Happy Singles Awareness Day, S.A.D., or if you are more patriotic, Happy Arizona Statehood Day. If you do not have a valentine, then now you know what you can celebrate each year. You’re welcome.
On this day of love, let’s take a second to look at one of the most famous passages on love found in scripture. You hear it at every wedding, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Love is patient, kind…blah blah blah.
The first thing I want to point out is that Paul wrote this passage to a church that was extremely divided theologically. There were two factions, one group were hedonists. They believed Jesus had freed them to do anything. Specifically, pursuing pleasure is the highest aim.
In contrast to this was the second group, who were legalists, devoted to rejecting all things involving pleasure. They were repulsed by the Corinthian society.
When you read 1 Corinthians again, look for these two groups and ask, “Who Paul is addressing?” Is he talking to hedonists or legalist? Is he telling the readers where they should abstain from something or where they should engage in something?
The hedonists needed to stop doing things that were clearly a violation of God’s law. The legalists needed to stop making laws that went beyond the law God had given.
The hedonists believed all sexual pleasure was good. Likewise, the legalists believed all sexual pleasure was bad. Both groups missed the point of how to deal with their culture that was full of sin and secularism.
The truth of the matter is you should neither indulge in the culture’s vices, nor can you ignore the culture you are in, and make it impossible to engage with people.
The analogy I use with my students in the classroom is with R-rated movies. If we were divided as the Corinthians were, there would be two sides. While one group says all R-rated movies are okay to watch, the other group says that watching R-rated movies is bad.
Indeed, Paul would say both statements are wrong, that the answer depends on several factors. First, we must consider the person; second is the content of the media, thirdly the context of the situation, and finally the heart or intent of the viewer. Undoubtedly, blanket statements are never helpful when dealing with grey areas in our culture.
Dealing with the Culture
Moreover, the Bible doesn’t say anything about R-rated movies. Hence, it is foolish then to say, “I can watch whatever I want.” Likewise, it is equally foolish to say, “I should avoid all R-rated material because our culture is sinful.” This is what we call a moral grey area and we then must follow guiding principles. Furthermore, the letter of 1 Corinthians is a great book to study and discover how Christians should navigate a secular culture.
With all this said, we arrive at 1 Corinthians 13. The answer to all their division is this passage on love. How should we treat each other and what should our culture see in us? Read this passage and ask yourself, “Do I treat my brothers and sister in Christ this way? Would my culture look at me and see this?”
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
In addition to this, you should read verses 1 to 3 before it, and 8 to 13 after it. In context, he seems to be addressing the misuse of theology on both the hedonists and legalist. Speaking in tongues and having knowledge are meaningless without the expression of love Paul defines.
Therefore, on this valentine’s day, may you show love. Not just to those who are close to you, but also to those who are challenging to love.
In Truth & Love,
Matthew J Diaz
Featured Image: Usbkabel,
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