Valentine’s Day is approaching! How will you express your love for others? Will you give a card, flowers, gift, share meaningful words or demonstrate an act of service?
I believe most would agree a wedding ceremony can be the ultimate expression of love. Picture this: a bride and a groom in their finest glory focused on each other and committing to a blissful life faithfully together for the rest of their lives. The day, the service, the reception and wedding night make up that expression of love to be celebrated by family and friends who witness and rejoice in the union.
But as many of us have learned: Love is more than a feeling or a one-day experience; it takes work.
I have been blessed to officiate many weddings and a common Scripture chosen to be read at the ceremony is found in 1 Corinthians 13. It is known as the “Love Chapter” and it is a poetic description of love. It highlights love’s nature in what “love is” and “is not.” Casually listening to the text celebrates familiar terms and gleeful explanations of how to work at love in relationships.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor 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.” (1 Corinthians 4-8a).
After reading this at the service, I look at the couple and crowd and see people nodding in idyllic agreement. There are so many great things to do and not do to keep love alive. The words seem to hang in the air as I then describe the context of why this passage was written.
While appropriate for a wedding it was addressed to a group of people who were not getting along. Paul wrote this letter to the church he started in Corinth. As a city, Corinth was, in essence, the ancient Las Vegas. People had a past there and it seemed like their old habits were rearing their ugly heads.
Yes, people’s lives were changed by the good news of Jesus Christ’s death and Resurrection and the opportunity for people to be made brand-new in Jesus. The problem with the church members was they had stopped working at loving each other and they were quarreling with each other. Even at church, people were serving other desires and needs rather than following Jesus.
Paul admonished the believers to embrace love above all and to let love be the natural overflow of their heart and evident in everything they do. In the perspective of marriage and relationships, isn’t this so true and needed?
Love is work and there is an intentionality needed to keep it alive. As Paul concludes the section, he prioritizes the importance of love, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (13).
Jesus expressed his love for creation as He provided a way to be in relationship with God when humanity was far away.
I believe the kind of love expressed in 1 Corinthians 13 illustrates a commitment to first receiving God’s love and then working at it to keep it alive. Who in your life can you bless with this kind of love and what will you do specifically today to work at love?
Frank Alioto serves as a pastor at Roots Family Church and a chaplain in our community.