I’ve been pondering what’s often called “love chapter” of the Bible – 1 Corinthians 13. Couples like to include it in their wedding ceremonies; after all, the day is all about “love, love, love, love, love.” And quoting from the Bible does give the event an appropriate tone of spirituality.
Recently, I heard a speaker who suggested taking a different approach for considering this passage, one that forces us where the proverbial rubber meets the road.
First, in case you’ve had a memory lapse, or are honestly not familiar with the passage, here’s the portion of the chapter most frequently recited before the bride and groom:
“Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, is keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
(1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
Doesn’t reading that make you feel all kinds of warm and fuzzy? We tend to view the love that’s described in romantic or affectionate terms. However, the Greek word used here is “agape,” which refers to a selfless, sacrificial, unconditional form of love, A love that isn’t governed by feelings of the moment.
The speaker encouraged listeners to replace each use of the word “love” with your own name. For instance, in my case, the passage would read, “Bob is patient, Bob is kind. Bob does not envy….” That, I found, gives these verses a strikingly different meaning and impact.
By inserting my name – or your name – in place of love, it forces a bit of introspection: Am I patient? Am I kind? Am I not envious, or boastful? Am I proud? Am I self-seeking? (Are you feeling convicted yet?)
Reconfiguring this famous passage with our own name brings these characteristics, as a sports network used to say, “up close and personal.” Am I easily angered? Do I keep a record of wrongs? Do I delight in evil, rather than rejoicing in the truth? In my expressions of love, am I always protecting, trusting, hopeful, and persevering?
What if our answers to some of these questions are “no” when they should be “yes,” or vice versa?
As we survey the world around us, it seems love is quickly becoming overcome with hate; distrust replacing trust; despair overriding hope; quitting a more common choice than perseverance. What can we do about it, besides feeling guilty if we’re not patient or kind? Or if we’re prone to anger or letting our memories becoming historically hysterical in our relationships?
While putting this together, I happened to listen to an old Michael Jackson song, “The Man in the Mirror.” Regardless of what you think of the late pop artist, the lyrics have great application for what we’re talking about. Some of those are:
I’m staring at the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways…
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change.
If we’re lacking in any of the love traits, perhaps it’s time to take a look at ourselves – and then, make a change. Better yet, ask the Lord to start making those changes in us, because the Scriptures promise, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Then, as we participate with Him in the transformation process, we can realize the truth of the closing verse of the love chapter: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
* * *