The Greatest is Love
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.
This Sunday we are going to dive into one of my favorite chapters in the New Testament. 1 Corinthians 13 is that chapter that comes around during the month of February or perhaps more regularly, we are exposed to this chapter at weddings.
One of the foremost questions we need to consider however is why did Paul write 1 Corinthians 13? It is important to understand that the Corinthian church was a troubled congregation, and through much of this letter, the apostle Paul was addressing some of the problems they had. Specifically, they misunderstood spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:1). Paul wanted them to understand that different gifts were given to unify and build up the Church, not divide it. As a result Paul uses much of this section to provide a great description of love.
Paul uses the Greek word agape, one of several Greek words that can be translated love. This specific word in the New Testament is used to describe the deep, constant, unselfish love that is God’s very nature (1 John 4:8). Agape is a decision of the will to act in the other person’s best interests, whether we feel like it or not. It’s getting down at the supper table and washing your disciples’ feet. It’s being willing to lay down your life to save people who don’t even care about you. It’s the way God loves us, and the way God calls us to act toward others as well. In a masterful fashion, Paul “paints his picture of what love is, he consciously or unconsciously draws us a portrait of a person—Jesus himself. He is the living embodiment of this outgoing, long-suffering, self-giving, self-effacing love” (Eerdmans’ Handbook to the Bible).
So this is what Paul means by love. Of course, it’s a tall order. I can see why some churches would rather work on creating the perfect worship environment or develop an efficient organizational machine! It’s so much easier to have a brilliant website than it is to put yourself out to truly love people as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13. This agape love is a love that never gives up, never loses hope and will always remain faithful.
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