1 Corinthians 13-14
None of our gifts come to much if they are without love Paul tells us; they fall flat or unstainable without having love as their primary motivation. Again Paul emphasis that it is not works but faith in Jesus the Christ and love for ourselves and our neighbors that comes first. Is paramount. We are to act in the spirit of Christ, the Spirit of love. And, of course, it naturally follows, that if we are first motivated by love that what we do will follow and it will be ‘good’ – i.e. be life giving. When faced with tough choices, the one criteria I bring to these and ask others is does it give life. Will what I choose be life giving or life negating?
Just as Paul speaks of the new life, the new creation, the new self that we become in Christ, it is the Love of Christ, through the great act of his death and resurrection that brings us this life. To a renewed way of being. Paul keeps reiterating that we do not have to do anything, except have faith and love. Have faith in the Christ who lives in the other person, who died for that person who is homeless, who is in jail, who drives you crazy, who just caused you to lose your job, your hormonal teenagers, or your needy parents. Each reach for you, each awareness that assaults you, each recalcitrant in your midst, and the unruly world that cannot be organized to your will, is the reach and invitation of Christ in God to love. To believe more in the power of Jesus Christ than our own.
You’ve most like heard it said “Let go and let God.” I know it’s not easy. I’m a first born. Letting go hasn’t always been easy for me. It still isn’t. I explore and pursue every possibility, option and resource at my disposal before I thrown in the towel. But there comes a point when you realize, like Job, you are powerless before much of what life throws in your path. Especially the big things. We are often certainly powerless over others, even to help, heal or lift up sometimes. It is only the power of God that can bring miracles, open hearts and minds, healing, awareness, and forgiveness into your lives and that of others. The paradox being, that it is easy. In believing trust and trusting belief, over and over again, the God of life, tends the life he has created and sustains. We just have to turn it over to him. I have a really big prayer I pray a lot. It’s this: BE GOD. To God I am saying do what you do, be who you are. You know better than I how you will be, how you are being in any given situation. Then one day you realize that it is all grace, the Christ-life within us. Paul counsels to pray, pray always. I believe that Paul’s pray always is not just living on our knees, but the prayerful awareness of the Christ-life present in each moment of our waking and sleeping. And this awareness is can be fed by dedicated prayer time, but it is surely to go about one’s day with attentive awareness to the Real Presence and to the presence of the Spirit of Christ praying within us always.
Eventually all gifts will fail, Paul says, even knowledge. Even faith seeking understanding will sidle away as faith seeking love grows into being known as we are known. For in love imperfect things, knowledge, ways of being and teaching will come to an end, when perfection comes. Perfection meaning being whole, to be whole as God is whole.. A wholeness that we strive for now, but will be fully realized when we see face to face. When perfection comes, all imperfect things will disappear, Paul assures us. But the greatest of these, the gift that endures and does not come to an end is Love. Love is this wholeness that we can have now. As he speaks of spiritual growth and maturity with all childish ways put behind him, the thought moves on then in that wonderful passage, the love is passage that if often read at weddings. His thoughts build to a spiritual maturity, and that even now having put away the things of a child, comes to a spiritual maturity, which still is a dim reflection of what we will see – what we will know – know in love. To know as we are known by God, to love as we are loved by God. Paul says
Love is always patient and kind
Love is never jealous
Love is never boastful or conceited
Love is never rude or selfish
Love does not take offense
Love is never resentful
Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins (faults or failures)
Love delights in the truth.
There is no eloquence, understanding, knowledge or even faith, no sacrifice of body, soul or possessions that counts for anything without love.
Love is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes.