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Defining "love" for a city known for promiscuity

May 5, 2022

Daily Scripture

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

4 Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, 5 it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints, 6 it isn’t happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth. 7 Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things.

8 Love never fails. As for prophecies, they will be brought to an end. As for tongues, they will stop. As for knowledge, it will be brought to an end.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Corinth in Paul’s day was a large, rich and very immoral city. Scholar William Barclay said Corinth “was also a byword for evil living. The very word Korinthiazesthai, to live like a Corinthian, had become a part of the Greek language, and meant to live with drunken and immoral debauchery.” * When Paul defined love (Greek agape), he was expressly urging Christians to use their spiritual gifts to build up and not divide the church. But he wanted agape to shape all they did, including marriage.

  • Pastor Hamilton wrote, “Every successful marriage involves two people sharing one clear mission with their vows as a mission statement. Wedding vows often capture the intention of Agape Love (love that is selfless and sacrificial). They must be continually and deliberately lived out after they are said.” ** Why would that clarity of mission be especially vital in a city like Corinth? What do you see in Paul’s definition of agape that you particularly need to be deliberate to live out?
  • Bishop Michael Curry wrote, “Someone once said that Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in all of human history…grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world; a movement mandating people to live that love, and in so doing to change not only their lives but the very life of the world itself. I’m talking about power. Real power. Power to change the world.” *** How has (or could) living out agape change your most valued relationships?

Lord God, you lived out agape, and I say I want to follow you. Unfold the path to living in selfless love before me, and fill me with your Spirit to empower me to follow that path. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Matt Williams

Matt Williams

Matt Williams serves as the Digital Media Specialist on staff at Church of the Resurrection where he manages the website as part of the Marketing and Engagement Team. This is Matt’s second stint on staff--Resurrection was Matt’s first job after concluding his professional baseball career and before he spent eight years as a baseball coach and entrepreneur. Matt married his college sweetheart, Kristin, in Resurrection’s Wesley Chapel. They have three children--Brayden, Ella, and Connor.

Today’s Scripture passage is on the short list of most marriage ceremonies, and for good reason. It’s a beautiful passage that points us to the aspirational, inspirational, and life-changing power of love. This June will mark 12 years of marriage for me. My wife and I were married at age 22. We have experienced several job/career changes, seven different apartments/houses, multiple cross-country moves, and the birth of our three children. Through it all, my wife and I have both continued to grow and mature as individuals seeking to build a loving marriage and family together. Life, marriage, and love can get complicated very quickly, and for me, that is where both the beauty and the daily challenge of today’s Scripture passage come into play.

When I read today’s Scripture passage, I get the sense that God’s Word is exclaiming one thing above all else–IT’S NOT ABOUT ME. I lose my patience. I am unkind at times. I get jealous and irritable more often than I like to admit. I have moments, days, and even seasons where I struggle to trust and hope and seriously doubt that I can endure the challenges that I’m facing. I fail.

If my marriage depended on me, and not on something bigger, stronger, and more powerful, then it would have ended a long time ago. I don’t know what it’s like to have been married for 50 years, but I do know for a fact that I am still married for nearly 12 years because agape love is not about me. Love is patient and gracious when I am impatient and unkind. Love celebrates others when I feel jealousy. Love puts others first when I want to put myself first. Love overcomes all the ways that I struggle and fall short on a daily basis. Yes, we have agency and responsibility as human beings, but I am saying that agape love–God’s love–sustains my marriage. Agape love covers me with grace as I stumble through life’s valleys and pulls me to the heights of life’s mountaintops that I could never reach on my own.

Agape love, defined in today’s Scripture passage and experienced in my life and especially my marriage, is the essence of how I believe God works in our lives. He shows us what is possible. He covers us in grace when we fall short. And God equips, strengthens, and inspires us to close the gap between where we are and where God wants us to be, and knows we can be.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians (Revised Edition). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1975, p. 2.

** Adam Hamilton, Love to Stay: Six Keys to a Successful Marriage (Kindle Locations 101-103). Abingdon Press, Kindle edition. *** Curry, Bishop Michael. The Power of Love (pp. 9-10). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.