1 Corinthians 13 Revisited

It’s interesting to note how Paul wastes no time in likening love as the most powerful expression of intentional devotion in verse 1. Often, inspirational homilies begin 1 Corinthians 13 at verse 4, immediately jumping into intimate details, without explaining why framework is equally essential. But Paul contrasts this tendency by shedding light on love’s framework before guiding the reader on a tour into the heart of God’s love, while also enhancing the passage’s structure (i.e. verse 1-3 bookend s verse 4-12 with verse 13).

Perhaps the most important takeaway from this “prelude” is: God’s love is required to be alive. Without love, without the most authentic foundation divinely designed to be at the core of everything, we are walking dead. Before sacrifice and surrender, before any application of God-given gift, there must be a root system connected to a life source, which is none other than God’s perfect love. With framework applied, we can believe in an unfathomable love, far greater and deeper than the sum of its components. We can believe that in the same way Christ is love, any relationship with God is not only defined by love, but is love, permanently solidified in all it encompasses.

Thankfully, Paul does not stop there.

Beginning in verse 4, Paul supports his opening statements with an explicit analysis on what love is and what love isn’t, imparting insight to how love exists as unconditional affection, as stated in verse 13. As Paul commences the love tour, he describes love as enduring - of all love’s features, Paul chooses to begin here. But why? Because no matter how Paul elegantly followed up, it would not have mattered unless he initially established the truth that love must last – that the light of love must never be shut off. Although enduring is preserving and involves patience and faithfully abiding in hope, we have to understand that to endure is to first and foremast reflect the unconditional and everlasting temperaments of agape love. For love to be love, it cannot fade away (verse 8), nor be reduced by manufactured limitations; rather love brings clarity to the ways of God (verse 12) and opens eyes to see Him in finer detail.

Furthermore, love cannot flirt with unrighteous, since genuine love commits to fearing God and walking in purity. Paul captures this well in verse 4-7, by stating how we love God and one another in fullness and integrity when we love what God loves (patience, kindness, selflessness, believing the best in every person) and hate what God hates (pride, arrogance, selfishness, conceit via exercising faith and hope without love).

As discernment matures, we discover how God’s love is the only way to encountering anything complete. And since we are designed to press into the likeness of Christ, we can understand love to be the most glorious necessity in all eternity, especially since real relationship with God cannot be experienced without an acceptance of His love - a love that granted us salvation, reconciliation and sanctification. With such a powerful denominator serving as the transforming orchestrator of all that is good, we can rejoice in applying God’s love to all relationships.

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