While many people think of 1 Corinthians 13 as a wedding scripture, a wedding is probably not the most appropriate place for the passage to appear. At first glance it is a definition of Love, and while that is true, it is not a love that is achievable among humanity. This love is a special love that is between God and us! We know this for many reasons, but the two main reasons can be seen in the words that are used: “Agape,” a term reserved for a Godly Love, and not “Philo,” the temporal love which I have written on recently. The other is contextual.
Being bold, I would argue that to take Chapter 13 in isolation of 12 is to remove the bulk of the meaning of the passage because you remove the relationships which make the love described in 13 so powerful. Looking back on Chapter 12 quickly, we see how God gave us each individual gifts, but with those gifts came responsibility. That responsibility was to use that gift in the best way possible and, more importantly, to use that gift to lift up the community. Going into 13, what we see is the introduction of the concept of Agape love. If you really read this closely you begin to recognize that what is giving the “power” to all of the gifts is God’s love, without which everything is temporal, thus will come to an end.
After graduating from high school, my church sent me on a summer mission to Sissiton, South Dakota. My partner in this mission was the honorably retired Dakota Pastor Sid Byrd. Sid and I had many interesting discussions. Sid was a proud Dakota man who was raised and served in a Lakota community. One of the most fascinating stories was about the “Indian schools” which I had never known about before. Many books have now been published on this travesty. For Sid, what I remember most is how frustrated and sad he got when when he talked about this time. He still could not understand how what went on in the schools was supposed to be civilizing Lakota children was actually designed to strip identity from the individual.
He told me how he tried to come to understand how a Christian people could do such a thing until he realized that it was not a Christian people doing it. Rather, it was fearful, power-hungry people hiding behind their faith. While they used language of love and creating a better world, their actions were not of love because they did not honor how God had created the Lakota people to be. Sid pointed to many problems on the reservations that are a direct result of what that time did for the culture and community.
Without Love at the core, whatever we do will become at best futile and at worst destructive, destroying lives and devastating generations. This is because when we do not let God live in the midst of our choices and works, ultimately we are pursuing our own selfish wants and desires and not God’s.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen