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What God-given love (agape) looks like

February 1, 2024
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Daily Scripture

1 Corinthians 7:1-9, 13:4-7

1 Corinthians 7
1 Now, about what you wrote: “It’s good for a man not to have sex with a woman.” 2 Each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband because of sexual immorality. 3 The husband should meet his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should do the same for her husband. 4 The wife doesn’t have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise, the husband doesn’t have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Don’t refuse to meet each other’s needs unless you both agree for a short period of time to devote yourselves to prayer. Then come back together again so that Satan might not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 I’m saying this to give you permission; it’s not a command. 7 I wish all people were like me, but each has a particular gift from God: one has this gift, and another has that one.
8 I’m telling those who are single and widows that it’s good for them to stay single like me. 9 But if they can’t control themselves, they should get married, because it’s better to marry than to burn with passion.

1 Corinthians 13
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.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

In the apostle Paul’s day, Corinth was a very rich, very immoral city. Scholar William Barclay said of Corinth “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.” * Paul told believers there that limiting sex ** to committed relationships was crucial, though Greek and Roman culture seldom did that. He also clearly said sexual intimacy was a good thing to express and bond marital love, trust, and commitment.

  • 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?
  • In Corinth, “sacred” prostitutes (estimates vary from 100 to 1000) came down from the Temple of Aphrodite (Greek goddess of “love”) to work the streets each night. There are obvious differences, but what are some ways that city’s culture and attitudes resembled today’s? How did this setting give special force to Paul’s words about each person in a sexual relationship actively caring for their partner’s needs and well-being, not merely pursuing their own gratification?
Prayer

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

Janelle Gregory

Janelle Gregory

Janelle Gregory serves on the Resurrection staff as Human Resources Lead Director. Janelle finds that her heart is constantly wrestling with the truth that she needs a Savior, and the times when she's at her very best are when she's just too tired to put up a fight.

I once heard a pastor speak on the topic of dating, love, and marriage. He said that one of the best movies to teach you about marriage is Bridges of Madison County. Really?? If you’ve not seen the movie (or read the book), I’ll give you a super short synopsis. After their mother’s passing, two adult siblings discover their mother’s notebooks that describe an intense affair their mother had with a National Geographic photographer who came to the area to take pictures of the bridges of Madison County. Now how on earth is a movie about an affair supposed to teach us about marriage?

But I went back and watched the movie. The mother, Francesca (played by Meryl Streep), had lived in a farmhouse with her husband and two teenage kids. Her life and marriage had become very mundane. She spent her days cleaning and cooking and her evenings sitting at a dining table listening to her children bicker back and forth while her husband sat quietly. Her husband was kind and faithful, but that’s about it. Their marriage had long lost any spark. She went through the routines, but she felt unnoticed, that is, until a dashing photographer (played by Clint Eastwood) waltzed into her life. He truly saw Francesca, not just her outer beauty but who she was deep down inside. Their forbidden relationship rekindled a light inside of her that had died out years prior. She nearly ran away with him, but her devotion to her family kept her from doing so.

The movie is primarily based on the affair, but it does teach us a lot about marriage. God designed marriage to be life-giving, not life-sucking. This isn’t just about life-giving for you, but it’s also about how it’s life-giving for your partner. A marriage that gives life doesn’t do so automatically. A marriage left on its own will easily fall into a mundane routine, slowly draining life out of both parties. It takes work to care for another person in ways that meet their needs and bring out the best in them. I believe the message of the movie would be, “If you’re not pouring into your spouse, someone might come along who will.” This isn’t a message of permission, it’s a message of warning. And know that it’s okay if you need outside help from a counselor to guide you through how to best navigate this. If you’re really sick, you go to the doctor. If your marriage is really sick, it deserves outside help as well. * My hope is that we’ll all pour into our relationships (marriages or otherwise) as God would ask us to. Take notice and care deeply in ways that spark life in one another.

*If you don’t know where to start to find a counselor, call the church (913.897.0120). You can be connected with a pastor or counseling services to help you through this process.

© 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.
References

* William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians (Revised Edition). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1975, p. 2.
** The Greek New Testament never used the Greek word eros. This was likely to avoid the immoral overtones the Greeks and Romans gave the word. Instead, a scholarly guide for translators referred to “the euphemisms that Paul uses in referring to sexual matters.” (from Paul Ellingworth and Howard A. Hatton, A Handbook on Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. New York: United Bible Societies, 1993, p. 143.) On the other hand, chapter 13 used the word agape over and over.
*** Adam Hamilton, Love to Stay: Six Keys to a Successful Marriage (Kindle Locations 101-103). Abingdon Press, Kindle edition.