“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” 1 Corinthians 13:1
Yesterday I had the privilege of preaching at my church and one of the lectionary texts for January 30th was 1 Corinthians 13. So, I preached on love. I am taking this opportunity to continue talking about love because I personally think love and what it actually is, is something we need to understand.
As I said yesterday, the love Paul talked about in this passage, has nothing to do with sentimentality. It has nothing to do with feelings. It is not marital love, it is not the love we feel for our families, it is a fierce love that says I will choose to do the hard things. I will do what is right in each situation even though it is hard. I will choose to be uncomfortable if it means someone else will have the things they need in life. This love is a sacrificial love that is always considering the other…no matter who the other is. Again, as I said yesterday, it is a warrior kind of love that fights for the rights and needs of other people.
I think it helps our understanding when we realize that in our language, we have one word for love…it is: love. And this word encompasses everything. We say we love our family members, our spouse or life partner, we love our pets, we love our homes, we even say how much we love chocolate or French fries…but I would hope we don’t love chocolate or French fries in the same way we love our family or significant other.
But think about this for a minute, what if you were learning how to speak English and you want to know how to say how much you like chocolate…and then you ask how to say how much you like your daughter…and then you are told the words you use to convey your enjoyment of chocolate is the same as the word you use to convey how you feel about your daughter…It really doesn’t make a lot of sense that we use the same word.
In the Greek language, they don’t. They have different words for love. So, we lose a little bit in translation because we only have the one word. The word Paul uses is “agape.” You may or may not have heard that word before, but it means that we offer sacrificial love to others. Love then is a choice we make as we live and work in our communities. We offer God’s grace and mercy to everyone as we allow God’s love to flow through us out into our community. Love is a virtue we cultivate in our lives until love become who we are…it becomes our very character.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone chose to live lovingly? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone chose to offer love back to those who are spewing anger out of the pain they are experiencing in their lives? Because here is the thing: anger is a secondary emotion, and we act out when we are in pain for some other reason. Pain we don’t want to acknowledge and then that pain drives the negative emotions we spill out onto our families and into our world.
How much better would our lives be if we chose to love by dealing with the pain we have in our own lives? How much better would our world be if when people are dumping their negative emotions onto us, we absorb them, listening to the pain they are feeling for whatever reason, discerning where we might have triggered them, seeking ways to help…instead of throwing our own negative emotions back at them?
What a wonderful world this could be if we would only choose love.