("I will show you a still more excellent way.
1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 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. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 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.
8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child; I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13
Garage sales. If you have never held one yourself, you are bound to go to one.
Growing up I fondly remember going to flea markets and garage sales, rummaging through the treasures of the so-called trash of others. Even though as the youngest child I got some pretty sweet hand-me-downs, I always enjoyed the prospect of something special to be found.
There were times however; my family actually did some thinning out of their own. It was usually an event that was tried to have been carried out in secrecy. But inevitably, children see what is going on and intervene, objecting to the choices of designated things to let another enjoy, or depending on how old and disgusting, to the trash bin.
“But I love that toy”!” one of us might cry out.
“You haven’t played with it for years,” replies reasonable parent.
“Well I would have if I wouldn’t have forgotten about it.” On and on it goes.
So many toys. So many things. Most all of them gifts. Christmas. Birthdays.
Most from grandparents. The loudest and most annoying from uncles and brothers…
We engage in the purging of the playthings for at least two reasons.
So it goes with the old happy meal toys, stuffed bears, and old clothing or even that really cool Nintendo video game you just had to have as a teenager…
But in the meantime, I think the greater teaching point can be summarized in this mantra or phrase:
“Toys are tools”
“Toys are tools for playing with people.”
It is not toys themselves that are important. People are important. Toys are just tools that help you play with your brothers and sisters and friends.
When toys are more important than people, then the toys become tyrant.
Division results instead of unity.
Discord instead of friendship.
Selfishness instead of sharing.
Conflict instead of community.
It’s not just kids. But Corinth.
Not just children. But the Church.
Paul is amazed and thankful that God has given so many gifts to the Church in Corinth. Such a fullness of spiritual gifts.
“Not lacking in anything,” he says. Gifts of knowledge of eloquence, of faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, various abilities in languages …on and on.
Paul exclaimed, “Already you have all you want.” “Already, you have become rich!”
On the contrary, Paul and the other apostles remain destitute, suffering.
The church in Corinth is like a child of a millionaire father, who dotes on her, giving her whatever she would ever need or want, much like the characters Veruca Salt and her father from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”
The people of Corinth had become bad eggs. They start to boast and brag. The puff themselves up, and push others down. They withhold and they hold over.
Earlier in his letter, Paul addressed them saying, “I can only regard you as infants, because children claim gifts as their own…I fed you with milk and not solid food for you are not ready for it!”
Like children, they claim their gifts for their own:
Happy with their own pile of spiritual gifts and gizmos they say those who have less, “I have no need of you.”
Corinth embodies the bumper sticker that says, “He who dies with the most toys wins.”
Of course, there is nothing in common with them and the church today.
Hardly ever do we hoard the treasures God has given us at the expense of others in the body of Christ. We all play nice.
So what does Paul say to all of this?
“Enough! You have shown me all these gifts, but even more so, all these divisions.”
“Let me show you a more excellent way…”
“There is one gift that you cannot hoard.”
“There is one gift that cannot be abused as the others.”
“It will not break, it will not wear out, but it continually lasts.”
And love never ends.
Love is greater than even faith and hope. And do you know why? It’s because love does not end. It lasts through eternity when our object of faith and hope is seen face to face.
Love is not this common, squishy sentimental thing you hear of at wedding sermons, or during slow dances.
No. More is happening.
Love is what conquers even death itself. You see it at its strongest in the tear-filled face of an elderly woman as she sees her husband lowered down into his casket, knowing that this is not the end.
And you see love at its strongest in Christ as He makes his way up a hill and is raised up on a cross.
And do you know what? This eternal, inexhaustible gift of love is already here with you.
Baptized into Christ, love is embodied into His body, the Church.
And though we’ve been given many other gifts, its love that binds them all together.
Love makes toys tools.
Love makes things tools.
And love makes gifts of the Spirit, instruments to care about another.
“When I was a child, I spoke as a child; I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up those childish ways.”
In many ways, as we await our Lord’s return, we are still children. But even a child can love.
As another apostle wrote so well, “Little children, love one another.”
If you still want to know what love is and how love is supposed to feel look no further than Christ.
God is love.
Therefore, let’s think of it this way:
Jesus is patient and kind.
Jesus does not envy or boast.
Jesus is not arrogant or rude.
Jesus does not insist on His own way.
Jesus is not irritable or resentful.
Jesus does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but Jesus rejoices with the truth.
Jesus bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Jesus never ends.
(Submitted with thanks to Rev Erik Herrmann)