A little experiment this week with the reflection. I had been wondering how easy it would be to create a video with minimum equipment and spend on software. Please note this is very much a first attempt. I have stumbled over my words at the start of the reading – I should have said – If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge……
Also in the second song – the logo covers some of the words. For me it is a learning curve and hopefully in the future we can develop this form of presentation to help “Making Jesus known to all” even beyond our own fellowship. Please feel free to comment and suggest changes
You may need to tweak the volume on the You Tube video itself. If you would rather read the reflection – it is in full further down the page.
Love A reflection
1 Corinthians 13
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.
For now, we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
This lockdown has come as a shock to all of us and it affects us in different ways. From those who are vulnerable and have to self-isolate because of age or underlying medical conditions; to those who serve in our NHS and who are at risk almost on a daily basis; to those who face financial difficulty due to them no longer working; to those who are unable to meet with their families and loved ones; and finally, to those who are only inconvenienced.
We as a Church have had to adapt to our changed circumstances. We can no longer meet together physically. But despite the lockdown restriction, what has struck me most, is the amount of love that continues to be shared and expressed, and which is expressed unconditionally and freely.
As Christians, we belong to the ‘Body of Christ’ or the ‘Church’, (1 Corinthians 12) and what sets the Church apart and defines the Church is Love (1 Corinthians 13)
Many of the books contained within the New Testament are ‘Epistles’ or letters that were written by the Apostle Paul to the churches he had visited on his missionary travels around Asia Minor and Greece.
Invariably the churches had either forgotten their ‘first love’ – namely Jesus – or they had lapsed into practices and rituals that were not “Christ Like”. And the church at Corinth was no exception.
The Good News Bible provides a succinct introduction.
‘Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians was written to deal with problems of the Christian life and faith that had arisen in the church which Paul had established at Corinth. At that time Corinth was a great cosmopolitan Greek city, the capital of the Roman province of Achaia. It was noted for its thriving commerce, proud culture, widespread immorality, and variety of religions.
The Apostle’s chief concerns centred upon various problems within the church such as divisions and immorality; with questions about sex and marriage; matters of conscience; church order; gifts of the Holy Spirit; and the Resurrection. With deep insight he shows how the Good News speaks to these questions’.
Chapter 13, which presents ‘love’ as the best of God’s gifts to his people, is probably the most widely known passage in the book.
Outline of Contents
Factions in the Church 1.10 -4.21
Sexual morality and family life 5.1 – 7.40
Christians and pagans 8.1 and 11.1
Church Life and worship 11.2 – 14.40
The resurrection of Christ and of believers 15 1-58
The offering for the Christians in Judaea 16 1-4
Personal Matters and conclusion 16 5-24
I have chosen ‘love’ as my reflection because of the close proximity of our 41st wedding anniversary. For any doubters, I did not have to be reminded – I am particularly good on dates!
Chapter 13 is very much the glue that holds the rest of the book together because without it, Paul’s advice is meaningless. Paul pulls no punches in describing what is wrong at Corinth. However, the advice is given in an attitude of humility. (See the opening words of Chapter 2 verses 1-5 when he preaches about the Crucified Christ).
Many people have pointed out that Chapter 12 ends with what should be the start of Chapter 13. Chapter 12 closes with “Set your hearts, then, on the more important gifts. Best of all, however, is the following way” (Good News Bible) and Chapter 13 opens with Paul revealing what the important gift is..
The chapter or at least from verse 3 onwards of course has an enduring significance in many weddings including our own and rightly so – it is a reminder of all that the wedded couple should seek to aspire to. However, the context of marriage is more “romantic” (Eros) as opposed to “spiritual” (Agape) love.
SPEAKING IN THE TONGUES OF MEN AND OF ANGELS 1-3
In this letter to the Corinthian church, Paul addresses issues related to the gift of tongues. Apparently, some Corinthian Christians counted speaking in tongues as the most significant of gifts, and had become prideful about this.
In his lists of gifts (12:4-10, 28), he places the gift of tongues and their interpretation last. He devotes the first half of chapter 14 to counselling the church about the gift of tongues. In that chapter, he makes it clear that the gift of prophecy is superior to the gift of tongues (14:2-5, 20-25). Elsewhere, he lists other gifts without mentioning the gift of tongues (Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-12).
Paul in typical fashion gets straight to the point in verses 1 and 2
English is sometimes an economical language in that ‘love’ can mean many things.
- Romantic or sexual love.
• A concern for the well-being of the other person.
• Or simple enthusiasm (“I just love food”).
The Greeks had 3 different words for ‘love’ all of which carried different meanings
- ‘Eros’ which is romantic or sexual love.
- Philos which is brotherly love, or friendship love, or companionship love.
- Agape which is sacrificial and is concerned for the well-being of the other person.
The first – Eros – is not mentioned at all in the New Testament. The second – Philos – is mentioned 55 times. For example, in Matthew 10:37 Jesus said, “Anyone who loves (Philos) their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves (Philos) their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me”.
And the third – Agape – is mentioned 253 times
Paul is not talking about just any kind of love. He is talking about Agape love, which is concerned for the well-being of other people and which acts to help them. Unless we have that kind of active, unselfish love, we are nothing. There are several gifts mentioned in these verses and all of them are useless if not done with the right attitude i.e. love. Note the recurring theme as I go through each verse
The first part of verse 3 suggests that this is giving away to the poor – food and drink to those who are hungry and thirsty. In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus reveals that these sort of actions are valued, and that the person who does them can expect a reward. Paul equates boasting with lack of love. Similarly the undertext in Matthew are the actions that are done without realising. Verse 40 says “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ In other words, what they did was done in Agape love.
The second half of the verse Paul suggests that sacrificial giving without love is useless. In other words you can’t ‘buy’ your way into heaven.
“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. “
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ In other words -in love.
And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,
LOVE BEARS ALL THINGS 4-7
“Love is patient” is to be long-suffering—to endure irritants without allowing one’s anger to lash out in retaliation. God is merciful and gracious and is slow to anger and abundant in loving (Hebrews 34:6)
God calls us to that same kind of long-suffering love for each other.
“and is kind” – It suggests being helpful—doing good works. The kindness involves action—stepping forward to solve a problem or to share a burden or to meet a need.
“love doesn’t envy” – the words suggest an intense desire for something that belongs to someone else—jealousy or covetousness or envy. A person who succumbs to envy cannot love the other person, because it generates such negative feelings. Envy and agape are like oil and water. They cannot exist together.
“Love doesn’t brag” the person who loves another with agape love will try to lift up the other person rather than boasting of his/her own accomplishments.
“is not proud” the person who loves another with agape love will try to build up the other person rather than trying to puff up his/her own reputation.
“doesn’t behave itself inappropriately” the word has to do with behaving “in an ugly, indecent, unseemly or unbecoming manner. The actions of the Corinthian Christians at the Lord’s Table are examples of this behaviour (11:17-22). Those who have food eat it while those who do not go hungry. Some of them become drunk on the communion wine. In doing these things, they show their contempt for the church and they humiliate the have-nots in their midst.
“It does not insist on its own way”. The person who loves another with agape love cannot at the same time be selfish and demanding of his/her own prerogatives. Agape love and selfishness are mutually exclusive.
“doesn’t seek its own way, is not provoked, takes no account of evil“. The word has to do with being highly irritated or provoked to anger. Not being irritable or resentful is related to patience. The person who is not irritable or resentful doesn’t have a quick temper—and doesn’t harbour resentments.
“doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness“ The person who loves with agape love will rejoice with those who are rejoicing and grieve with those who are grieving.
“but rejoices with the truth“ The one who loves with agape love will not rejoice in another person’s downfall, but will rejoice when the other person does what is right.
“bears all things” . means to forbear or to endure.
“believes all things” The one who loves with agape love is optimistic, and is disposed to believe the best rather than the worst about people.
“hopes all things” . The person who loves with agape love doesn’t give up easily on the other person. He/she can recognize that there is a problem, but hopes to resolve the problem. He/she maintains an optimistic, positive attitude rather than a pessimistic, negative attitude.
“endures all things” It suggests a defensive posture that endures and perseveres in the face of hardship.
LOVE NEVER ENDS 8-13
“Love never fails” Love will never come to an end, but the need for spiritual gifts is temporary
“For we know in part, and we prophesy in part“ (v. 9). Even though the gifts of knowledge and prophecy are God-given, they are nevertheless incomplete. God reveals what the person needs to know to carry out God’s purposes, but that is limited.
“but when that which is complete has come, then that which is partial will be done away with“ (v. 10). The Greek word can be translated “complete,” “whole,” “unblemished,” or “undivided.” When Christ comes again to usher in the kingdom of God in all its fullness, we will have no need for such things as prophecy, which constitute partial revelation for the time being. Such partial revelations will therefore come to an end.
“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child. Now that I have become a man, I have put away childish things“ Paul is contrasting the world as we know it now (which we experience as if we were spiritual children) with the world that is to come (which we will experience as spiritually mature people). Once that New Age comes to pass, the things that seem important to us now (such as prophecy and knowledge) will become totally unimportant.
“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face“. Once again, Paul contrasts what we experience in this age with what we will experience in the age to come. The Greek word can mean “looking glass” or “mirror.” We need to keep in mind that people in Paul’s day didn’t have the kind of high-quality mirrors that we take for granted today as mirrors were usually made of metal, and the reflections that people would see in such mirrors would be much less helpful
When Paul says that we see in a mirror dimly, he means that the spiritual awareness and insights that we enjoy now are but a dim reflection of the awareness and insights that we will experience in the age to come.
“Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, even as I was also fully known“ Once again, Paul contrasts what we experience now with what we will experience in the new age. We know imperfectly now, but in the age to come God will reveal the spiritual mysteries completely. Just as God knows us fully now, in the age to come, we will also know God fully.
“But now faith, hope, and love remain – these three. The greatest of these is love“. The Corinthian Christians, with their Greek heritage, prized philosophy, wisdom, knowledge, and mysteries. Paul, however, draws their attention to higher values—faith, hope, and love.
Faith and hope are important for the present, but won’t be needed in the age to come. For the time being, we know God by faith and have hope for the future. When God’s kingdom has fully come, we will know God face to face.
Love is timeless. It is as applicable now as when Jesus comes again. The primary difference is that we love imperfectly now, but will love perfectly then—even as God has loved us.
The short conclusion is that whatever we do – if we don’t do it in the Agape love of Jesus – then it is all a waste of time.
Dear Lord Jesus
We thank you for that unconditional love that you give us.
We pray that in everything we do – we do it in love not expecting a reward
We thank you Lord for new insights into your beautiful creation.
We thank you for the knowledge to develop new ways of keeping your people informed
We thank you for the new ways we have found to encourage one another
We thank you for being able to interact in a way we wouldn’t have down prior to this lockdown
Finally Lord we thank you that despite this lockdown we still have the three most important gifts Faith, Hope and Love