I started a sermon on 1Corinthians 13 like this, “Dave is patient, Dave is kind. He does not envy, he does not boast, he is not proud. Dave is not rude, he is not self-seeking, he is not easily angered, he keeps no record of wrongs. Dave does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Dave always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Dave never fails.” Then I laughed. Too many of the parts didn’t quite fit. The congregation laughed (a little too much, actually). My wife needed to stop laughing.
They knew what I was doing. 1Corinthians 13 is the love chapter. The Apostle Paul has been dealing with the problems in the Corinthian church for twelve chapters, and finally he stops and says, “now I will show you the most excellent way” (1Corinthians 12:31), and he writes about love.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. ~1Corinthians 13:4-8
Go ahead, put your name in there. The parts where you cringe highlight the places needing work. This is the way we are to love because this is the way God loves us. In fact, put the name Jesus in there and it reads just fine.
Paul sculpted this passage, choosing his words carefully, saying it just right, because love is the most important thing to get right. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1Corinthians 13:1-3). Love matters before anything else matters.
Heavenly Father, I am learning to love. Keep teaching me because You are perfect at love and there has been no greater display of love than the cross. Help me to be patient, to be kind. Keep me from envy and boasting and pride. Correct me when I am rude or self seeking or easily angered. Let me keep no record of wrongs. Change my heart so I do not delight in evil, but always rejoice with the truth. Teach me to protect and trust and hope and persevere. May I strive to be someone who never fails, but when I do, to get up and strive again, to do the next right thing, to always love.