The Love Chapter

1 Corinthians 13

June 14

“Now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.”

“They” call 1 Corinthians 13 “the love chapter”.  It’s quoted from at most weddings.  So what is it talking about?  I don’t think it is a coincidence that Paul discusses love and speaking in tongues (a gift involving the ability to speak unique languages), in the same chapter.  Love is difficult to put into words.

In my work as a Funeral Director and Deputy Coroner, I am often at a loss for words.  I frequently have opportunity to speak with families when there is nothing to say.  Nothing that should be said, anyway.  That certainly doesn’t stop some people from trying.  I’ve heard people say all kinds of stuff to try to comfort the grieving.  Most of it, frankly, has no basis in scripture or reality.  Sometimes I wish I had a platitude and cliché bingo card I could pull out of my pocket and shout “BINGO!”.  About the only right thing to do in that situation is nothing at all. 

My father-in-law is a pastor and has served as Chaplain for a local fire department for a number of years and he recently commented during a sermon about how in most situations when the fire department is needed, if the crew showed up and just stood there people would say “Don’t just stand there, DO SOMETHING!” But when it comes to the work of a fire chaplain, the best approach is “Don’t do something, JUST STAND THERE!”  I liked that line.  I have stolen it and shared it with coworkers several times.  When a person has lost everything they don’t need a preacher, they need a presence.  To be able to just be present, is a gift.  (Do you see what I did there?).

As Christians, being confronted with a sudden and unexpected death is like being the pilot in charge of an airplane when the engines stall.  All that is really left at that point is faith, hope and love.  What words of comfort can you give when you know that a person did not have faith in Jesus Christ?  What chapter of systematic theology will you turn to for the family who has no hope in The coming Kingdom?

I said before, our dog is named Zippers due to her urge to chew on our coat zippers.  If we named our children using that method, one of my sons might have been named “Whacko”.  He has always liked to “whack” things with sticks.  When he was two years old we bought him a Sesame Street drum set for Christmas.

It was a pretty cool toy.  It came with a little stool to sit on.  It had a pedal for the bass drum.  It is hard to see in this picture, but there was even a tiny metal cymbal.  Man, did he love to whack that thing!

I honestly don’t know what ever happened to that drum set but I have a feeling it found its way to “a better place”.  The place where all the noisy toys end up.  You know the toys I’m talking about- the Jack in the boxes, the little microphones with the spring inside that toddlers yell…I mean sing into, the Fisher Price Pop “Corn Poppers” that aunts and uncles buy for their nephews as revenge for the year you wrapped up too many candy canes… We’ve all had noisy toys like that.             

Those noisy toys are exactly what I picture when I read 1 Corinthians Chapter 13.  To paraphrase, Paul says all of those gifts of the spirit we just talked about in the last chapter are great.  I’d really like for you to have ‘em, but in the end all that really matters is faith, hope and love.  Of those three qualities, if you only have room for one, choose love because when the rubber hits the road, what people need to know is that God loves them more than anyone has ever loved them.  All the rest is just noise.

-Brian Froehlich

Application questions:

  1. What is the noisiest toy you had as a child?
  2. What is the “noisiest” thing in your life right now?
  3. Have you ever had a friend who was just silently present with you when you needed them? 

Tough Love

1 Corinthians 13

The simplest truth about human relationships is that if we just loved one another a bit more, we would have fewer problems.  I know, it is a bit cliche, but it doesn’t make it any less true. Our focus would be consistently outward.  We would be ready to listen and meet the needs of others. God has made it pretty clear that the most hardened heart can soften by showing the quality that embodies who He is, yet it is a weapon we often leave unwelded.  We often list our harshness or judgements under the guise of “tough love”, and this may or may not be true on a case-by-case basis. However, we must stick closely to the prescribed path in 1 Corinthians 13.  It actually might be simpler to love “toughly”, but if you simply write people off, or find a way to punish them, or speak your mind without backing it up with the many other qualities listed here, you are a hollow box and a lot of noise.  What’s tough love, really tough love, is to love someone who isn’t concerned in the slightest with being like God at the moment, or even ever. Love never fails. So you must love. You absolutely must.  And your love must be like God’s love.  Below I reworded one of the most famous passages of scriptures (v.4-7) that coincides with our reading and, most likely, one of the last handful of weddings you attended.  My goal isn’t to add to the list, only to reword it to give it novelty in hopes to make it challenging or convicting instead of a rehearsal of familiar words.  If it helps tune your mind to God’s love, wonderful.  If it is a confusing mess, don’t read it.  My concern is that you know loving is tough, especially those whose actions betray your love.  That shouldn’t stop you.  But THAT is tough love.  And THAT is what God shows to each one of us on the daily.

For God to come in and change the “unlovable” (mind you, this can be and has been you), you must sit and listen. Listen to their problems and hear them say what they think, even if you don’t agree. You have to include them, share with them, and treat them with dignity, even if they are not concerned in the slightest about having any.  To love, you have to let others be great and cheer them on.  Sometimes this means the spotlight will come off of you, or you are treated as less important.  If you are loving, you’re not concerned with that, because in love, others come first.  Love holds back the insults, name-calling, and doesn’t attack a person made in the image of God.  True love can be shown without expecting anything in return and can be left unreciprocated.  On rare occasions, you can have angry love.  You can be mad at someone because they are doing some serious sin damage to others or even him/herself.  But you don’t start there.  You don’t live there.  You are truthful with someone, because lying is not loving.  But you retreat quickly from the fight, and fill the space with mercy, more patience, and more kindness.  That means love is forgiveness, and not holding grudges.  We can love those who have wronged us.  We can love those who have besmirched our reputation, injured our family through carelessness, or hate us because of our beliefs. We may know their wrong to us as a historical account, but not as an emotional one, and we thank God we have an opportunity to show love to them in such a way.  In fact, loving like God means that you would actually stand-up for this person who has done you the greatest harm.  Loving someone means that you are trusting without “but.” And that can be so hard. But trusting in God first and foremost allows you to do that.  Believe in people.  Never give up on people.  Much easier said than done. It’s tough. So tough. But don’t let it stop you from trying. Your efforts are to help others see God, and they will know His love because it has been extended to and shown through you.

-Aaron Winner

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Esther 1-2 and 1 Corinthians 13

Ahhhh, Love

1 Corinthians 13

1 corinthians 13 4

I Corinthians 13.  The ‘love’ chapter.  Has any passage of Scripture been read at more weddings?

Let me ask you, what’s the difference between the wedding and the marriage?  We typically spend years planning and orchestrating one to be perfect and we waltz into the other without a thought and expect it to go off without a hitch.  And that’s sad.

It’s sad that this passage that so eloquently captures what real love should be is relegated to a romantic poem.

This description of love is raw.  It is get your hands dirty, give up your ‘rights’, lay down what you want, doesn’t feel good kind of real.

Patient

Kind

Trusting

Humble

Not rude

Not selfish

Not angry

Doesn’t bring up past wrongs

Protective

Never gives up

Who wouldn’t want to be married to THAT person?!  Right?  But being that person, well, that’s a big ask.

I think it’s great if you want to read this passage at your wedding.  (Pro tip if you do: Rehearse)  But remember to take the time to dig in to each one of these descriptors that Paul gives us.  You know which ones are hardest for you.

Think about how many hours you put into wedding planning.  Does your marriage deserve any less?

Check out this post that includes some helpful resources for building a strong marriage as well as advice from a number of married couples that have stood the test of time:  https://thesparrowshome.com/marriage-resources-advice/

 

-Susan Landry

 

 

 

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