1 Corinthians 13, pt.2

We are gathering to read through 1 Corinthians 13.  As you read through this chapter, please keep in mind the context of this great hymn to love. This letter is written to a congregation overcome by a multitude of divisions. Paul has previously given practical advice on overcoming the divisions, such as refraining from eating meat sacrificed to idols that will cause others to stumble (8:13) or doing all things to God’s glory and refraining from simply giving offense to others (10:31). However, beginning in chapter 11, Paul begins a deeper discussion of overcoming these divisions through discerning the body of Christ within the Eucharist and within the Church itself. For it is in discerning the Body we realize that the divisions are not based upon Christ but secondary issues, and we make this discovery through the recognition of the primacy of love in Chapter 13.

As you prepare for this evening’s discussion, think about what “love” means and how love is practically carried out both in intention and action. Paul sets forth a great list of how we show love to one another in Romans 12:9-21. Peter likewise has a discourse in the working out of love in 1 Peter 3:8-9. As does John in 1 John 4:7-21. More importantly, however, think about how Jesus exemplified love, not only in his death but in his earthly ministry through his compassion for others. Attached is a very brief discussion from Steve Macchia, Chris Bear’s mentor, on the compassion of Jesus and the centrality of compassion in the Gospels such as in the healings and the parables of the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan.  Look at the context of Jesus’ instruction to the Pharisees to go and learn what Hosea 6:6  (“I desire compassion, not sacrifice”) means in Matthew 9:9-13 and 12:1-7. Also, consider how we, like the Pharisees, allow devotion to the moral law and its human interpretations to negate love and compassion for others.

Another issue to look at with regard to love is whether love and justice are compatible. The book I am reading this summer is The Erotic Phenomenon by Jean-Luc Marion, a contemporary French, Roman Catholic, post-modern philosopher. Marion’s point is that the only assurance we have against vanity and emptiness (Eccl. 1:2) is to love.  Marion posits that all human transactions are ultimately based on reciprocity and justice – in any commercial transaction both parties give up something in order to obtain something from the other party and thus the relationship is just. Love is different because love draws its power from the fact that reciprocity, and thus justice, does not affect it. The lover simply gives love without any expectation of reciprocity, for once he demands a just return on his love, he ceases to love and simply becomes one part of a transactional relationship.  But think about whether there is any place for a concept of justice within a discussion of love. Rom. 5:8. For a pre-modern and Eastern perspective on this same issue see HERE. (Stephen Freeman, 3/24/2014) (There cannot be a contract to love. Human society as a contractual world is a world devoid of love.)

Dinner is at 6. The menu is macaroni and cheese. Hope to see you here.

Love is the fulfilling of the law, the end of the commandments.” Very excellent things are spoken of love; it is the essence, the spirit, the life of all virtue. It is not only the first and great command, but it is all the commandments in one. “Whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are amiable,” or honorable; “if there be any virtue, if there be any praise,” they are all comprised in this one word, — love. In this is perfection, and glory, and happiness. The royal law of heaven and earth is this, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.” Not that this forbids us to love anything besides God: It implies that we love our brother also. 

John Wesley, Sermon 17 – “The Circumcision of the Heart“, para. 11-12

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