Lesson 5 –
1 Corinthians 13:1-13 NRSV
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
This excerpt is frequently read at weddings because it speaks about love. The previous chapter speaks about spiritual gifts and the members of the body. The writer of this entire book focuses ways to keep the community of faith together. Today, we will be reading the entire chapter, so in your own devotional period, read chapters 12 and 14. Why do you think the writer of this text focuses so much on love?
Today’s lesson will focus on the value of love.
Read the scripture out loud together. What’s happening in this passage?
The writer notices that love is most important. For example, there is no point of speaking in tongues legible to humans and Angels if there is no love. If the writer has prophetic powers and can understand Mysteries, but does not have love, the writer accepts this as “nothing.” Even more, you can give away all your things but if you do not have love, there is no point.
The writer begins to talk about the characteristics of Love. Patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not arrogant, and certainly not rude. It is not petty, nor is it excited to say “I told you So.” It is excited to witness the truth.
The writer places love above all other things. Prophecies may end and knowledge may end. But love is Everlasting. The writer also mentions that as a child you will think as a child, but as you grow up you begin to see different logic. The writer also discusses the cloudiness of a mirror, hoping to be seen in a more complete way. The writer ends this entire passage by reminding the readers that faith, hope, and love are three strands of a braid, but the greatest is love.
Who is this for?
This passage is often used during weddings, but there are multiple kinds of love. The love you have for God, for family, the love you have for yourself, for community, for romantic partners, and so many other forms exist! There are many examples of philosophers thinking about love, as it is a popular subject.
It’s very hard to have a healthy romantic partnership if we do not have other forms of love surrounding us. If we only invest in our wife, our husband, our spouse, our girlfriend, or boyfriend we might lose sacred bonds with other people. Many of us have witnessed what it feels like to watch a friend get into a new relationship and completely lose this person. Perhaps you might have even been that person. But the writer reminds us that love does not insist on its own way.
Healthy Love makes room for multiple kinds of friendships and meaningful bonds. In fact, if you feel you cannot maintain friendships or healthy relationships outside of your partnership, that’s something to be mindful about.
Are there ways that this passage might be badly used?
There are two places of concern that we, as critical readers of the text, should be cautious of. Firstly, when the writer tells the audience that “love bears all things,” that does not mean that love “puts up with” all things. If there is someone in your life who is not patient, kind, and tends to be envious, boastful, arrogant, and rude, that person is not practicing love. Even if that person tells you that they love you!
The second place we should be cautious of is the portion about children. Children are not unable to experience love. In fact, sometimes children experience very pure forms of love. For example, you can tell when a child cares deeply for you because they will draw a picture of you as a gift. That’s their way of saying “you’re special to me.” As we age, we learn more about love and more about friendships and more about relationships.
What questions do you still have of this scripture? How will you commit to journeying with this text this week?
Connection to Today’s World
During the pandemic, many people decided to adopt pets. Lacking human intimacy due to gathering restrictions and needing a reason to go for walks every day, dogs became a favorite among people adopting pets. Many adoption centers saw a boom in adoption rates, with some even reporting that they had no more dogs left to adopt! This was exciting news for people who ran animal shelters.
However, we are now two years into a pandemic. More offices require in person work. It’s not as easy to have a dog at home. 1 in 5 households adopted a pet during the pandemic. What started out as a way to cope with loneliness, now presents a challenge. Many who adopted a pet during the pandemic are wondering, how can I best meet the needs of my pet now that I must go back to work?
Doggie Daycares and boarding services are now seeing a boom in their services. Money that would have been spent on vacations and other sorts of pre-pandemic luxuries are now being spent on dogs. For the most responsible pet parent, this has been a lesson in making sure you can follow up with the promises that you’ve made. It’s nice to give someone a dog for Christmas. By the time Valentine’s Day rolls around, you’ll learn that this is a living being that needs love, care, and affection.
Journal: What are some ways people show love without saying the words?
Closing: Listen to Frankie J, “More Than Words.”
(lyrics in video)
You never run out of love for us. You think about us, provide for us, and encourage us in your own way. You show love to us without condition.
We need examples of healthy love. We are surrounded by toxic images of love. They saturate our music, television, movies, and daily conversations.
Help us to seek true, fulfilling, and healthy love. And when it shows up, help us to welcome it rather than pushing it away.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.