1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Our passage from Paulís first letter to the Corinthians is a beautiful hymn to love. Some feel it is the very core of our beliefs. In this hymn Paul sings of all the impressive activities we may do to show how important we are Ö and how unimportant they are if you have no Love. Rather he tells us how Love is the most important action. Everything else is just hollow if there is no love. And he tells us how powerful Love is and how we can grow into it to transcend our intellectual and emotional limits when we Love.
Paul is telling us that Love is the foundation of all righteous acts. If we are able to understand what God wants of us and how the world is working around us, we would have great power to follow God and change the world. But if that power of discernment is not built upon a foundation of Love, in the end all our understanding will simple collapse into a pile of disconnected and meaningless ideas.
And if we have the power to persuade people to do this or that and the power to change their minds in ways we think God wants, we would have great power to shape people and the world. But that power of persuasion leads only to divisiveness and disappointment if it is not built upon the foundation of Love. Our persuasion simply rots away in peopleís thoughts and hopes.
And if we have great knowledge and the ability to use it, we can re-make society. But the power of knowledge leads only to a society of broken hopes stringent domination, and the resulting resentments and cynicism if our knowledge is not built on Love.
And if truly we have strong faith in God, we can live out our lives in the arms of God. But if that faith is not built upon Love, then our faith is incomplete Ö for it rapidly becomes a selfish me-centered faith. Truly God is with you. But Love tells you God is with everyone else too. And without everyone else, you are nothing.
And should you be moved to give of your resources to those in need, but have no Love for them, then your giving degenerates into judging the needy to be less than you and your giving a sign of your superiority. And should you be moved to give of yourself in hard times as well as easy times, but do not stand upon the Foundation of Love, then you seek the fame of martyrdom, not the humble giving to make a better home of the world.
Without love, all righteous acts, all wise decisions, and all wonderful inventions are nothing. They are destined to crumble as the soil of your life underneath them shifts from one prejudice to the next.
Love calls us to a life committed to God and the way of Jesus. It demands that we do not judge our brothers and sisters, so we not be judged. Love calls us to treat all whom we encounter with respect, dignity, and justice Ė no matter their or our situation.
Love demands that we have no enemies and that we make no enemies. All humans are the children of God. Love requires us to reach out to our brothers and sistersÖ even if they have turned on us. We are not required to accept or justify their breaking of the foundation of Love. But we are required to never forget that they are a child of God no matter how far they have gone from God. We are to seek justice not just for the victim but also for the perpetrator Ö as one sibling to another.† Jesus says do unto your neighbor as you would have done to you.
Love demands that we be truth sayers and saying truth clearly. Jesus says that the truth will make us free. If we violate the truth then we enslave to whomever we speak. We enslave them in the unreal and the fog of uncertainty of misdirection and half-truths.
Love demands that we live as a community. Love requires us to be part of Godís whole community, doing our share, offering our talents, and living justly. We need not shed our individual person. But that which makes us unique is called out by Love to be shared with one and all. We are not to set ourselves above others. Neither are we to set ourselves below others. We are to be patient listeners. We are to be happy of what God has given us and not jealous of what God has give others.
Love demands that we donít insist on our way. Too many in this present age declares, ďmy way or the highway.Ē Love demands that we offer our ideas, our actions and our beliefs. But Love demands that we yield to other ideas and actions and beliefs when it will lead to a better life for others.
Love demands that our lives be lives of Love in even the smallest act and in the largest act.
Love is the foundation of all of our righteous acts. Consider, for example,
Thereís this little boy who attends a local day care. He is always well groomed, healthy Ė at least as much as a 5 year old can be in winter time, and bright. But he is a terror to the staff. He canít set still. He canít take instruction. He intrudes on others. He hits other children. The teachers realize that he is plagued with ADHD. The poor boy canít sit still, canít stop talking, and canít stop interrupting. His metabolism works against him. The teachers are run ragged by him, but they realize he is the one really suffering. It canít be comfortable or fun to be unable to rest, to listen, and to behave.
The parents are well meaning and for all observations love this little boy. But they refuse to work with a physician to find means to help him settle down. Theyíve attempted a series of pseudo cures but none of which have work. But they insist that ADHD medicine is dangerous despite that doctors have refuted their fears. They believe Internet legends over that of a well-trained professional. Their individualist, self-centered bias has left this young boy to struggle everyday with his disability.
The parents Foundation of Love was cracked by a root from the self-centered tree of our society. The parents let their belief that their judgment prevails over those trained to help even. They cling to their ideas when they should be willing to let go for the sake of their childÖ to repair their Foundation.
Yet we should not be too harsh on these parents. They too are children of God and we are not to judge. We are to offer what help we can. We need to be sensitive to their beliefs and their lives and judge ourselves whether it would be appropriate to fruitfully and lovingly intervene.
We also have to accept our limitations. Maybe the most loving thing to do is to not do anything more. We may simply be ill equipped to deal with the situation and would make circumstances worse. We need to know when we must let go and let God. But we need to be sure that we are not using this idea of our limitations as an excuse to not intervene: then we also have built our good intents on a cracked foundation.
But ironically, Paulís expectations in this hymn are ambitious. He gives us a clear list of what Love is and thatís how we should live Ė it requires a near perfect, flawless life. But Love also demands that we care for ourselves We are children of God also. And part of that caring is recognizing that we are imperfect. Indeed only God is perfect and no matter how hard we try we will break these demands from time to time. After all we are only human!
Indeed, if we were able to follow the demands of Love without flaw and at the core of those demands is to be accepting of those who do break them, are we then superior to them and thereby contradict Loveís call for all the children of God to be followers of Love?
Rather Paul is setting before us a great goal that we cannot meet. Itís what mathematicians call an asymptote: a point or an idea that is an unreachable goal but we strive towards, improving ourselves as we live life. I think it is just that. Love is always before us beckoning us onward to a better, more fruitful, more faithful life.
And Love never ends.
Love is God, eternally present for us and with us, eternally encouraging us and beckoning us on. Everything else will eventually pass away. The power to persuade will pass away. Our knowledge and the ability to use it will pass away. Our faith will pass away. Our giving of our resources will pass away. And all righteous acts, all wise decisions, and all wonderful inventions will pass away.
Everything is fleeting, for we are only mortal and we too will pass away. And in our mortal life we can never see the totality of Godís creation and Godís Love. And God knows this, indeed; God intends this. God did not want another god endowed with perfection for a friend. God wanted us Ė imperfect mortals.
God rejoices in us. And it is in love that we say thank you to God. Our love binds us eternally to our loved ones, to God and to all of Creation. When all else passes away, we still have love no matter what we know, what we see and what we are able to do.
And it is in love, that our spirits and souls are completed. We can never know everything. We can never do everything. We can never solve everything. But when we love we can do all that is required of us Ė and do it with joy and satisfaction.
And in the end it is love that endures and it is Love that is the Foundation on which God has built the Kingdom. It is through Love that we become citizens of Godís Compassionate Kingdom.
But for now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is Love.
Think about it Ö
Godís grace and love be with you Ö