Psalm 1, 2, 3; Jer. 36:11-26; 1 Cor. 13:1-13; Matt. 10:5-15
It’s all love, friends. If you are right but unloving, it doesn’t matter. If you are eloquent and persuasive and have everyone eating out of your pocket but unloving, it doesn’t matter. If you are within your rights and completely justified in your choices but unloving, it doesn’t matter. We rob I Cor 13 of its brutally incisive point if we relegate it only to weddings: it’s about daily life, about the choices we make, the words and deeds and habits of the heart we cultivate.
Love, as so often in the New Testament, is how we translate ‘agape.’ Which, as you’ve grown weary of hearing, is not an emotion: it’s a choice, an act of the will. I feel love the emotion (‘eros’ in its romantic form, ‘storge’ in most others) because something in you speaks strongly, intuitively even, to something in me. It’s glorious and wonderful, and haven’t got a bad word to say about it. Sometimes we feel love the emotion because we’re comfortable with one another, have grown accustomed to the way things are and generally think they’re worth keeping as they are (‘philia’ or ‘philanthropia’ might fill in here). But that’s not the love we translate from ‘agape.’ That is the conscious decision to do what’s best for the other person no matter the cost, no matter the reception, no matter even if it it’s rejected, because it’s what’s best for them. Which means, of course, that sometimes agape has to do the wrenching job of changing course because it suddenly learns more about the beloved and realizes it may have been mistaken in what’s best all along. ‘Agape’ love is the thing we praise but rarely practice: unconditional love.
And that, friends, is what’s being discussed by Paul. If we’re right, or popular, or persuasive, or successful, or anything at all and yet have not love for the others around us, we’ve failed as Christians. Failed, because the Christian is called to walk the path Christ laid out for us, and Christ Himself is Love. Not to give people what they want, but to offer them what they need. Not to set them straight, but to walk the winding and lonely path of life alongside them if they’ll allow it. Not to convince, convict or convert, but to bring out the best in them insofar as it lies in our power. That means changes in habits of thought, word and deed, every day, every day. And if we’re just applying that to weddings…we’re missing the point.