Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany (January 31, 2016)
- First reading
- Second reading
1 Corinthians 13 | New Living Translation
13 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
8 Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! 9 Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! 10 But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.
11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
For the last two weeks we have looked at the previous chapter of 1 Corinthians. We can tell from Paul’s writings that the church at Corinth had its good points and its bad points. In chapter 12, we can see that there was some divisiveness over the spiritual gifts and the fact that the church is many people and yet one. God has given each one of us unique gifts to minister in the kingdom and in His church.
One of the unique things about God’s church is that it is made up of people. I love what one of our General Superintendents said many years ago at a district conference. The church has not survived 2,000 because of us (Christians) but in spite of us. God’s church is Christ’s church and that is why the church has survived because Christ is at the center or he should be.
So here we have a church that has some divisions – sounds familiar doesn’t it? Paul launches into the solution. That solution is love. If we don’t have love, we are nothing. It is true, God is love…Jesus came, died on the cross, rose again, ascended to heaven, and is coming again…all because of love. God loves his people so much that He desires no one should perish.
It’s only fitting that we believers ought to model this love. I know that many have read this passage before, but look at the characteristics of love.
- is patient and kind
- is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.
- does not demand its own way.
- is not irritable
- keeps no record of being wronged
- does not rejoice about injustice
- rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
- never gives up
- never loses faith
- is always hopeful
- endures through every circumstance.
I love that this passage includes the positive and negatives of love – not only what love is, but what love isn’t. In many ways, these are the characteristics that should be shown by God’s people.
I hope you took the time to read though Pam’s post yesterday. If not, here is the link. How do we go about showing God’s love to a world that so desperately needs it? Jesus told us there were only two commandments – to love the Lord our God with everything we have and to love our neighbor as ourselves. That’s pretty good advise. If we love our neighbor as ourselves, we have to show the love that Paul writes about.
A word of caution: Following Jesus’ statement about loving our neighbors, one of the Pharisees asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied with the story of the Good Samaritan. Our neighbors are those people whom God has created. Yes, God still has work to do in my own life on this topic.
Love is the greatest gift that God gave us and he showed us that we need to love others. With all the talk of spiritual gifts in the Corinthian church, Paul reminds us that someday these gifts will be useless – only love will remain. Our knowledge is only partial – it is incomplete – we only see through a glass darkly – or rather it is like looking at our image in the bathroom mirror right after a shower – the image is cloudy and obscured.
I love how Paul writes that this is how it is now, but then – when we see Jesus — when we see Perfect Love – then we shall know fully and we will see in the mirror clearly. We will know everything completely as God already knows us completely.
We are reminded in another passage that “Perfect Love casts out fear.” Jesus is perfect love. As we close the passage, Paul writes, “Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – but the greatest is love.
The next sentence in chapter 14 says, “Let love be your highest goal!” Love should rule everything we do. It should direct all of our actions in whatever we do. I don’t know about you, but I still have a lot to learn in this area. However, my desire is to love God with all my heart and to love my neighbor as myself. That is my prayer for you as well.