“Love is patient, love is kind…” My guess is that many of us could continue this line almost by rote. As you probably know, it comes from 1 Corinthians 13, the so-called “Love Chapter”, which is one of the most familiar Biblical passages even for the general public (perhaps even more than Psalm 23). The reason for this is that anyone who has been to weddings has probably heard it in those settings any number of times. In my role, I long ago lost count of how many times I have read this at weddings.
While I am more than happy to read this chapter for wedding ceremonies when asked to do so, at the same time, I try to explain to the couple and the congregation at the service that Paul didn’t intend this to be a passage read in that setting. No, he wrote this out of his concern for a larger group of people than a couple getting married, namely the congregation in that new church in Corinth. If you read 1 Corinthians in its entirety, it’s easy to see why Paul felt the need to write these words for them. What is clear is that they were struggling to get along with each other for a number of reasons--each person assuming they were more gifted than the others, those who were wealthy lording their privilege over those who were less fortunate, etc. And so to that audience, Paul begins the passage by saying that even if we have exquisite gifts to share, and we do so without a spirit of love, we are “noisy gong or a clashing cymbal”. In other words, it’s nothing but noise!
To me, these words speak to us not just when we are in church, but when we are a part of any community (even the community of marriage and family). If we are to live out the kind of love of which Paul speaks, the kind of love we have all received from our loving God, we have no choice but to treat others with patience and kindness, and without any trace of arrogance or rudeness.
In the three Sundays after Valentine’s Day (which seemed appropriate!), we will be examining the entire Love Chapter together in worship. Hopefully we will learn together about how to live in the kind of love that Paul is advocating in all of the communities in which we find ourselves.
In Christian Love,