This is the second Sanitizer on First Corinthians 13. Here is the second part of the passage:
“4 Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; 5 it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (RSV)
As I said yesterday, this love is not a feeling. It is broader than that. If it is not a feeling then what is it? This part of the love chapter talks about the manifestation of love. How is love shown? How is love demonstrated? How does love act? What does love like?
Whenever I look at this list, I wonder which one am I worst at? Being patient? It depends. I am a prince when I am waiting in line in the store, but not so princely when bad drivers hold me up on this road. Irritable? I am not often grumpy, I am happy to say – whoops is that boastful? Insisting on my own way? I’d better stop this self-evaluation.
I think you’ll agree that, going over the list, each of us needs to do a lot of work! It is a great list! This passage is read at most weddings, though it was not really written about love in marriage. However, imagine the bliss if we could keep these all in our relationships with our spouses! Therapists and counselors would go out of business!
So when I read this part of the love chapter, I read this list as aspirational. These are beautiful and worthy tings I need to strive for, to pay attention to, to keep in front of me. Reading these I think we’d all agree we want to live them out. We want to do these things and be this way as an offering to God.
Finally a quick glance at the last verse in this section, “ Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” I always chuckle a little when I read this. Doesn’t “love believes all things” sound a little naïve? I know that is not what Paul intended. He is saying love has about it this way of viewing the world that yearns for and sees the best no matter what. But what if someone in striving to be loving is just a little naïve? So what? Isn’t that better than living with cynicism and pessimism? Bearing, believing, hoping and enduring all things is just a beautiful way to live. And if that means that living that way, someone takes advantage of us, well let’s answer this, “Would you rather be the kind of person someone might take advantage of, or to be a person who deliberately takes advantage of others?” As Christ’s people, we know the answer. We are called to live as people who leave it God to change others and to use our vulnerable behavior to advance his kingdom.
The novel by Dostoevsky, “The Idiot” comes to mind. The central character, Prince Myshkin, leads a life of simplicity, humble-heartedness, completely lacking in guile. Consequently, he is regarded by others as a fool (The Idiot). But in fact he is a highly intelligent individual with wisdom. In this book Dostoevsky explores what happens when a man strives to live a good and pure life in a world that aspires not to such goodness, but to far more base and unworthy ways. I wish for all of us to be “idiots” in this way!
The Apostle Paul uses the word “fool” talking about what we believe and the way we live.
“Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”
“but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong,”
“Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.”
“We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ.”
In Ephesians we read, “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
What is foolish? Not understanding the will of God. So far from being naïve or a simpleton by following the way of love, we are wise because we know what God wants and try to love it and live it.
How about this from the first chapter of First Corinthians? “22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (RSV)
Love lasts. “So faith, hope love abide, these three. But the greatest of these is love.”
Let’s pray together. “Love is often beyond our reach – the kind of love that is divine – but make it so we never stop trying to attain it, we pray. We want to live the way of love founded on your love, imitating yours, bringing your love to life in the world. Help us, please, to do that! Help us above all to love you without reservation. We ask in the name of Jesus who shows us the depth of your love. Amen.”