1 Corinthians 13
The most amazing thing about God’s love is how vast it is. The arms of the cross of Jesus reach out to enfold every person who has ever lived (no matter how bad they were), and all those still to come. We sinful humans could never love like that! We can even have problems showing loving concern for those closest to us in our own homes.
In the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians reading today, we heard a familiar text often read at weddings. It is a beautiful expression of God’s love, but the reality for us human beings is that it is difficult to build the other person up when we don’t get our own way. It is easier to work at nagging the other person in subtle attacks that lower their self-esteem.
Unfortunately, when we don’t get our own way it is hard enough to show the unselfish and loving concern to the people we are closest to in life, let alone showing loving concern to strangers. Jesus, on the other hand, gives an example of a person showing loving concern for a stranger in desperate need of help. We would all be familiar with the parable about the person who was robbed, then bashed up and left dying on the roadside of life. Three different people came past. Each one could have stopped and given the man some help. But it isn’t the pastor, or the church committee member who takes the risk to stop and reach out to give a helping hand. It is an indigenous person, a half-caste, like the Samaritans were. The Samaritan didn’t just give him a few dollars and wish him all the best, and go away feeling good about himself. He goes to all the trouble of loading the stranger onto his donkey, like a four legged ambulance, and takes him to the Inn. He pays for all the expenses in advance.
How unlike people in our modern society! Some would say it is stupid or even crazy to bother to do something like that. But that is the loving concern of Jesus for you and me and every person in the world! If in doubt, look again at the cross and the arms pointing out in every direction to go right round the world. The type of religion Jesus puts forward is a love that costs him everything. Jesus is the one who fulfils this beautiful chapter on love.
Jesus didn’t come into our world with fanfare, like a noisy gong or clanging cymbals. He came quietly in the still of night with a few animals and shepherds for company. Jesus doesn’t leave this world with a big send off or any national awards or medals. He exits via a public execution, a shameful way to go, and out in public for everyone to see. It is the cost of this love that reaches out to you and me.
Jesus doesn’t win people by using prophetic powers to impress them, or by having a smart answer to every question people might have. Jesus wins their love by changing places with people on the cross. Jesus has prophetic powers, and he understands all mysteries and all knowledge, but he wins people by his self-giving love that costs him everything.
The key point today is that we don’t fulfil this law of unselfish love, described so beautifully in this chapter. We really struggle to show loving concern to others. It is Jesus who fulfils this law of love for us.
If one wants to know what God is like, don’t look for the answer on Google or in the stars. Don’t look for the answer in nature even though it is God’s genius and his creative mind at work out there too. No, if one wants to know what God is really like, then look at the arms of Jesus stretched out on the cross. “God’s love never ends”.
In conclusion, listen to verses 4 to 7 from chapter 13, with the word ‘love’, replaced by ‘Jesus’.
“Jesus is patient and kind. Jesus is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Jesus does not demand his own way. Jesus is not irritable, and he keeps no record of when he has been wronged. He is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Jesus never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
And the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.