Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
1 Corinthians 13. What a beautiful passage to read at a wedding or at another event when a family member is being celebrated. I do hope that we all can speak in love, act in love, and keep our focus on the characteristics of love. Yes, we need to be told to be patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not arrogant, not rude, to allow others to have their way, to be not irritable, not resentful, rejoicing with the truth, bearing all, believing all, hoping all, and enduring all, with everlasting love.
In some of our Bible studies recently we have been studying the distinction between law and gospel. Here we are confronted by the law. We are told what to do. And rightly so, for we should all strive for love. But we also need to remember that a prime characteristic of the law is that it always accuses us. That’s not the only thing it does, but it always does do that. How does this teaching of love accuse us? Quite plainly because we don’t do it perfectly. We may be told by our pop culture that love is our religion, that all we need is love, that true love is the thing worth living for. Of those three statements, only the last one is true. And true love is not something I can give you or that you can give me. It will always break down at some point. The Bible has language to describe that. It’s that we all have a sinful nature. And what do we do? We act according to our nature. Though we try not to, and sometimes we try very hard, we will eventually end up sinning against one another. In a common statement of confession, Christians confess that we have sinned against God in thought, word and deed, in what we have done and in what we have not done. We have not loved God with our whole heart and we have not loved our neighbor as ourselves.
The fact is, we can live very kind, friendly, helpful, and moral lives while still failing in this respect. It only takes a little bit of failure. As we think about it in these terms, 1 Corinthians 13 doesn’t draw us a very good picture of ourselves, but it does draw a great picture of God and His love. He is the one who will never fail. He will never sin against us in any way. His love is perfect in all regards. And it is to that love which we flee for protection. When we fear, when we doubt, when we are troubled by others, when we are troubled by ourselves, we look to God and His perfect love.
As long as 1 Corinthians 13 is about us, it is law and it will condemn. As soon as it is about God, it is gospel and will bring forgiveness, life, and salvation.
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