If I had to choose a favorite chapter from the New Testament it would be a tie between 1st Corinthians 13 – The Love Chapter – and John 14 – The Peace Chapter, or that’s how I think of it.
Everyone, Christian or not, knows 1st Corinthians 13, but just in case, here it is, English Standard Version:
The Way of Love
13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Sometimes teen-aged girls have this “puppies and flowers” view of love. It’s all about romance and prince charming and dreaming of a beautiful wedding day and practicing writing your married name over and over in the back of your biology notebook.
But we all know it’s more than that. Much more.
One little piece of advice we give to students when talking about the true meaning of love is this: Take 1st Corinthians 13:4-7 and replace the word “love” with the name of your “lover”. Does it still work?
4 Hubby is patient and kind; he does not envy or boast; he is not arrogant 5 or rude. Hubby does not insist on his own way; he is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 he does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Hubby bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
That is a tall order, and we all will fall short of that goal. But what a goal to aim for in our relationships, ALL relationships. Spouses, children, parents, friends, co-workers, enemies.? Are you serious?
Put away childish things, like pride, arrogance, stubbornness, jealousy.
So, what about John 14? It’s a long chapter, so I’m going to pull out the parts that give me peace.
14 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God;[a] believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?[b] 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
There’s a lot in there.
We live in a world where “peace” is impossible to achieve on our own. We’re human, and we have issues, right? How many of us walk around every day with troubled hearts? America is walking around right now with a troubled heart. Division, anger, evil. How do we get past the trouble to find the peace? The answer in John 14 is this: believe in something outside yourself, something bigger than yourself, someONE bigger than yourself.
For Christians, that someONE is Jesus. I’m a Christian, so what does this mean for me? Look to Jesus.
That next scripture up there, about doing works greater than those Jesus did while on Earth. Are you serious? Jesus performed miracles every day. He changed water into wine (I like that one!), he walked on water, he healed the sick, raised the dead, cured lepers, and the list goes on to the very end of His earthly life, when He Himself was raised from the dead.
So, another tall order. And this one sounds impossible.
Many years ago I heard Tony Campolo speak on this very subject, and I love what he had to say about it. Can we mere mortals perform the same miracles as Jesus? Probably not, although miracles do happen every day. You might call them coincidences, kismet, karma. I choose to see them as events in which God participates but chooses to remain anonymous.
But what can WE do that might even come close? Tony tells the story of traveling to Southeast Asia. As he walked through the airport he was approached by several young girls offering him their “services”. Here’s what he did: he gathered up several of them, took them to his hotel….and ordered pizza and rented some Disney movies. For one night, those girls got to be children again. For one night, it was slumber party time. They laughed, ate pizza and popcorn, watched movies, and got to know each other as human beings instead of sex slaves. It was one night, just one night. But, for that one night, they experienced a miracle.
His story didn’t end there, but this is enough for me to make a point.
I wonder if any of those girls knew anything about 1st Corinthians 13. If they had ever heard the “Love Chapter”. My guess is that, even if they had, the experiences of their daily lives didn’t come anywhere close to that definition.
What a world we live in.
And so, what’s the point?
Maybe the point is this: if we take the definition of love and start applying it to our relationships, miracles might start happening. Broken people healed. Broken marriages restored. Broken families reunited.
And aren’t they miracles?
Finally, let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Do not fear.
Sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes Humpty is so broken that there’s nothing to do except to sweep up the pieces and move on, and that can be scary.
Do not fear.
Sometimes the universe throws us a curveball.
Do not fear.
Sometimes we are asked to step way outside our comfort zone. Sometimes we’re pushed.
Do not fear.