In previous November weeks, we spent time trying to love and connect with God (Café Refill) and learning about God's love for us and others (The Parables of the Lost Sheep & the Prodigal Son - both in Luke 15). So on Tuesday we read from 1 Corinthians 13 - a scripture famous for describing love (and also for being read at weddings!):
After a semester of talking about faith, hope, and love, this passage seemed to be a fitting way to bring these three ideas together. While faith and hope are important and worthy of pursuing, and while intelligence and giving to others and kind actions are good things, Paul says that they are nothing without love. Because love is the greatest of all these things.13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
He goes on to describe what perfect love looks like, and while it seems like a "pretty" idea in theory, it's a lot more difficult to live out. We may consider ourselves loving people, but are we ^^this kind of love? We discussed in groups the parts of the scripture that we thought were feasible to accomplish, and the parts that were really challenging. Answers varied, but we all came to the conclusion that this kind of perfect love felt unattainable.
This kind of love, or "agape" as they called it in the Greek, was not meant to explain friend love, romantic love, or even our love for things like coffee and desserts and music... instead it was a word specifically describing God's love for us. Patient, kind, persevering, protective, trustworthy, hopeful, unfailing. The kind of love that we should spend our lives aspiring to live out, and trying to become more and more like. While we'll never love perfectly, we can love better. We can strive to be Christ-like with all of our words and actions and thoughts, and ultimately help others to see God's perfect love through us.