Weekly Meditation: 31st January 2016
1st Corinthians 13:1-13
We talk a great deal about love. The purpose of fiction is almost always to tell a love story. Love is the theme of most popular songs. Many of us seek love above all other things. Yet we sometimes have misguided perception of what love really is.
When I fell on the ice a few years ago and smashed up my face, almost the first question I was asked at hospital was, “Did your husband do this to you?”. My husband had accompanied me to hospital, sat with me in the waiting room, guided me in to see the doctor – since both eyes were swollen almost shut. But his actions, instead of speaking of his love and concern, put him under suspicion. Was he staying close to me to prevent me from speaking the truth and denouncing him as abusive?
Apart from the shock of realising that a man’s fist could be capable of making such a mess of a face (I had two black eyes and what looked like a broken nose), I was very sad to think that a husband – who promises to love and cherish – could ever resort to such violence, and sad too that an intimate associate should be the first to come under suspicion. It speaks volumes of what “love” has degenerated into.
The love that Paul writes about in his first letter to the Corinthian’s is quite different; it is the principled, unconditional love, demonstrated to perfection by the love God shows his people. It is the sort of love that should characterise the Church.
Although Psalm 71 does not mention the word “love”, it shows us how we can totally rely on God, and this really is our starting point. Once we are confident of God’s saving, unconditional love – his grace – we are able to learn how to show love to each other.
Let us examine Paul’s letter to find a true definition of principled, unconditional love that we are to demonstrate.
If we do not have love, nothing we do is of any use (1-3), so spiritual gifts, healings, big international conventions count for nothing if they are not built on, and motivated by, love.
Love is patient and kind (4). Love will ensure that we have time even for people who think differently from us. It will ensure that we really listen to each other and take account of each other’s limitations.
Love does not envy, it does not boast, nor is it proud or self-seeking (4-5). This is not always easy to achieve, but it helps if we remember that God loves us however much or however little we have done for him – and that helps us to bear other people’s boasting too!
Love is not rude (5) so we will treat others – including children and the disabled and the old – with respect, and we will not be vulgar in our speech or actions.
Love is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs (5), so we will not take ourselves too seriously.
Love does not delight in evil (6) – so we will neither indulge in evil ourselves, nor relish it by dwelling on the evil of others.
Love rejoices in the truth (6). It does not seize upon half truths or lies to undermine others. How often have Christians taken hold of some bit of slander about Darwin, Dawkins, Dr Spock, gays, politicians, other denominations, and not checked that it is true?
Love always protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres (6-7). Love never fails (8). Our Christian faith – and the love we receive from and give to God – should ensure that we keep our trust in him and that we persevere in hope. God’s purposes will not fail, and his sort of love will always win through.
After our love for God, nothing is more important than loving each other. Nothing we do in church should get in the way of showing love to each other. The Bible tells us that ultimately all our works will come to an end; only love will remain. When Jesus returns and we see him face to face, there will be no need of clever preaching to the faithful, no need of dauntless witnessing to the truth, no need of Bible study or the exercise of spiritual gifts to edify the church.
“Love supersedes all works, all knowledge and all gifts because it outlasts them all. Long after these things that we seek after and spend ourselves on are no longer necessary, love will still be the governing principle that controls all that God and his redeemed people are and do.” (NIV Study Bible).
By Susan Thorne