For my first edition of Wednesdays in the Word, I want to come out of the gates sprinting (figuratively of course, I’m not a young man anymore!). So today I want to share with you my favorite passage of scripture in the Bible: 1 Corinthians 13.
Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth is fascinating to me. The city of Corinth was very influential during the Roman empire. The city served as a hub of sorts and it’s strategic location made it a hot bed for commerce. Many people passed through the city and Paul recognized this as a tremendous opportunity to “plant a church.” Makes perfect sense!
Having Pastored in Lawrence for nearly 10 years now, I find it easy to identify with Paul and his letter to the church. Corinth had a rich history of supremacy. It served as a key military command port, so in addition to operating from a position of power, Corinth also prided itself in education and literature and the arts. Wealth was a non issue because there was plenty of it! Luxury was the name of the game here! As you can imagine with all of the “worldly good” at their finger tips, Corinth was also recognized as one of the most corrupt and lustful cities of the ancient world.
Corinth needed Jesus! So, Paul stepped up and was the first to plant a church there.
My fascination with this book (this letter written by Paul) is based on Paul’s heart as a pastor. I envision him working diligently to lay the foundations for a church that would not only be effective in the boundaries of its community, but because of the world commerce that passed through the city on a daily basis, this church had the making of a global outreach center! So in short- Paul plants the church and serves as the pastor but in time moves on to his next missionary journey to continue to spread the Gospel. This letter written from Ephesus some 3-5 years after Paul had moved on from Corinth, serves as a letter of correction. The church had got a little sideways and Paul operating from a founder/pastor/teacher/counselor mode writes this letter to remind them of what they were taught and why. This book reveals to us Pauls wisdom and zeal of all things right and wrong but is also serves to show us the endurance necessary to create and sustain a meaningful ministry. This is my favorite part of his first letter to the Church of Corinth.
1 Corinthians 13 (NIV)
13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boas but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Questions for consideration:
1)In the last verse of chapter 12 Paul says, “and yet I will show you the most excellent way” and then goes on to chapter 13 If I speak…. Have you ever considered “love” as the most excellent way? If so, is love your default mode? Asked differently: when you find yourself in a difficult place in a relationship or a situation how can you choose love and use love in a manner that will quickly bring resolution?
2)Paul hits on some of the “hot” spiritual gifts – the gift of tongues, prophecy, wisdom and knowledge, faith and benevolence and yet deems them to pale in comparison to love. Q: Why do we discount the value of love as it pertains to our everyday lives? How can we change our approach on a daily basis to love more? Which of the love qualities (patient, kind etc.) do you endear the most?
3)Which one do you need to work on? I look forward to hearing from you! Until next week- keep yourself grounded in the Word!
Love and Blessings to you-