I’ve been reading Gordon Fee’s commentary on 1 Corinthians as part of my study for our current sermon series at Pleasant Bay. In a sort of pastoral aside summarizing chapter 13 (page 640), Fee suggested, "Perhaps that point could best be captured by putting one's own name in place of the noun love, and not neglecting thereafter to find a proper place for repentance and forgiveness."
I’m generally not a big fan of cute tricks like this; it usually comes off as a bit too precious for me. But this time I tried it. This simple exercise knocked the wind out of me.
It is certainly not out of bounds to do so with this passage. More than the sappy love poem about we might try to make it out to be with our cheesy plaques that we might see at a Christian bookstore or a card we might find at a Hallmark store… this passage is meant to be instructive. This definition of love was meant to correct errors in the ancient church in Corinth, and to set the standard of behavior for Christians throughout the ages. The text plainly challenges us, and calls us, to live in such a way… putting such love into action. We are called to this kind of Christ likeness.
Shall we today? If we were to read it with our names inserted, could we do so with a straight face and a strong voice? There might be moments when such statements resonate, but then there would also be statements that would sound pretty hollow (maybe something like a clanging cymbal).
Go ahead and read it… read it out loud, saying your name every place there is a blank. And where it could sound hollow, make it a moment of reflection, repentance and prayer. Where we fall short, let’s make these moments for faith to arise… allowing the Holy Spirit to convict us and call us to align ourselves again with God’s plan and purpose for our lives.
____ is patient, ____ is kind.
____ does not envy, ____ does not boast, ____ is not proud.
____ does not dishonor others, ____ is not self-seeking,
____ is not easily angered, ____ keeps no record of wrongs.
____ does not delight in evil but ____ rejoices with the truth.
____ always protects, ____ always trusts,
____ always hopes, ____ always perseveres.
____ never fails.
For more along these lines, listen to my sermon from today at Pleasant Bay, available here: http://pleasantbay.cedarpark.org/services