Love Required

1 CORINTHIANS 13:1-13 

If I speak in tongues of human beings and of angels but I don’t have love, I’m a clanging gong or a clashing cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and I know all the mysteries and everything else, and if I have such complete faith that I can move mountains but I don’t have love, I’m nothing. If I give away everything that I have and hand over my own body to feel good about what I’ve done but I don’t have love, I receive no benefit whatsoever. 

Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints,it isn’t happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth.Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things. 

Love never fails. As for prophecies, they will be brought to an end. As for tongues, they will stop. As for knowledge, it will be brought to an end. We know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, what is partial will be brought to an end. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, reason like a child, think like a child. But now that I have become a man, I’ve put an end to childish things. Now we see a reflection in a mirror; then we will see face-to-face. Now I know partially, but then I will know completely in the same way that I have been completely known. Now faith, hope, and love remain—these three things—and the greatest of these is love. (CEB)

LUKE 4:21-30 

He began to explain to them, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it.” Everyone was raving about Jesus, so impressed were they by the gracious words flowing from his lips. They said, “This is Joseph’s son, isn’t it?” 

Then Jesus said to them, “Undoubtedly, you will quote this saying to me: ‘Doctor, heal yourself. Do here in your hometown what we’ve heard you did in Capernaum.’”He said, “I assure you that no prophet is welcome in the prophet’s hometown. And I can assure you that there were many widows in Israel during Elijah’s time, when it didn’t rain for three and a half years and there was a great food shortage in the land. Yet Elijah was sent to none of them but only to a widow in the city of Zarephath in the region of Sidon. There were also many persons with skin diseases in Israel during the time of the prophet Elisha, but none of them were cleansed. Instead, Naaman the Syrian was cleansed.” 

When they heard this, everyone in the synagogue was filled with anger. They rose up and ran him out of town. They led him to the crest of the hill on which their town had been built so that they could throw him off the cliff. But he passed through the crowd and went on his way. (CEB)

Grace to you and peace from God our creator, Jesus Christ our redeemer and friend and from the Holy Spirit our sustainer and guide.

When Jesus said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21) the people assembled must have been so excited. These Jewish men in the synagogue must have been thinking “YES! FINALLY! Something is going our way!” Everyone was amazed at the wonderful things they were hearing. It got their hopes up, but they didn’t really understand what they were hearing. And that is a dangerous cliff to stand on. 

You see, they were well aware of their status as ‘the chosen people.’ They might have been poor. They might have been under the Roman rule. But they were still the chosen people and nothing and nobody could take that away from them, by golly. And then Jesus came along and brought up these foreigners, the widow of Zeraphath and the Syrian general Namaan, implying that God passed over the widows and lepers of Israel to make a statement. God healed these foreigners to make the point that God’s goodness isn’t just for the chosen people. It is for all people. When Jeremiah was called to be a prophet, he was called to be a prophet to the nations. He joined a long line of prophets who revealed God’s goodness and power to the nations; Egyptian and Babylonian and the Ninevites and many more. Israel was the example and the source through which the whole world might know God’s love.

And that’s just the thing. God’s love is for everyone. Jesus healed without asking for background checks. There was no DNA testing. Jesus fed all who came out to hear him preach. There were no separate lines for Jews and for Greeks. The poor heard good news. The oppressed walked freely. The confined were released. Life was GOOD with Jesus around. A rising tide floats all boats. 

That’s what Paul is writing to the Corinthians about. All the gifts that have been given them—and there were many for they were a gifted community—were for the common good. They were for the good of all people. The gifts were given to the people that they might bless others. That’s why love was required. The gifts were meant to be blessings. Having a gift is just an advantage, one might even say a privilege, unless love accompanies it. 

The people in the synagogue listening to Jesus were astounded and impressed. They were raving about Jesus. “He is so gracious.” “He is such a powerful speaker.” and “To think of it, he’s from our home town! We know his folks!”

They had Jesus among them, but they did not have love… at least not for all people, and so they couldn’t even hear Jesus’s best good news. When Jesus brought the foreigners into it… well, that was too much. It was THEIR moment. And no outsiders were going to be stealing it. They were no longer patient or kind with Jesus. They became arrogant and rude. And whether they really wanted to kill him on the edge of that cliff or whether they just wanted to scare him, they were unsuccessful. You see, Jesus doesn’t scare easily, because Jesus is love. Love doesn’t scare. Love drives out fear, in fact. In fact, love puts up with all things (ie patient), trusts God in all things, finds hope in everything, endures all things—everything life can throw at a person—love can handle. Love endures it all, even all the way to the cross. 

And so even now, as change confronts us yet again, we look to God for guidance to keep us on course. And of course God provides it. The key is to remember that you are loved because you are God’s people. Remember to be kind because all people are God’s people. Remember to love because love drives out fear. 

You love God. It didn’t take me long once I came here to figure that out. You love each other. And it didn’t take long to figure that out either. You take care of each other. Spreading that love everywhere we go is easy once you are confident you will never run out of it. God’s promise is you will never run out of it and that nothing can separate you from it.

So in this moment of silence, ponder the wonder of God’s love. It is a well that will never run dry.

…silence for reflection…

Holy God, come into our hearts and increase our faith. Inspire us in serving your people and being the church for the good of the world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible


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