Discussion or Journaling
How would you describe love to someone who has no concept of it?
When I was growing up we watch Star Trek, for me, it was the Next Generation. I loved it. I loved the visual effects, the imagination, the alien worlds, and people. I loved the blending of cultures and hope that one day we would all live in a time that war, poverty, and greed was a thing of history books. In almost every episode, someone would need to explain a concept or emotion to Data (he was the android on the show). Humans would need to explain to him why we do what we do, why we react or don’t react the way that we do. The humans would spend the most time explaining emotions to him. Trying to give concert examples of an abstract feeling. How would love be described to Data? What actions would indicate love, or maybe lack of love?
Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
- If you have ever been to a wedding, you have heard parts of this letter before. It is a favorite at many weddings, and with good reason, it is a beautiful poem, Celine Dion could not express better the type of love that we all want. There are some things to keep in mind for today though.
- In the chapter before this, Paul was explaining Spiritual gifts and reminding the church that they are all parts of the same body of Christ. This is important to be aware of because chapter 13 takes those gifts that everyone was trying to obtain, removes love, and dismisses the gift entirely.
- This was written by an exasperated Paul, who had been getting reports of the church fighting within itself.
- He was in no way speaking to romantic love, but the love that God has for each of us and that we should aspire to share. A love that overshadows all other love, also known as Agape.
Paul starts by telling the church that if he were able to speak all the languages, but without love, it is nothing but loud noise. He goes on the gift of preaching, knowledge, faith, charity, without love with all of these, are meaningless. He then explains what love is. Love is kind, happy with truth, patient, not jealous, not conceited, love never gives up, love is eternal. He mentions those gifts again, and that they will all have an end. But not love, no, love is eternal. It is also important to remember that Paul is not speaking in English, it has been translated a few times. That may not come through clearly in English, where love is described by some rather static adjectives (“love is patient, love is kind”). Instead, Paul’s claims that love “shows patience” and “acts with kindness.” Here, love is a busy, active thing that never ceases to work. It is always finding ways to express itself for the good of others. The point is not a flowery description of what love “is” in some abstract and theoretical sense, but of what love does. Love is a moving power that knows no end. This type of love is not always easy and may not be pretty. I love my family and show it when I clean the house, cook for them, and care for them when they are sick. I love my neighbor so I wear a mask in public, even when it is hot and itchy. I love all people so I do my best to advocate for the oppressed, even if it leads to my disagreeing with family and friends. I love the earth, so I reduce when I can and bring my compostables to the proper facility, even when I have a million other things to do. Love is action, even when it is not comfortable or pleasant for us. If we love someone who is engaging in self-harm, we must say something. That may be painful for us, and them. But our love dictates that we care for them first. It is God’s love that we courageously try to live into. We are not perfect, we will make mistakes and trip up.
Additional thoughts for discussion
Paul is not talking about the love that makes us feel good. He is talking about the love of God that lifts the entire community. God’s love is big enough to support us when we need it. When we may not be strong enough, God’s love takes over. God’s love is eternal. When all other things have passed it is God’s love that will remain.
- What part of this passage draws you in, what do you like about it or not like about it?
- Paul gives a list of the things that love is NOT. Do you struggle with any of these? In what ways?
- What actions do you see in the community tell you that you are loved?
- What actions can you take today for the love of the community?
- Check-in on elderly neighbors and relatives. Although necessary, social isolation can be lonely. Text, phone call, email, or, if needed, in person (taking the proper safety measures), especially if they live alone. Do not assume that other people are caring for them. You can do this too. Mailing a letter or a card is a great way to brighten someone’s day.
- Consider raising money for an important cause. You could do this with several online tools, or asking your neighbors if there are chores that you can help with for a donation. Organizations that are working to support others at this time are the LSS of MN, People Serving People, and Nativity.
God almighty, creator of love, your steady hand guides us and leads us. Give us the tools to see your love around us, and lead us to share your love. AMEN