You may be familiar with the words of 1 Corinthians 13: “Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not rude…” I have these words framed in my office. For a long time, they hung on the wall of the girls’ bedroom. We memorized this passage as a family a few years back. This past year I’ve spent hours thinking and praying about love.
Love as the ground of our being. Love as the only way to heal social divisions.
Love as the power that fuels the universe and fuels growth and life and transformation.
My mind went back to 1 Corinthians 13 again and again, but I realized I didn’t really know this passage in its context. I remembered a little bit about this letter to the early church in Corinth from my seminary days, but I decided to go ahead and read it again and think about what led to the soaring rhetoric that has made it onto my walls and into countless wedding ceremonies across the globe. The short answer is that the church in Corinth was a mess. People were bickering, sleeping around, accusing each other, arguing about everything, and just generally being petty and messy and sinful human beings. That’s the context.
It is out of this incredibly realistic portrayal of humanity that we receive Paul’s words, “And now I will show you a more excellent way.”
It is in the midst of yelling at my kids because they are late to camp again that I hear, “Love is patient.”
It is in the midst of the summer vacation with relatives who I am judging silently in my heart that the words, “Love is kind” apply.
It is in the midst of the regret of two glasses of wine and mindless entertainment last night that I hear, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”
It is in the midst of the mess that love enters in.