February 6, 2019
Scripture 1 Corinthians 13:1–13
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:12-13 NRSV
These verses from 1 Corinthians are used frequently at weddings, likely because of the emphasis on love. Recently, I heard these verses at a funeral, which really is not surprising since the time of grief, wonder, and consoling love in mourning a loved one comes much closer to the full intent of the apostle Paul in writing these verse. This is in stark contrast to another famous use of the word “love” in popular culture. An example for some of us of a certain age is the Beatles tune from the 1960’s: “All You Need Is Love.” The phrase that stays in my head is the refrain which repeats:
“Love is all you need… Love is all you need… Love is all you need….”
But, after reading and studying this passage I believe there is much more to say about love, both generally and specifically, as we explore these verses in First Corinthians. When we read a passage like this one from the Paul, we are not receiving a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. Instead, we are receiving a multi-layered insight into the complex nature of faith and action and purpose that makes up being a Christian- a person who truly believes in Christ is also one who truly loves others. We know this, because Paul and his fellow believers followed the example of Christ in his life, his ministry, his death, and especially through the powerful message of his resurrection.
Paul says, that at the very heart of the Gospel is love. Love offers far more than these spiritual traits and abilities which he lists for us (1 Cor. 13:1-3). Love endures and surpasses all of the things that the Christians in Corinth felt were most important about their faith and the spiritual gifts among them. Paul wants to refocus the Corinthians, and probably himself, on this core aspect of the Gospel: the teachings and ministry of Jesus Christ. It is as if Paul is saying, “You may have a lot working for you, but none of you, or what you do, is as important to God as the lone quality and gift of love.”
Through his words, Paul is directing the Corinthians, and you and me, to the very things that Jesus is demanding of us all: to broaden the reach and scope of our love. At the same time, Paul wants us all to face up to our failure in faith, when we fail to love others. In 1 Corinthians, Paul informs us that so much that we value passes away, or comes to nothing. But, it is love that endures. This consideration and empathy for others is at the heart of the Gospel.
Love may not be all that you need, as the old Beatles song suggests. But, it is a very good place to start. But, more importantly for us and our faith journey, it is powerful and will help us to maintain our faith, our living, and our hope- in Christ.