One of the greatest message in the Holy Bible says we don’t owe anything towards anyone, but to love one another. In 1 Corinthians 13, we are taught the most excellent way of LOVE. Some believe love is complicated, although beautiful. In my opinion, the beauty of anything to the beholder is perhaps not that complicated. Therefore I think the word, complicated, is sometimes misinterpreted and classified in that context as something dubious, unpleasant or unstable instead of something which is difficult to analyse or understand. Example, you may (have) seen something like “in a relationship, but complicated” on Facebook. If you’ve come across such phrase, have you ever wondered why some people update their relationship status as “complicated”, and what they mean about that? No matter the kind of thoughts you have or may have on that, the purpose here is not to debate about it. However, to share with you an outline of the lessons I learned from studying 1 Corinthians 13.
From verse 1 to 2, what I understand is: in everything we do or capable of doing (i.e. talents we have, our status in society..), our greatness, respect and the like that defines us as a real person, are measured against our level of love – loving one another within our society, organisation, group or wherever we find ourselves. For instance, someone who has little and show love to others makes him/her greater person than someone who has plenty, but no love. Leading us into verse 3 with an emphasis on what we offer back to society or our organisation. It states that irrespective of what we offer, we gain nothing if we have no love. Example, if we tend to donate or give to charity as a reason to boast our reputation or take advantage of the tax system, then verse 3 is telling us that we stand to gain nothing because such behaviour doesn’t show (or qualify as) any acts of love and kindness.
Therefore, what do and don’t qualify as an act of love (and kindness)? Verse 4 to 7 guide us to the answer, which outline what is not love, and what is love. Let’s begin with the former (what is not love), then we end with what’s love. I restrict to present only a list rather than an in-depth analysis because each word is sufficiently good for another Bible study topic.
What is not LOVE:
– Envy (being envious)
– Arrogant (self-important)
– Boast (show off in a proud manner, self-praise)
– Self-seeking (insisting on your way)
– Irritable or resentful (being easily angered)
– Keeping record of wrongdoings
– Delight in (doing) evil.
What is LOVE:
– Patience (being patient)
– Kindness (being kind)
– Rejoicing with the truth
– Protection (to protect, guard)
– Trustworthy (to trust, respect)
– Endurance or perseverance (to persevere)
– Perfect (putting off partiality, fading away imperfection)
– In all, love never fails or ends (see verse 8).
The lessons drawn from verse 1 to 3 teach us that without love we are nothing and stand to gain nothing. If it’s still difficult to understand, verse 8 and 9 relate or sum it up in a simple way: prophesy and knowledge will pass away; tongues will cease, but love will never fade or end. In connection with verse 1 to 3, the statement helps me to understand that,
– Once a prophesy has been made or declared, it will surely come to pass.
– Similarly with knowledge, they’re constantly replaced with new breakthroughs. Therefore, knowledge will also pass away. In verse 9, it says we know and prophesy in part, but not in full.
– Tongues will cease either through death or sickness, even by putting all your ideas on paper, perhaps in a publication of a book, there will come a time your ideas will be replaced with new breakthroughs.
– Nevertheless, our love will never ceases to exist. Love never fails and has no ending. Even when we are no more, I believe our love will continue to live within the hearts of those who received our love and kindness.
For instance, if we have all or some of the capabilities as identified within verse 1 to 3: speak in tongues of men or angles, gift of prophesy, fathom all mysteries and knowledge; very prosperous financially, and physically strong or capable to undertake any hard work, couple with having love, then all of a sudden we lose all those things (qualities), we still have love. As a believer in Christ Jesus, I believe as long as we show love and kindness to one another irrespective who we are, and no matter what happens, we gain back love and kindness from others. Even if, you are not a religious person, I strongly believe you’ll agree with me that love is essential for humanity and beneficial for society. In the words of Dalai Lama, “when we feel love and kindness towards others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace”.
Almost there, 3 verses to go then we are done. From verse 10 to 12, we learn about perfection and imperfection, which is not just the ordinary negativity of being a perfectionist. It states that perfection fades or erases imperfection. My thought on that is, as we continuously practice acts of love and kindness (remember the saying, practice makes a man perfect), we gradually fade out difficulties in our lives. Example, it can be someone helping you to overcome your weakness etc.
Verse 11 teaches us that once we were a child, we spoke, thought, and reasoned like a child; and then gave up the childish ways once we became adults. And in verse 12a, it says we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Within this context, I relate as, when we were a child, we were in a manner of lacking sense or understanding of the environment we find ourselves in, but gradually we mature and develop a better focus to seeing the big picture – eg. understanding the perspectives of our society, able to figure out what we really want to do in life etc. The lesson here is that, the beginning of anything is always hard or difficult, but as we grow in showing an interest in it, we definitely fade away the imperfection. The same applies to showing acts of love and kindness, gradually we develop a natural habit for it. Then we get to fully understand the essence of love to humanity and the benefits it has over our lives, society, organisation etc. Verse 12b states that now I know in part, then I shall know fully even as I have been fully known. What I do understand from it is, by showing acts of love and kindness, we help others to know it (the way of love) in part, and as they gain that feeling of being loved, they also extend to reach out to others as they were encountered with love. Remember the quote from Dalai Lama: “when we feel love and kindness towards others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace”.
Finally, we are at the end of the chapter. A lot has been outlined above, ranging from what is love and not love to why we need to show love to benefit ourselves and society. In all, verse 13 teaches us that three things remain. They are faith, hope, and love. We need to have faith, hope, and love in everything we find to do, but the Holy Bible tells us the greatest among them is LOVE. Therefore, I want to encourage you, as God inspired me to write and share this material while I was studying 1 Corinthians 13, to practice and develop a habit of love and kindness to one another wherever you find yourself – at school, workplace, etc. Be strong and be good, for you never know who you are inspiring. Stay Bless; and if you’re a Christian, I want to invite you to take up the 3030challenge from Joyce Meyer to study God’s Word for 30 minutes a day for 30 days.