Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude… (1 Corinthians 13:4)
When I was in college, one of my non-religious friends tried to tell me that this passage was so famous that it is basically secular now. Umm…?
Lord knows we tend to use it completely out of context, mostly for weddings. But this chapter is an essential passage of scripture and one that does not speak about romantic love at all.
Remember that in Greek, there were many kinds of love. Specifically, there was a drastic difference between “eros” – the love of cupids – and “agape” – the love of friends or siblings (loosely translated). Though our culture has forgotten this, by which I mean even our pop Christian culture, Paul is speaking not to individuals or couples, but to the church.
Yes, love is meant to govern all of our relationships. However, in this case, the love of individuals and couples is meant to be an extension of the full body of Christ, not the other way around.
So picture this: a community that shows patience, kindness, and does not display envy or boasting or arrogant or rude behaviors toward one another. That is quite a picture. And we know that the church does not always embody this the way they should.
Yet that is the standard.
It is also the paradigm by which we are to measure ourselves and our leaders, in every realm of life. It is the model through which we are called to hold one another accountable – all while not living into the negative aspects.
So the real question is this: how well are we living into Paul’s vision? How are those in leadership roles living up to this picture? Where do we need to speak truth to power that has forgotten its love-begotten origins?
It begins with you and me.
It starts when we seek after this kind of living for ourselves. It takes flight when we honor one another by holding each accountable. It encompasses all of who we are when we no longer remain silent in the face of anything that does not fit this paradigm.
So work on patience and kindness. Let go of envy and boasting and arrogance and rudeness. It will be a life-long process. But love is always worth fighting for.