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