READ: 1 Corinthians 13
BACKGROUND: “The Love Chapter!” This is probably the most commonly read passage at weddings since it talks about love very poetically and powerfully. It’s important to remember here that it comes right in the middle of a larger section of the letter where Paul is talking to the church in Corinth about how to live together in community. The big idea of this passage, then, is that love – the kind of love Paul describes – is what makes communities work and what makes them worth being a part of!
THINK: Saint John Chrysostom was one of the greatest thinkers, writers, & pastors who shaped the church in it’s early years. He lived in the 4th Century, and in a message about 1 Corinthians 13 he highlighted what it means that love is patient and what it looks like to live a life of patience borne in love. I love what he had to say. The following is my translation of Chrysostom’s words:
“Thus, having showed that faith, knowledge, prophecy, tongues, gifts, healing, perfect life, and martyrdom of no great advantage if love is absent, Paul next makes an outline of the matchless beauty of love, adorning its image with the parts of virtue as with a sort of colors and putting together each part of the painting with exactness. We ought not hastily pass by the things that Paul says about love here, but instead examine each one of them with great care, in order that we might know both the treasure which is the thing (love) and also the art of the painter (God). Think about where Paul began and what he set out as the first and foremost cause of the excellence of love. What is it? Patience. This is the root of all self-denial. A wise man (Solomon) also once said, “A patient person is a person of great understanding, but the impatient person is mightily foolish.”
And comparing love too with a strong, fortified city, he said that it is more secure than that. For love is both an invincible weapon and a sort of impregnable tower, easily getting rid of all challenges. And just like a spark falling into the ocean does the ocean no harm but instead is easily quenched, in the same way whatever unexpected thing comes upon a patient soul quickly vanishes without even disturbing the soul. For it is true that there is nothing as impenetrable as patience. You may talk of armies, money, horses, walls, arms, or anything else, but you will name nothing like patience! For the person who is surrounded by all of those worldly things is often overcome by anger and acts upset like a worthless little child and fills everyone around with confusion and storms. But the patient person is settled like a ship in a harbor and enjoys a profound calm. Even if you surround this person with loss, like a rock they are unmoved, and even if you bring insult upon them, like a tower they are unshaken, and even if you bruise and beat and whip this person, you have not wounded their strength.
Yes, this is patience. Patience means having a kind of long and great soul. For that which is long is also called great. But this excellence is ultimately born of love, a love for everyone including those who have love to give back but also to all those who enjoy the benefit of being loved without being able to give anything back.”
ASK: Am I patient? Am I loving? When people interact with me do they see the type of love that Paul writes about in this chapter? What would it look like – how would my life be different – if I was defined by the kind of rock-solid patience borne of love that John Chrysostom describes here?