One of the promises typically made in even non-traditional weddings is the promise to love one’s spouse. Now maybe you are thinking, ‘well of course…they wouldn’t be getting married if they didn’t love each other.’ Indeed; but what do we mean when we say ‘I love you?’ Do we mean ‘you make me feel happy?’ Or do we mean that we feel warm inside when that person is around? Or perhaps we mean that this person is the most important person in the world to us. These are all possibilities. But I think a careful reading of 1 Corinthians 13 suggests something more.
1 Corinthians 13 is part of a letter St. Paul wrote to the church he started in Corinth. The Christians in the church at Corinth were fighting with each other, tearing each other up over a variety of issues. They had written to Paul about these problems and 1 Corinthians is Paul’s response. In 1 Corinthians 12, the issue Paul is addressing is that of spiritual gifts. It seems that certain Corinthian Christians have been boasting about their spiritual gifts, lifting themselves up because of the specific gifts they had that others in their fellowship did not have. In chapter 12, Paul affirms the importance of all the Holy Spirit's gifts to the body of Christ.
Paul finishes his instructions about spiritual gifts by telling the Corinthians to “eagerly desire the greater gifts.” Chapter 13 tells the Corinthians what those “greater gifts are: faith, hope, and love. But most of the chapter is devoted to describing what Paul considers the greatest of all the gifts: love. Paul clarifies the point he had been making in the previous chapter by telling them that none of their “important” gifts are worth a thing without love. Love, in fact, is the greatest of all the gifts God gives his people. So what is love? Stay tuned…..