Paul has been talking about Spiritual gifts and in the last two weeks we have learned from Paul that – 1st – We have all as Christians been given gifts from the Holy Spirit; and 2. That these gifts are given to us, not for our own use, but to build up the community; and 3rd – that no gift is better or more important than another. All are needed. The more public gifts (preaching, prophesy, tongues) may be more visible but they are not more important than the quieter gifts (prayer, consolation).
This Sunday we come to one of the most famous passages in all of Paul. Many of us may have had this passage from I Corinthians 13 read at our weddings. This passage is certainly a beautiful passage and very appropriate for weddings. And so we may have an impression of this text as being only a wedding text. But, in its context it really has little to do with marriage. It is specifically linked to the discussion on spiritual gifts that preceded it. Paul is saying, bluntly as usual, that when all is said and done, no matter what gifts you have been given, no matter how important they and you are – love must be at the root of everything you do. You might be the best preacher in the entire church, but if you do not preach from a sense of love then it is like a noisy gong; you might be the best Christian counselor in the community, but if you do not counsel from a sense of love, then it will be like talking to a clanging cymbal. The ministry to which we are called must be rooted and grounded in love.
Paul then goes on to very pointedly address the behavior of the Corinthians: “Love does not envy,” but the Corinthians do; “Love does not boast,” but the Corinthians do; “Love is not puffed up, does not insist on its own way,” but the Corinthians do. We might insert ourselves for the Corinthians and recognize that St. Paul is making it clear that one danger that Christians need to be aware of is the temptation to cloak self-interest in self-righteousness.
What exactly is love? Love is a broad subject and covers a lot. But for Paul it is clear that perfect love, agape love is manifested in Jesus. If we look to Jesus we will see God's love in action. In Jesus' healing, teaching, preaching and dying God reaches out to us in love, and this love is light in the darkness. Let us pray that God would teach us to love and empower us to recognize and use the gifts God has given us for others; and that we will always be rooted in the love of Gos in Christ, Jesus our Lord.
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