Paul’s Footsteps #137

Footsteps #137

Read 1Corithians 13

Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John.15:13).  Paul’s understanding of agape (the Greek word for “love” that he uses in 1Cor.13) as expressed in Christ’s self-sacrifice, is the basis for his love song.  Christ dies, not just for His friends but for those who are His enemies–the ungodly and sinners, among whom are counted all humankind. True love is what we see on the cross.  It is a love that proceeds from a God who is love.  It is a love lavished on others without a thought as to whether they are worthy or not.  It proceeds from the nature of the lover, not from any attractiveness in the beloved.

Paul’s love song falls naturally into three parts. Vs.1-3 compare love to spiritual gifts with this thought emphasized:  any spiritual gift, without love, is valueless.  Vs.4-7 describe the workings of love; what it does and what it does not do.  Vs.8-13 again compare love and spiritual gifts, this time contrasting the relatively passing nature of the gifts to the eternal permanence of love.

Our appreciation for this grand chapter is enriched by recalling the context in which Paul crafts it.  Paul does not isolate himself for a decade or two and then write this exalted praise for love.  Paul addresses these inspiring words to a specific context; the divided and sometimes clamorous congregations at Corinth. 1Cor.13 is not meant to be taken as a theory.  It applies to a very real situation and speaks to our lives today.

The “more excellent way” of love is eternal, because God is eternal.  Spiritual gifts are worthless if not immersed in love.  This fruit of love must propel the exercise of any gift.  Love has to do with our state of being, while gifts relate to our state of doing.  Only the love of Christ in the heart can transform who we are into what we do. When love fills the heart, it will flow out to others, not because of favours received from them, but because love is the principle of action.

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