’s not love. Love is purer, and just plain better, than we human beings are. Anyone who claims that love is wrong is the wrongest person there could ever be.

3. Love changes. I am not the same person my husband married; neither is he. You’re going to do a lot of growing up over the years. Try to ignore the things that grow you apart and focus on the things that keep you together. At the very least, don’t rub these changes in your partner’s face.

4. Love does fail. But only because we do. Falling out of love doesn’t just “happen”; it’s a choice.

5. Love is bigger than you are. And it should be. In fact, it’s not about you at all. It’s about all of us. Love is the only thing that keeps humankind going. What’s the point, otherwise? And that means love is precious. It’s not like the weather, something that changes from one day to the next. I once had a colleague who told me, “My marriage is like a rollercoaster — it’s so exciting.”
“Well, mine isn’t. It’s a pretty steady road,” I replied.
“I feel sorry for you,” she said.
Guess which one of us is still married?

6. Love is hard work. Don’t doubt it for a minute.

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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