Today’s study is about love and community.
1 Corinthians 13:3-8; 14:1 (The Voice)
I could give all that I have to feed the poor, I could surrender my body to be burned as a martyr, but if I do not live in love, I gain nothing by my selfless acts. Love is patient; love is kind. Love isn’t envious, doesn’t boast, brag or strut about. There’s no arrogance in love; it’s never rude, crude or indecent – it’s not self-absorbed. Love isn’t easily upset. Love doesn’t tally wrongs or celebrate injustice; but truth- yes, truth- is love’s delight. Love puts up with anything and everything that comes along; it trusts, hopes and endures no matter what. Love will never become obsolete. So in everything strive to love.
This passage is often read at weddings. It is definitely a beautiful reminder for couples embarking on a new chapter of their love. However, I feel, this neglects the true message of these words. Love is not limited to our partner. It is not limited to our families and friends. The message can’t be any clearer “In everything strive to love.”
Earlier in the book of Corinthians, Paul talks about the gifts each one of us is given to use during this life. Some gifts or talents are given more weight than others. This was a divisive element in the early church and is a divisive element of our society as a whole today. Some talents are more valuable than others. “…Paul shifts his focus to the central role love plays in a believer’s life in chapter 13. Love is essential for the body to be unified and for members to work together. Members of the body that are very different, with little in common, are able to appreciate and even enjoy others because of love.” (The Voice Commentary)
On some level we know this. Sometimes love is the only thing we can share with someone who we don’t understand or agree with on any other level. Though Paul is clearly addressing church members, this does not exclude non-Christians from the conversation. If we can think of the body as this global community that we are all a part of, it is clear that love is the thread that was meant to bind us all together. It is not enough to love our neighbors. We are asked to love our enemies as well. We are called to love complete strangers, as well as our closest friends.
This “we” I gather together is not the Church of Christ. It is not a satsang of yogis. It includes us all; all of the fabulous human beings participating in this crazy mess of life. Everyone who is and was and will be. The words of this particular book may be aimed at those who follow Christ, but those who choose another path are no less obligated to love those around them with all they are.
As a global community, we must find ways to allow the gifts of each person to shine. The more we cultivate the talents of others with love rather than disdain, the more we allow others to become who they are, the more we discover how each person’s contribution can work together, the stronger this community will grow. I realize we are a long way from this, but there’s no harm in dreaming.
When you come together, each person has a vital role because each has gifts. One person might have a song, another a lesson to teach. One person might speak in an unknown language, another will offer the interpretation, but all of this should be done to strengthen the life and faith of the community. (1 Cor 14:26)