Day 1: 1 Corinthians 13
Day 2: 1 Corinthians 14: 1-17
Day 3: 1 Corinthians 14: 18-25
Day 4: 1 Corinthians 14: 26-33
Day 5: 1 Corinthians 14: 34-39
This week in our Community Bible Reading we are studying 1 Cor. Chapters 13 and 14.
And if I were a betting person I would wager that many of you are quite familiar with chapter 13.
“The Love Chapter”, as it is affectionately known.
We most often hear it read at weddings – in particular verses 4- 8a.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
And it isn’t that I think it’s bad that we read this passage at weddings.
I mean, who doesn’t want to love like this?!?
Who doesn’t want to be loved like this?!?!?
I say YES & AMEN – if all our marriages were built on a patient, kind, generous, humble, others-focused, forgiving, trusting, hopeful, long-suffering kind of love I think our marriages would be stronger and our divorce rate would plummet, don’t you?
But I am convinced that there is so much more to this passage…and applying it to only couples just scratches the surface.
This kind of love is for all of us.
If you watched Pastor Vijay’s blog from last week and read along with us through Chapters 11 and 12, you’ll see that the Love Chapters seems to be a short, almost out of place, reprieve from the apostle Paul’s theme (that he dives right back into in chapter 14) of systematically spelling out a whole bunch of rules for the church in Corinth.
In Chapters 11 and 12 Paul has talked about head coverings, and the Lord’s Supper and spiritual gifts and finding unity within a diverse community of believers. In Chapter 14 Paul seems to get even more prescriptive in his instructions – getting really specific on prophesying and speaking in tongues and how to keep order in the service and even how women should behave (I have some thoughts on that especially) in the church.
So to think that the Love Chapter, placed in the middle of all of these instructions, was a quick counseling session for couples alone doesn’t really make sense, does it?
What I’m trying to say is,
if the letter Paul’s written to the church is for the whole church,
then the letter is for the whole church.
Including the love chapter.
Especially the love chapter.
Paul is calling the entire church into this kind of love.
Paul is saying that all the rules and order and suggestions he’s outlining throughout his letter are only helpful and appropriate if they are rooted in love.
A patient, kind, generous, humble, others-focused, forgiving, trusting,
hopeful, long-suffering love for one another.
In our churches, our communities, we need to know that prophesying without love is useless noise.
Speaking in tongues without love is hurtful emptiness.
Wisdom and knowledge and miracles and teaching and service and generosity and all of the gifts – if they aren’t rooted in love - are literally worthless.
I think what Paul was trying to do by placing this beautiful definition of love in this middle of his letter was to remind this growing, young, slightly disorganized and divided church that while process and rules and guidelines were important and needed even – the defining characteristic of this community should be love. Love is the only thing that will last.
Love is what will actually bear witness to the work that Christ is doing in and through their community.
Love is what will prevail. It will never fail.
So yes, please pay attention to what is happening in the church.
Desire spiritual gifts. (ch.14 v. 1) Patiently.
Speak to strengthen, encourage, & comfort (v.3). Kindly.
Desire the gifts for each other (v.5). Without envy.
The gifts of the Spirit are there to point people towards Jesus (v.36) Don’t be proud or boastful.
Listen to one another, don’t talk over each other trying to prove how spiritual you are.(v. 30, 31)
Don’t be rude or selfish.
Try to excel in gifts that build each other up (v.12). Love generously and humbly.
Learn how to live attuned to the Spirit (v.15, 16) & always be looking to build one another up.
Be orderly, yes.
But, first and foremost church…be rooted in love.
What a relief that is!
You see, I’m not so big on rules.
And process. And complicated protocol.
So if I study ch. 14 in a vacuum I start to become defensive, argumentative and rebellious…even annoyed & angry with Paul.
But when I contemplate this portion of the letter through the lens of chapter 13 my heart changes towards both the content and the author. And instead of questioning the details, I can focus on the heart of Paul towards the church and his desire for our communities to be places where people see Jesus. That while we are but poor reflections (ch.13 v.12) of Jesus’ love, Paul is equipping us to never confuse others or hinder the work the Spirit does in and through us by permitting chaos in our gatherings.
Love informs the order.
So a resounding YES & AMEN for the Love Chapter at weddings.
But an equally resounding YES & AMEN for the love chapter in our Sunday gatherings, in our home groups, our Ignite classes and Youth Group nights.
YES & AMEN for love at Board meetings and lead team sessions and
volunteer training and safe place equipping.
YES & AMEN for love in difficult relationships, and conflict resolution, and family squabbles and different theological interpretations.
All you need is love.
What about you?
Some things to reflect on as you read through Chapters 13 and 14
1. Do you gravitate towards rules and structure and order? Do you think at times it could feel unloving to others? Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal anyone you may have hurt/hindered as a result and move towards restoration/reconciliation.
2. Are you all about love but your life/job/family/relationships are in disarray? Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal anyone you may have hurt/hindered as a result and move towards restoration/reconciliation.
3. Ask Jesus to show you how to love like He loves. This is not a “try harder” kind of thing. This combination of love and order can only come from the Holy Spirit’s work in your life – so ask for it! Remind yourself of the way Jesus loved by reading about his interactions with his disciples (especially Peter…gotta love that guy!) and ask for more of His grace and love to be evident in your relationships.