Have you had the opportunity to sit and read ALL of 1 Corinthians yet?
Updated: Feb 27, 2019
This was a challenge that I set for the congregation on Jan. 20 when we began a 3-Sunday look at 1 Corinthians, chapters 12&13. If you haven’t had the chance yet, I hope you will find one or two chunks of time between now and Sunday morning to do this reading, because, on Sunday we’re going to be reading the best known chapter of the New Testament: 1 Corinthians 13--- and if you’ve read everything that comes before and after this much loved reading you may read it and hear it with new eyes and ears. 1 Corinthians 13 is NOT about what it takes to have a long and happy marriage (… although its’ message is a good one for marriage relationships). Marriage ceremonies are what we associate with this passage, but it really is about so much more than a “How-To” manual for newlyweds. Paul wrote this beautiful, poetic love song near the end of a letter that was part practical advice on dealing with sticky issues; and part theological argument about how to prioritise and honour the variety of spiritual gifts that had been given to this enthusiastic group of believers. This part of the letter was a “How-To” manual for a deeply conflicted, newly formed community of Jesus Followers who were being torn apart from the inside out. This chapter is about LOVE being the foundation on which the life of the community of Jesus Followers had to be built. This was not romantic love- nor was it family love – nor was it patriotic love – nor was it ‘buddy love’ between good friends. The word used repeatedly in 1Corinthians 13 is Agape [noun] and agapao [verb]. This is the highest form of love, originating with the love that God has for God’s own creation and creatures. It is love that is unconditional and self-giving… or self-emptying. Paul was inviting the confused, messed up and hurting community of Corinthian Jesus Followers to actually… literally …follow Jesus into the greatest spiritual gift of all—into the same Love that Jesus lived and taught and healed …. and died into… God’s Agape Love. Paul implored the Corinthians to let go of all of their infighting; their individual need to be better than the rest- their need to have the most spiritually exotic gifts—their need to continue to have Roman and Greek practices that kept the poor and powerless that way and the rich and powerful in control of the lives of the poor and powerless—the Agape communities of Jesus followers had to shed their former selves and become like new people altogether. And the new communities had to be grounded in God’s Agape love. God’s Agape …. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. God’s Agape… Love never ends. We too are invited into this self-emptying love.
Rev. Shannon Mang