We learn first from our families, our parents and siblings and the people closest to us. But then we learn from Disney movies about naïve, helpless princesses and heroic princes and happily ever after which ironically always ends immediately after the wedding. We learn from soap operas where love is always a game of possession, lies, and traps. We learn from sitcoms where one parent is the responsible adult and the other is a big kid who makes everyone laugh. Is it no wonder we struggle to have healthy strong relationships in this modern age of media?
As people of faith our learning about love comes first from looking at how God loves. God’s love for us and humanity is the pattern for our loving. How Jesus loved, caring for the hurting, the poor, the rejected, the sinners and accepting all as precious is our example of love. And our first place to practice this love is in the church. How wonderful would it be for parents to bring their kids to church expecting them to learn about love from watching church members?
When Paul writes what is called “The Love Chapter” 1 Corinthians 13, he isn’t writing for a couple of lovers. He doesn’t write it for romantic love at all. In fact Paul doesn’t really thing romantic love is all that great – his preference is for Christians to stay single and celibate and focus their lives on God and on service. (this standard continued for another 1,300 years, Christian churches/pastors weren’t involved in weddings at all until that time)
Paul writes The Love Chapter for the church. Specifically a group of house churches, at this time there were no church buildings, who were quarreling with each other comparing and trying to one-up each other all the time. Paul first writes chapter 12 – how we are all given a gift from the Holy Spirit and we need each other like a body needs both hands and feet, eyes and ears. We are the body of Jesus and we need each other to work together.
Then Paul switches on us with Chapter 13 – but even though we may have these gifts, they are nothing without love. We can have talents and skills but if we don’t use them with love its pointless. The quality of how we interact with each other matters. And the first quality should be loving.
Then Paul fleshes out what loving looks like. Patience, kindness, not keeping score or wrongs, not flying off the handle, not being self-centered, forgiving, hoping for better, believing, trusting.
It’s a long list. It’s a list that when I read it at weddings, I feel bad because it’s a tall order for two people mad about each other. It’s a really tall order when we realize this is how we are supposed to love the people we sit in church with and sometimes kinda like. It’s a tall order when we are supposed to love the people at the church down the street with this love. When we are supposed to treat every person we meet with this love.
This week we have seen a lot of un-loving actions in the world. And what are we supposed to do? It may seem naïve, silly, pointless, even stupid, but Jesus says we are supposed to meet persecution with love, rejection with love, hurt with love, we are supposed to respond to hate with love. Because God loves us that way.
Its not easy. Its not supposed to be easy. But God calls us beyond what our society, our culture and our human guts say (all those things would let us focus on revenge and getting even) God calls us to a higher standard, Love. What does look like this week, of all weeks? Like this: