In one parish the girls in the youth group told me that 1 Corinthians 13 was their school reading. In another parish and referring to a different school the girls in the youth group told me that 1 Corinthians 13 was their school scripture reading. Today I wonder if our schools have selected scripture readings as they seek to be all things to all people, but is that the cynic in me talking?
In 1 Corinthians 13 the author, Paul, introduces the theme of love just at the right time, after being critical of the local church. Love can mean so many different things. Some people here might remember the free love movement of the 1960’s. Was that about love or about breaking down moral standards of behaviour?
The church in Corinth had wandered from Christian standards. There were factions, the misuse of Christian liberty and an abuse of spiritual gifts. Paul had been correcting the Corinthians, but then decides to offer a positive model of how the church should exist, which was quite a contrast to their model.
Have you heard that the Greek language had more than one word for love? There was eros, which was the love of deep desire and sensuous longing. You won’t find this word in the Bible, but in The Song of Solomon we read of erotic love. The word storge is the love that exists between members of a family. Again, this is not found in the New Testament, but the opposite astorge is in Romans and elsewhere. The two forms of love that we are familiar with from the scriptures is philia and agape. Philia is brotherly love or the deep love of friendship. An example is “love one another with mutual affection” Ro 12.10 Agape love is selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love. It is the love expressed towards us through Jesus. It implies loving when there is nothing worthy to evoke love. This is the word Paul used in chapter 13 of his first letter.
So, when we think of love as romantic and that 1 Corinthians 13 is appropriate for weddings please note that the original intention was referring to a very different love.
The final verse is “And now faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” And Margie likes to remind me that in heaven only love will exist, because the other two will have been fulfilled.