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The Greatest of These

If I speak in tongues of human beings and of angels but I don't have love, I'm a clanging gong or a clashing cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and I know all the mysteries and everything else, and I have such complete faith that I can move mountains but I don't have love, I'm nothing. If I give away everything that I have and hand over my own body to fell good about what I've done but I don't have love, I receive no benefit whatsoever. Love is patient, love is kind, it isn't jealous, it doesn't brag, it's isn't arrogant, it isn't rude, it doesn't seek its own advantage, it isn't irritable, it doesn't keep a record of complaints, it isn't happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth. Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things. Love never fails. As for prophecies, they will be brought to an end. As for tongues, they will stop. As for knowledge, it will be brought to an end. We know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, what is partial will be brought to an end. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, reason like a child, think like a child. But now that I have become a man, I've put an end to childish things. Now we see a reflection in a mirror; then we will see face-to-face. Now I know partially, but then I will know completely in the same way that I have been completely known. Now faith, hope, and love remain-these three things-and the greatest of these is love. -1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (CEB)

So as we hear these words of 1 Corinthians Chapter 13, how many of you thought of a wedding that you'd been to, because there's a pretty good chance that you've been to at least one wedding where that was the primary text for the wedding. I would suggest that it's probably the most requested text when it comes to weddings, and there's some good reasons for that. Now, there's some that I think are a downside to, and some theologians and pastors would say that We need to rescue Paul's words from this romanticized idea of what love is between couples who are getting ready to exchange vows with one in others, because as I said with the kids, sometimes the idea of love, when we hear that word is just those stars and hearts shooting out of people's eyes and there to... So in love with one another. Well, that is one form of love, that form of love in Greek would be referred to as Eros, that romantic love, and eros is that that same word that is the root for erotic, and so it gives you the notion of the sensual, passionate type of love that people experience...

Well, that's not the love that Paul is talking about. In fact, the Greek language has four different loves that are referred to are, eros Doesn't actually occur anywhere in our scriptures, another form of love is referred to as storge, and storge is a type of love that parents have for children, that we have for family members and people that are really close to us. And so it's a deep and meaningful love, but that's still not the love that Paul is referring to. Now, another love that we do hear about and read about in scripture is philia, and this is friendship, love or brotherly love, these are people that are just really tight and think very highly of one another, but this type of love is also the one that we probably in our society, use very casually today, that if we were gonna pick a Greek word to use when we talk about loving our favorite movie or our favorite food... Well, it would probably be philia, because the thing about this type of love is that while it's an expression, the benefit or the benefactor of this love is usually the person that's offering it, that there's something in it for them, and they get something back out of it.

Again, not necessarily a bad idea of what love is, but the predominant understanding and the predominant word that we find in scripture, when it talks about this love that God is offering and calling us to is the word agape, and this is a selfless kind of love. A love that requires giving of oneself and sometimes at an expense, it's the kind of love that is referred to in that well-known passage, John 3:16, For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son. That that giving of God self, that giving of God's Son is a demonstration of this sacrificial love that looks at the needs of other people and says, What can I do to make a difference, how can I invest and pour myself out to make a difference in the lives of others. Well, that's the kind of love that God has offered through Jesus Christ, and it's kind of love that Paul is beginning to pick up on and talk about with all of the challenges and struggles that this church in Corinth was facing.

We could have actually started our reading at the end of Chapter 12, immediately preceding this, Paul has been talking at length about unity in the church, the church being one body and many parts, and a couple of weeks ago, we talked about spiritual gifts and the way that God equips people differently to come together for the good of the whole...