Good ol’ 1 Corinthians 13. I know and love this chapter, but it’s been a while since I’ve read it in context and gone on to read chapter 14.
1 Corinthians is kind of a wild ride, because we’re reading a letter that Paul wrote to certain people at a certain time in culture in a certain place, and he’s making bold, seemingly generalized statements. My Bible commentary speculates that because women didn’t receive the formal religious education that men did, they would have more questions during the church service. To scale back on interruptions and divisions (come on, you’ve all been there in group gatherings), he instructed women to ask their questions to their husbands later. Instead of flaunting their Christian freedoms, because in Corinth, women would not have been allowed to question men, but in the church, God made them equal. I believe Paul’s words here were aimed to promote unity. I still have “but what about the single ladies!” questions, and a little bit of a chip on my shoulder (because men interrupt at church meetings too, okay!). But, in the end, it doesn’t really matter. I don’t go to the church in Corinth, and Paul’s not talking to me here.
But did you read chapter 13? God is love. And all those characteristics he’s asking of us listed, he offers us. He’s patient with us, he’s kind, he’s never rude or irritated with us, he doesn’t keep a list of ways we’ve failed him. I’ve been up for, like, 40 minutes and have managed to fail in all of those areas already. He doesn’t give up on us, he believes the best in us, love wins out. The more my understanding of God’s character grows, the more my doubt and questions that arise when reading Scripture shrink.
I also remind myself that God doesn’t ask us to do things that Jesus didn’t do. Jesus humbled himself more than we will ever have to. He knows about the cultural pecking order, social class and social norms. He knows how fickle they are and how someone always loses out. He extends the gospel to everyone. Man, woman, slave, master, etc etc. There is no sliding social scale with him. And that’s where my true identity lies: with him.
Love is a choice. It’s like a body suit we should be shrugging into every morning. We can not hit all the tick marks listed in 13:4-7 without Christ. He helps us set aside our natural desires so that we can love without expecting anything in return. The more we become like him, the more love we will show to others.
The attribute of love that jumps out to me the most is “it is not irritable”. Maybe because I spend most of my time with a pretty unreasonable 3 year old, but that one is hard! People are irritating. They don’t use their turn signal, they tell slow, boring stories, they don’t know exactly what I meant when I mumbled half a sentence from the other room, they use poor grammar, they send me the same hospital bill twice and they don’t anticipate my every single need. I need to adjust my expectations. I am expecting every human action to revolve around me, meet my needs, make my life easier or entertain me. When that fails, entitlement and irritation flare up from head to toe.
Today, when you find yourself getting irritated, responding rudely, or jumping to the worst conclusion about something, ask yourself: What are my expectations right now? Are you loving someone with expectations? That’s not godly love.
Pause and thank God for the perfect ways that he loves us. Let’s repent of the infinite ways we fail to love him, each other and ourselves and today, posture ourselves to love selflessly today.