Today’s reading is a very well-known passage from the first letter to the Corinthians. It’s a favourite at weddings, occasionally used at funerals, and one that gives us an insight into the gifts that the Holy Spirit brings.
As we know, Paul never writes without a reason and I found a really good commentary on what that reason could be. So, good I thought I would share it here as some background for this passage that we will explore more on Sunday. This comes from Shively Smith, Assistant Professor of New Testament at Boston University School of Theology. Shively says….
“Paul declares love as the greatest power in a community that seems to be lacking a lot of it. This moment is a far cry from an adoring couple standing at the altar declaring unwavering devotion to each other. The members of the Corinthian church, to whom chapter 13 is directed, are nowhere near a love fest.
In fact, the very placement of 1 Corinthians 13 suggests that Paul may be up to something. He wedges this poem in the middle of his discussion about spiritual achievements. In chapter 12, Paul discusses spiritual gifts and presents his famed analogy of the Church as the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27; cf. 1 Corinthians 10:16; Romans 12:5). This body boasts many gifts and many stations unified under one banner. Yet, these many giftings and functions are not enough to sustain the community. Paul digresses in chapter 13 to talk about love as the hidden ingredient, only to resume his discussion of the spiritual life in 1 Corinthians 14:1. Here, he connects love and spiritual gifts to each other saying, “Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts … ” (NRSV).”
This love that Paul speaks of is not passive or fluffy. This love is a hard working kind of love. It builds community, it nurtures positive social interactions and relationships. This love that Paul speaks of unifies. It continues from our readings of last week where Pauls tells the people of Corinth to be of one mind.
This love that Paul speaks of is shown in the way we talk to each other, eat with one another, have fellowship together, care and look after each other and affirms all. This love transcends barriers, social structures and personal biases. It forms whole and holistic people who are anchored in the well-being of others. This love will not let us down is we genuinely live in it together.