Last week the lectionary took us to the ever popular love chapter in 1 Corinthians. Most of us have probably heard an exposition on this particular passage at numerous weddings. On Sunday we discussed the chapter in the context of being a gift to a community. What would 1 Corinthians 13 look like in the context of gifts? I offer some of our reflections:
Love is patient: Imagine the newish believer who suddenly discovers a passion to explain Scripture. He (or she) is not as polished as your favorite preacher on the conference circuit and therefore might be a bit long-winded or not-to-the-point, we are called to be patient.
Love is kind: Have you put yourself out on a limb? Have you experimented with a gift of love to someone? Maybe you’ve tried to encourage someone. Would you like for the person to be friendly? I would! And so we’re called to be kind
Love is not jealous: I can still remember wanting the gift of healing. It became an obsession. Unfortunately I canceled myself as a gift to a community when I became infatuated with someone else’s gift. Better to open your own than passively wishing you’ve got another person’s.
Love does not boast and is not proud: Whenever God starts to co-opt us into His activities the temptation arises to think that you’re the cheese. It’s in situations like this that ministries get the names of the gifted person instead of the Giver. Love moves in the opposite direction.
Love is not rude: This one links with the kindness command. It’s so easy to criticize and give negative feedback. One of my favorite Raymond episodes has Raymond invited to be a television host. He gives a thoroughly unspectacular performance. When he arrives back home his family waxes lyrical on his performance (even though it sucked). When he’s invited for a second time his dad pulls out the truth “Raymond, I could have farted a better interview than that.” Truth, yes. Rude, yes. That’s why we’re called to speak the truth in love.
Love is not self-seeking: In church circles there are a lot of hype on being a volunteer. It sounds pretty good but in the end volunteering is still a self-seeking word. I can volunteer of “my time”. When I forget that I’m a slave of Christ my serving becomes self-seeking and self-love. What is in it for me?
Love is not easily angered: In my native tongue, Afrikaans, this command is translated “isn’t touchy”. The gift is given for the community and therefore the right heart should be an openness to improve and stretch and grow. Say for instance I have a teaching gift and someone lovingly challenges me. Do I blow them of in anger in my over-sensitiveness? Love is teachable.
Love does not keep record of the wrongs: Let’s face it when we try to be a gift to someone else then we’ll make mistakes. Therefore some people, with the greatest intentions will hurt you and surprise! you will hurt others. A Jesus community should be a grudge-free zone.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth: Earlier in the letter Paul mentions that one of the members are having sexual relations with his stepmother. Here is where love’s tougher side comes in. True love confronts. Every community will have some of these tough interactions.
Love protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres: Imagine if all of us are enveloped in a community where we’re helping each other to become a gift to the community. That’s something to celebrate!
After our service we decided that we’re going to change one of the most-often used phrases in Christianity. Instead of asking “how was the service?”, we’re going to ask “how was your service?”. This question will force all of us back to the participatory symphony of being gifts to one another. It may just shatter the passivity and consumerism that’s so rampant today.
We would also like to develop a vernacular of defining ourselves as a gift rather than focusing on a function loose from who we are. Instead of asking “what is your gift?” we’ll ask “are you a gift?”