A H, THE “WEDDING TEXT.” So sweet and lovey-dovey. Probably read at weddings more often than in worship. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
The irony is that this text has little to do with the love that is associated with marriage. This is not about romantic love, at all. Paul tries to get through the thick skulls of the Corinthians a radical communal love that enables them to live in a community where unity and difference can coexist.
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PAUL IS STRESSING a point. There’s no sentimentality in his voice. And no over-romanticizing as he puts these words on paper. It’s more like yelling. It would be ALL CAPS in a text message.
The Corinthian Christians have lots of problems:
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PAUL HAS JUST GONE through a list of the many gifts present in the members of First Presbyterian Corinth — prophecy, speaking in tongues, interpretation, healing, the gift if wisdom and knowledge. He praises them but also challenges them because some (all?) of them think their gift is better. Theirs is more important. And they boast about it, brag about it, put others down about it. And Paul’s had enough.
Then he goes off on them.
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LOVE IS NOT an emotion. Love is not a feeling. Love is work — hard work.
Paul describes what love does rather than what love is. “To be patient,” “to be kind,” “to rejoice in the truth,” “to bear all things,” “to believe all things,” “to hope all things,” and “to endure all things.” Then he goes off on what love should not do: “Not to envy,” “not to boast,” “not to be arrogant,” “not to be rude,” “not to seek its own way,” “not to be irritable,” “not to be resentful,” and “not to rejoice in wrongdoing.”
(calm) Love never ends.
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FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE endure. Greatest is love. Nothing is more important than love. Love wins. Love trumps. Love endures. So, choose love.
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WHAT BRINGS PAUL to make such a claim? The event of Jesus Christ. God’s love for us. God, who is love, comes to us in love through his Son, Jesus Christ. He loves us with sacrificial love. He calls us to love him and each other with this same love. This then has to be embodied in community.
All we have to sustain us is love. Without love, it does not matter what budgets we have. Without love it doesn’t matter how nice our buildings are. Our vision for the church. Our mission strategies are irrelevant without love. We may pursue various forms of spirituality, or proper doctrine, or activism in the name of justice. However, in our pursuit of these otherwise fine things, we must not forget that the church is called to be a community that practices love. Love for people inside the church. Love for people outside the church. Love for people with whom we disagree. Love for people who irritate us to no end.
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IT IS IN THE DIFFICULT REALITIES of relationships and communities that love needs to be lived out in costly ways. That’s what life is all about: love.
It’s about love, love, love. From the moment you are born until the moment you die; and every second and every minute and every hour and every day and every month and every year and every decade, the purpose of life is God giving you and me the time to learn how to love as God loves. The purpose of time, of every moment and every day and every year is that God is teaching us what it means to be truly loving people. That’s what it is all about. That is what it has always been about. That’s the greatest gift, directly from the heart of God.
— Keith Cardwell