Digging Deeper: The Way of Love
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:1-7 ESV
If there's a scripture reading in a #wedding #ceremony chances are it's this one from #1Corinthians13. This #scripture is read so often at weddings that I think there is a possible danger of it becoming a cliche in our minds and we can become dull of hearing. We might hear it and think nothing other than, "that's neat", or "what a beautiful depiction of #love". The passage is used as a reminder and an admonishment to the #bride and #groom for the solemn #vows they're giving to one another and I think it's important to understand it in its wider context.
BRACING FOR IMPACT
Before we go into the greater context I want to have an honest look at how the text reads us. As I read chapter 13 and the descriptors of what love is and isn't I am confronted with how often I fall massively short of actually loving people. If you were to think of your closest relationships with family and close friends, and especially your spouse, fiancé, or significant other, how would you rate yourself in patience, kindness, rudeness, irritableness, envy? Are you self seeking; do you hold resentments for past wrongs; do you always believe the best of people; how do you do with other's shortcomings or when they hurt you; and are you hopeful in enduring hardships? Or maybe the better question to think about is, how would your partner rate you?
Or maybe the better question to think about is, how would your partner rate you?
Over the last several years I've come to believe that there's a really good chance that some people are just better at being human than me. Maybe I'm just hard on myself or maybe I'm more introspective or maybe I'm more honest. The latter is the most unlikely; I don't want to give myself too much credit. My rating for myself would probably be lower than what my fiancé would say of me; I tend to remember my faults and shortcomings more than the positives. By nature she is the optimistic one seeing the silver lining in everything. I, on the other hand, will sit in the doldrums and reflect longer than necessary. Regardless, I think I probably treat others with the same heavy hand that I treat myself with and I think that makes actually loving people by God's standard a tall, tall task. In fact, I would go so far as to argue that the way of love is impossible in our own power.
In fact, I would go so far as to argue that the way of love is impossible in our own power.
Chapter 12 is all about the body of Christ (i.e. the church, the people, brothers and sisters in Christ) and the many parts that make it. Unity of purpose and an acceptance of our differences in gifts, personalities, and strengths and weaknesses are the major themes. Everyone has an important role to play despite how little or seemingly unimportant one might feel. The church is compared to a literal body with it's many parts, some more presentable, some more honorable, some seemingly unimportant or less honorable but actually worthy of greater honor. The chapter ends with an exhortation to desire the "higher gifts" and a "more excellent way" -- The way of love. The "love chapter", as it's often called, is in the context of spiritual gifts and that has big implications.
The "love chapter", as it's often called, is in the context of spiritual gifts and that has big implications.
Love is a "higher gift" (12:31) and these gifts are spiritual, not natural. In versus 4-7 Paul lays out the positive and negative descriptors of love in a similar fashion as he does in Galatians 5:16-26. The passage is about keeping in step with the spirit and how life in the spirit is contrary to our natural way of life in the flesh. We have two options laid out before us and the way of life in the Spirit is opposed to our sinful nature that he calls the "desires of the flesh". This life in the spirit is not simply good advice to follow -- it's bigger than that. By definition, this higher life requires the Spirit. So it is with this "higher gift" of love -- we can only truly love by the power of the Spirit.
If love is a spiritual gift then it's important to think about the definition of 'gift'. Needless to say, we don't earn gifts but receive them. That's why in 12:31 Paul says, "But earnestly desire the higher gifts." The fact that he doesn't merely say, "Remember, Corinthians, you must love one another", but instead exhorts them to "desire" them implies not only that this doesn't come naturally but that you must receive it first.
This leads us to our motivation in love. Being that we can't give what we don't have, we must be reminded of our motivation for love. In short, here is a scripture trifecta: 1 John 3:16, 1 John 4:19, and Romans 5:8. Our motivation for love starts and ends with our recognition of the love God showed us first.
Our ability to fulfill the type of love laid out in 1 Corinthians 13 lies not in ourselves but in #Christ. If our marriages are to be #pictures of this love then we must be constantly reminded and saturated in the truths of the #gospel (John 3:16). Learning, or growing, in the higher gift of love is a lifelong process and requires love and #grace for one-another as we will surely struggle and fail on a regular basis. But this is what we're signing up for in #marriage -- so buckle up, give thanks, practice humility, and enjoy the #adventure with the love of your life.