When Paul talks about love, it sounds a bit lofty. Elevated, really. Almost perfection.
Which is odd, because he’s talking to a church that is anything but perfect. Those Corinthians could argue! About food, about worship, about… well, everything. I’m sure no one today would argue about anything trivial. Nooooo.
Paul has had about enough of their arguing, so he writes this poem. Or maybe he’s quoting a poem or song familiar to the Corinthians. That doesn’t really matter. What matters is that it’s about love. Love described in idealistic terms.
If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
If I were writing about love, expressed in community, it wouldn’t be so idealistic. I’d probably say things like: Love is hard; love is complicated and messy; sometimes love is almost impossible.
But Paul is wiser than I. He gives us a lofty, aerial view, so that when we get back on the ground we remember not just what love is, but what love is supposed to be.
Above the clouds of conflict and stress, we imagine the beauty, the simplicity, of loving each other despite our conflicts and differences. So that when our feet hit the dirt again, we have the ideal in mind as we attempt to put love into action.
The aerial view.
Love on the ground.
© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2013