We often think of 1 Corinthians 13 as the Passage that is read at weddings. We look at it as an instruction for how to have a good marriage, and it is that. But When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, he did not write to a couple. He was not seeking to provide preaching material for weddings, or substance for premarital counseling. Instead he was writing to a church that was in need of guidance for their life together.
In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul writes about the membership of the body of Christ. He reminds the church that we are given many and varied gifts in the church, and that all are essential to the full life of the church. He does not want us to neglect, ignore, despise, or disregard any of the gifts that God gives in any individual. He wants to try to name those gifts and encourage them. But he also wants to remind all of God’s children that the greatest gifts are those that apply to us all.
He names these gifts in 1 Corinthians 13 as Faith, Hope, and Love. These three endure. These three are the true strength of the church.
We live in Faith, not judging as the world judges, not judging just by what can be seen, but judging also according to God’s promises. We believe in the value of forgiveness. We believe in the promise of new life. We believe in the possibility of miracles. We believe that the Spirit is given to us to counsel and guide and heal.
We also act in Hope. Our actions are not to be based in our estimation of what is the worst that can happen. Instead our actions are guided by what we believe God can make happen. We are open to possibility based in faith, and are willing to risk because of that faith. Our willingness to move in hope opens the doors to God’s possibility in our lives. It allows unlikely relationships to be built. It makes room for spiritual gifts to be developed and shared. It is the path of blessing that comes not from what we have, but from what God provides.
And all of this is founded in Love. Love is the basis in which God comes to us. 1 John 4 reminds us that we experience God in love, that it is through love that we know God. It is also through our living love that God acts through us and is alive in us. Without love, every other gift and effort is a clanging cymbal. It fails to communicate who God is. It fails to bear the presence of God. God’s heart is not in it, and God’s heart is not in us. But when we approach others in love, we are filled with the life of God. When we approach God in love, we discover the joy and beauty that give meaning to life. And when we remember that God approaches us in love, we know the nature of the salvation that God gives.
And so this is my prayer for this church for this year: “More Faith, More Hope, More Love; More God!” I pray that we would be guided in our planning by faith, hope, and love; that we would act in faith, hope and love; and that in our life together we would grow in faith hope and love. And that through all of this, we would come to know and appreciate more of our God who who gives us these greatest gifts.
So, when have you especially experienced these gifts in this past year? What does it mean for you to acts on these gifts this coming year? What is one concrete way that we can help share these gifts with each other? May these questions guide us as we seek to grow in Christ together.