I’m always a little amused by the reading of 1 Corinthians 13 at weddings. Very fitting – although Paul certainly didn’t sit down and think Now, I need to pen something they can use centuries from now for marriage ceremonies. His eloquent, poetic riff on love isn’t about marriage, but Love in the church, Love for one another at every level, Love exemplified by Christ.
If the passage is about anybody, it’s about Christ himself. He was indeed, “patient and kind, not jealous or boastful, he did not insist on his own way, he was not irritable, he did not rejoice in wrong but in the right. Jesus bore all things, endured all things.”
We are quite irritable, we insist on our own way, we get tickled over what’s wrong, we endure little and get jealous in a nanosecond. How far are we from Paul’s ideal of how to be a beautiful child of God in Christ?
The key in 1 Corinthians 13 is “Love never ends.” We read it at weddings – but marital love indeed does end sometimes, and is strained to the breaking point when it doesn’t end. It’s God’s love, this unusual agapē love, that never ends – because it has no conditions, it doesn’t depend on what comes back in response to the love. It’s not a feeling, not an emotion, but a decision, a commitment, a stalwart, resolute, I shall love no matter what. This divine love is so different from ours – thankfully. We aspire to love as God loves, not as we mortals can manage.
Paul suggests, intriguingly, that “now we see through a glass dimly, but then face to face.” He’s envisioning looking into a mirror – and the Corinthians were the world leaders in the manufacture of excellent mirrors! Our vision of love, our understanding of God, our wisdom about other people, is as blurry as you’d expect and ancient, 1st century mirror to be! Paul yearns for the day we’ll see God, and others clearly, not in the usual blurry way. Love sees clearly, not squinting to make the best of things, but discerning the real beauty in others, and in God.
So Paul concludes, “Faith, hope, and love abide, these three – but the greatest of these is love.” We sigh, pleased with such a thought. But it’s not the mood. It’s the strong-armed solid commitment to stick with one another, the love God shows us, with which God loves us – and summons us to love one another! Faith really is nothing but love for God, trust (love!) in God. Hope is nothing but love – God’s for us, ours for God, which will outlast every circumstance, every happenstance, every downturn. We hope precisely because God loves – with that unconditional agapē love that isn’t a feeling but a lifestyle, not a mood but a rock solid commitment. Of course, that’s the greatest of these three greats! Love is the modifier, the underpinning of faith and hope, without which they mean nothing at all.
Love wins. That was a slogan in the LGBTQ inclusion debate. But it’s the truth about God, and our destinies. Love really does win, in the end.← See All