Last time, in our 30 Days of Paul Reading Challenge, we ended with Paul telling us that he would show the Corinthian followers of The Way of Jesus a “way of life that’s best of all” (1 Corinthians 12.31; NLT*). Today, we see what that is!
Often referred to as the “Love Chapter,” I’m sure many of us have heard or read 1 Corinthians 13 at weddings. But, to me, that misses Paul’s point. Paul isn’t referring to romantic love in this chapter. Paul insists that love — the type of Love that is G‑d — is the foundation of everything. Whether it’s speaking or having visions and understanding mysteries or even giving one’s life for someone else, if whatever we do isn’t based in G‑d’s Love, then it’s a wasted effort.
A number of years ago, I conducted an experiment. It wasn’t a very deep experiment, but it was life changing, to say the least. Taking 1 John 4.8 as my foundation, “G‑d is love,” I exchanged the word “love” in verses 4-8 for the word “G‑d.” Here’s a loose rendering of those verses:
G‑d’s patient and kind.
G‑d isn’t jealous or boastful or proud or rude.
G‑d doesn’t demand G‑d’s own way.
G‑d’s not irritable, nor keeps records of being wronged.
G‑d doesn’t rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
G‑d never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through
G‑d never fails.
How many of us think of G‑d in this way? How would it change us if we started to understand G‑d like this? How would it change our view of the world? Paul finishes out the chapter saying temporary things pass away but love lasts forever. How would the world change if we started to look at each other and all creation this way?
In Chapter 14, Paul brings up what’s been referred to as an “order of service.” That is, each person should contribute to communal worship. He states, “When you meet together, each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. All these things must be done to build up the church” (14.26). Note that, each person. Not just the men. Not just the women. Not just the clergy. But “each one.” I know that later in this chapter, “Paul” states that women should be silent (14.33-35), but this is a contested passage. And rightly so, in my opinion. It just doesn’t line up with what Paul had just stated nor what he says elsewhere (Galatians 3.26ff; Romans 16) nor his own experience (Acts 18.18ff; 1 Corinthians 16.13ff). So, even if we take this passage as actually coming from Paul, there’s obviously another way of interpreting it given all the evidence. I’m happy to leave it as a cultural issue and not a “universal truth.” Besides, even those who maintain that Paul really meant this, limit it only to women in leadership roles, which is something the text just doesn’t limit.
Furthermore, for me, this passage of an “order of service” really can’t be maintained in our huge services today. How can “each one” contribute to the overall building up of the church? It’s simple; they can’t. It’s only when we see this taking place within a very small, home church type of setting does Paul’s admonishment make sense. Some would disagree, but that’s the way I see it.
How about you? What would it mean to our neighborhoods if we stopped having these huge churches and had small, home meetings? What would happen if we no longer treated the church like a business and more like a family?
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from The Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.