A few thoughts on 1 Corinthians 13

Although today, 1 Corinthians 13 is often chosen as a favourite for weddings, the apostle Paul, in writing his first letter to the congregation at Corinth, Greece was addressing some serious issues. Among other things, there appears to have been a division or some degree of conflict in the congregation.

One of the issues causing such division or conflict was that of human pride and sin. There seems to have been some congregants who thought themselves to be better than others. They may have come from wealthy families. They may have thought it was beneath them to associate with the poorer congregants. They may have thought that their education or their achievements in the workplace and community ought to give them certain privileges and entitlements.

In any case, the apostle Paul here in chapter thirteen reaches a beautiful crescendo in this often referred to as his “Love Chapter.” The issues may very well have been closely related to what Paul mentions herein: pride in speaking in tongues or languages, displaying prophetic powers, understanding all mysteries and all knowledge, all faith that brought impressive results, giving away of possessions, the giving of one’s body in some sacrificial (perhaps Paul had in mind marytrdom or being sold into slavery) manner. All of these things people may be tempted to take pride in—yet, without being motivated by and rooted in love, the apostle Paul says they gain absolutely nothing. According to Paul, none of these things, though seemingly impressive and valued, are not what in the end lasts. Love, on the other hand, lasts forever and is the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit.

What does the apostle Paul mean by love? The word he employs has a lot of baggage, it is in the Greek, agape. Agape love is different than romantic, sexual love (eros), or friendship and companionship (philos). Agape love is the greatest love of all in that it is not selfish, and is willing to count the cost by serving others whole-heartedly.

Paul goes on in this chapter to cite several examples of what agape love entails—if you haven’t read it before, I encourage you to do so.

Contemporary examples of agape love may include the following: anonymously being a generous benefactor—e.g., giving a large amount of money to a benevolent organisation without wanting others to know who gave the gift in order that the homeless may have a decent place to live, and funding education for the homeless to train them for employment so that they can be self-supporting. As a grandparent, providing childcare for a single parent mother. Visiting those in prison, hospital, seniors’ facilities, etc. Working without drawing attention to one’s self for a more just and humane society for every human being—with a special commitment to the weakest, most vulnerable citizens. Of course, in some nations of the world this is regarded as “criminal activity,” since it endeavours to remove despots, tyrants and dictatorial powers from office and replace them with humble, kind leaders who genuinely serve their people—especially the least, lost, last and forgotten in society.

Agape love also moves into the larger world that God created to care for: animals, birds, fish, whales, water, air, soil, etc. It lives with an ethic that there is enough for everyone when all of God’s creation is valued, respected and wisely, lovingly shared and cared for.

Agape love sees and celebrates the reality of the petition in the Lord’s Prayer: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.”

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New Year thoughts in different directions

New Year thoughts in different directions

The arrival of another new year brings with it many open doors of opportunity. The old adage, when you’re so far down, there’s only one way to go, up, may well describe the present state of the world.

 

On the international scene, Christmas and New Year’s headlines focussed on the conflict in the Middle East, the breaking of the six month truce between Israel and Hamas, and the bombings of Hamas military targets by Israeli planes. The psalmist’s age old lament-question, “How long, O LORD,” is as applicable as ever. The issues, of course, are as old as the days of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Isaac and Ishmael. Questions, criticisms, and advice are legion—however, solutions are still as enigmatic as ever. Fundamentalist and evangelical preachers with all of their eschatological scenarios are a dime a dozen. A Bruce Cockburn line comes to mind: “Everyone wants justice done on somebody else.” Or maybe a little more hope in a Leonard Cohen line: “Ring the bells that still can ring forget your perfect offering there’s a crack in everything that’s how the light gets in.” Maybe we all need to pray for more cracks and ring more bells. What is the international community—including the so-called moderate Muslim nations—doing about the escalating anti-Semitic rhetoric and the Holocaust denial conference of Iran’s Prime Minister? Remember, the Nazi movement also started with rhetoric and escalated into anti-Semitic political policies, which in turn, resulted in the Holocaust. Why is the international community criticising Israel to no end, yet failing to act to declare suicide bombings a crime against humanity? Israel has a right to exist in peace with her neighbours. Do her neighbours accept or reject this right? My hope and prayer for 2009 is that the peace movement among Israelis and Palestinians shall flourish, and the press focus more on what they are doing to make a difference in everyday life for both peoples.

 

On the national scene, we had a bit of a political crisis, with the threat of a coalition between the NDPs and Liberals, and the BQ promising their support. Most Canadians may not have voted Prime Minister Harper into parliament—since the voter turnout was rather pathetic!—yet, I think the majority of Canadians would consider such a coalition with a separatist party holding the balance of power rather dangerous. I empathize with the Governor General; she had a difficult decision to make; however I think she made the best one, considering the alternatives. Our M.P.s in Ottawa from all parties need to stop playing destructive political partisan games and consider the overall well-being of the nation—that’s what Canadians gave them a mandate to do, to govern responsibly in a minority situation by working together regardless of their political ideologies. The growing—statistics may not support this—violence, or at the least media coverage, is a concern for every Canadian. What are the circumstances and other factors that draw people into gangs and drugs? Do we need to be more proactive? How can we as a society meet the needs of people in order that they would not turn to gangs, violence and drugs? We all need to struggle with questions like this and work together for a more peaceful society. Rather than signs of despair, these are doors of opportunities, for where there is life there is hope and vice versa. Happy New Year and God bless us one and all!