the excellent way – a reflection on 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

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Epiphany / Epistles / Lectionary / New Testament / Year C

The following is a reflection on the thirteenth chapter of Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.

Pillar in Temple Church, London. Photo by Rick Morley.

Wouldn’t you like to speak “in the tongues of mortals and of angels?” Wouldn’t it be such great fun to bowl people over with divine eloquence every time you open your mouth!?

Wouldn’t you like to “understand all mysteries and all knowledge?” I try and convince my children that I already do—but they are quickly seeing through that ruse.

Wouldn’t you like to have faith? I mean real faith—so much faith that you could summon the mighty power of God and move a mountain? Or move a heart? Or move a world from injustice to justice?

Wouldn’t you like to have the kind of abiding trust, where you could follow the words of Jesus to the rich young ruler, and sell all you have and give it to the poor? I struggle with those words so much. I do love Jesus. But, I also love my iPhone. And my books. And the new car we just bought. But, I’d love to be able to cast all that away and not even once want to look back.

Wouldn’t all that be great? If you could do all of the above you’d be Billy Graham, the Pope, Mother Teresa, and Desmond Tutu all wrapped in one. People would line up at your door from morning to night to have you speak, teach, move mountains, or show them the way of Jesus.

But…even if you had all of that…even if you were “Spiritual Super Man”…if you didn’t have love, it would all be for nought.

It would mean nothing. Absolutely nothing.

But, what kind of love is Paul talking about? What does a love that is that valuable really look like?

Well, it’s patient. (Oh, crap, I’m impatient all the time.) It’s kind. (Oh…I’m usually kind on the outside, but on the inside…crap.) It’s not envious, boastful, or rude. (Did I mentioned I’m a published author? Crap. Crap. Crap.) It does not insist on it’s own way. (Wait, but what if I’m right?…which I usually am?…Crap.) It is not irritable (***will you please shut your mouth in the next room! I can hardly hear myself type!*** Crap.) or resentful. (I’m not even going there.)

It bears all things. Believes all things. Hopes all things.

It. Never. Ends.

Everything else—everything else—will end. It will all come crashing down. It will all decay and crumble. It will all be forgotten and lost.

But, not love.

Not that kind of love. For it is the love that God has had for us since the dawn of creation. It was the love that welled up in God, and caused him to send his only son to live among us. It was that love which bound Jesus to the cross.

It was that love which put Jesus in the cold, dark tomb.

It was that love which caused the mighty Power of the Resurrection to come and vanquish death and sin forever.

It is the kind of love that knits us to God. And, it is the love that is supposed to knit us to each other in the Body of Christ.

Seek that love. And, at the same time, know it is already yours.

The Author

follower of Jesus, father of two, husband of one, Episcopal priest, with one book down, one blog up...surrounded by empty jars of nutella