If you or your congregation have been following the Narrative Lectionary, you might notice that we skip from 1 Corinthians chapter 1 to chapter 13 this week. If not, well, we do. Aside from chapter 12, which we will read on Pentecost (5/31), a lot of the parts we skip are completely understandable. I know I would not be terribly excited about writing about sexual ethics, eating food sacrificed to idols, or whether it’s better to marry or stay single. There’s a lot of good stuff in there, but we don’t have much time, so we have to just hit the major parts.
So, this week, we read the apostle Paul’s most famous words on the topic of love: “Love is patient, love is kind…” (1 Corinthians 13:4). If you’ve heard these words before, it was probably at a wedding. It’s a great passage to read at weddings, but it’s also somewhat misleading.
There are different kinds of love. You may or may not have spent much time thinking about this, but you know this is true. The love you feel toward your family members is different than the love you feel for your job, which is different from the love you feel for your spouse/partner/significant other. And so on. Reading 1 Corinthians 13 at weddings gives people the impression that Paul is writing here about romantic love, but he’s not. He’s writing to a community in conflict, where people are puffing themselves up and likely putting others down. People are being selfish.
Not a Feeling
You also might have heard that love is not just a feeling. Feelings are emotions that are caused by things often external to us. And it’s very hard to make yourself feel something. For God/Jesus/Paul/the Bible, love is not a feeling, but an orientation, a habit, a set of actions. The greatest commandments Jesus talks about (love God, love neighbor) are not about positive feelings, but working with your whole self for the benefit of another.
Work for It
This applies to every relationship we have: with God, with our family, our spouse, our co-workers, our friends, the person at the grocery store, etc. Loving action is the cure to division, fear, and hatred. Do note that division here is different than disagreement, and unity is different than conformity. Diversity and discussion are beautiful parts of a loving community.
So, if you want a description of what love looks like in action, check out these beautiful, poetic words from Paul, and a few from Jesus as well. Then do it. Come up with one practical way to love someone. Write it down. Say it out loud. Try it. Try it again. Try it a third time. Add one more practical action for the same person or add another person. Don’t wait until you feel like it. To borrow a phrase: just do it!
May the love of Christ fill your hearts and minds and bring us unity out of division.
Gregory Rawn (Publisher)
When you download the free Sharing God’s Story @ Home devotional insert, linked below, you will have a resource to guide daily devotional time. Using this resource and your own creativity, design devotions for yourself and your family or friends. I will be providing this resource for free on a weekly basis, so check back at this blog each week! I hope this will be helpful for you in the days ahead.
Daily Bible Readings online (Here you can subscribe to our daily Bible readings calendar so that you can see them on your electronic calendar.)