Summary: Love isn't just fro weddings Paul is encouraging the church to live out of the fruit of self sacrificial (agape) love but he isn't ruling out using the gifts of the Spirit which God has given to empower the church for its mission to make disciples.
Love isn’t just for weddings: 1 Corinthians 12:31- 13:1-13
Reverend Wendy Gravolin St Thomas Anglican Church Winchelsea, Victoria Australia
We live in a culture that is obsessed with erotic & romantic love. Doing a quick search on the internet for a love song I quickly found list after list of songs. There were lists of the greatest ever love songs. Lists of wedding love songs romantic love songs. Even lists which promised you they could get or keep “your girl” for you! One of those lists claimed to name the five top love songs of all time! It seemed a pretty big claim so I checked it out. I’ll just run it past you and see what you think!
Number five counting down of course was the song from the movie “Dirty dancing”, “I’ve had the time of my life”
Next came, s song by someone called Adele, “Someone like you”, which is apparently a song about breaking up!
It gets worse the woman introducing the list warned us that the next “love song” was about abusive violent relationships!
It was “We found love”by Rhiannah. The next one was also about abusive relationships and was used in the film about an abusive relationship “50 shades of grey”. It was “Crazy in love” by Beyonce. And finally number one which you may have heard of if you were born before the turn of the last century! When it seems singers used to use last names. The number one love song of all time! Drum roll…….wait for it! Its ‘I will always love you” by Dolly Parton made popular more recently by the late Whitney Houston. The top love songs of all time??? Interesting claim! What do you think? Another list of greatest ever love songs put that number one at 31st!
When couples come to me to arrange their weddings I give them another list. It’s a list of bible readings suitable for their wedding service. Perhaps surprisingly it doesn’t seem to matter how many readings are on that list because it seems like about 8 times out of ten couples choose the reading from 1 Corinthians 13 that has just been read for us today.
If you are married, do you remember what reading you had at your wedding? Just in case Steve can’t remember we had Romans 12 the whole chapter!
Now I make no apologies for leaving that popular Corinthians reading on my list because it gives me a chance to talk about putting God’s love at the centre of all relationships. But we know that St Paul didn’t write it for a young couple preparing for marriage. Paul wrote this letter for single people, he wrote it for married people, he wrote it for young people and for old people. In fact he wrote it for all of the Christian believers who gathered together to worship God in a town called Corinth. In other words he wrote it to a church. And as he wrote thinking of that church the Holy Spirit inspired his words, so that they formed the very words of God that still speak to his church today. Because Loving isn’t just for weddings, its for everyone including the church of our Lord Jesus Christ who gather in Winchelsea today.
Paul knew nothing of different denominations the people who were Christians in any town were Gods people the church in that place. So I think he would be pleased that we are making an effort to worship together as brothers and sisters in Christ today from the Uniting and Anglican churches.
Yet Paul did know about divisions in the church and he is directing this letter at a very argumentative quarrelsome bunch of Corinthian Christians. Every bible passage has a context nd if we look at the context of this passage we find that Paul is in the middle of a discussion on the proper use of Spiritual gifts amongst God’s gathered people.
So this grand treatment of love flows out of his concern that they are abusing their spiritual gifts in that church by claiming that the different gifts made them extra super spiritual. Rather than actually realizing that gifts or charisms by their very nature are undeserved gifts from God!
These supernatural gifts were evidence of God’s grace and of his Holy Spirit’s presence poured out freely by God upon them. Spiritual gifts are not meant to be used to establish status, proving who is the greatest; who’s got the most spectacular extraordinary gift or who is the most spiritual amongst them. No! They are given to serve and build up the church empowering it in its mission. And that mission was then and is still to share the news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ to a world lost in Sin.