Tag Archives: 1 Corinthians 13;4-7

Defining Love

Like an estimated 102 million other people, I watched the Super Bowl a few week ago.  It was a great end to the NFL season.  However, what will remain with me for much longer than the play on the field was a particularly moving commercial that ran relatively early in the broadcast.  Paid for by New York Life, it began by stating that the ancient Greeks had four words for love.  According to the advertisement:

  • “Philia is affection that grows from friendship”;
  • “Storgé – the kind [of love] you have for a grandparent or a brother”;
  • “Eros – the uncontrollable urge to say ‘I love you’”; and
  • “Agapé, the most admirable – love as an action; it takes courage, sacrifice, and strength.”

Maybe it was the mention of ancient Greek, a language with which I wrestle for comprehension every week.  Maybe it was the powerful visuals of the varied aspects of love.  Whatever the reason, I was captivated by the commercial and its message: that love takes action.

Fast-forward twelve days to today, Valentine’s Day, the (inter)national holiday celebrating love.  I wonder, in light of this commercial, which love we are celebrating as we exchange cards?  Are we appreciating the love of our friends, or our family, or our ‘significant other’, or those who sacrifice to provide all that we require?  It is likely that today will be, to some degree, a recognition of the first three loves, but especially focused on our romantic loves.  Restaurants will be patronized, florists will be utilized and confectioners will be supported.

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, 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.  1 Corinthians 13:4-7

At the same time, there will be many celebrating Valentine’s Day in other ways and in other places.  They will visit the nursing home and spoon-feed their mom supper.  They will drop by a cemetery and pull the weeds around their husband’s marker.  They will assist their daughter into a transport van and accompany her to physical therapy.  They will sit in the hospital with their 8-year old son as he undergoes treatment for leukemia.  These are the ones who will be demonstrating agapé love today, and tomorrow, not because it is Valentine’s Day, but because that is what ‘love as an action’ looks like.

I hope that everyone who is reading this has a Valentine, someone who will say to you today (with accoutrements or not), “I love you”.  I hope you will enjoy a Whitman Sampler or a Reese’s heart, a nice candle-lit prix-fixe dinner, or a bouquet of lilies.  I pray even more that everyone who is reading this today has someone who has shown them agapé – that sacrificial, surrendering, willful emptying of themselves for the sake of another.  I am blessed to know that kind of love.  I pray you are as well.

Happy St. Valentine’s Day (or in Greek, ευτυχισμένη ημέρα του Αγίου Βαλεντίνου)!

Love, American (U.) Style

I have witnessed a plethora of expressions of love this week.  Last Saturday, I watched local and national news stories of demonstrators in my fair city confronting hate and championing human kindness.  On Monday, I watched a children’s librarian, overwhelmed by the community interest in an eclipse viewing party, joyously and affectionately care for 500 or so people by offering sun-glasses, sun-hats and sun-daes.  Over the last few days, I watched family, immediate and extended, lovingly prepare and provided for a young woman who was moving into her first apartment.  Even yesterday, I watch a young man show what could be love by entering the awkward territory of building IKEA furniture with his paramour’s dad.  It is good to know that expressions of love (familial, romantic and brotherly) are still visible each day.

In saying this, I am not suggesting that any of these expressions were either perfect of fully embraced.  There was a minority of demonstrators on Saturday (small in number but newsworthy) who chose to use the opportunity for reconciliation to instigate their form of rebellion.  There were insufficient resources on Monday for the crowd, so a number of people took what they came for, a number of people went away disappointed and a number of people remained and enjoyed the benefits of sharing.  There were heated words and hurt feelings these past few days as travels to the Goodwill store and travails inherent in moving took so much longer than seemed, by some, to be necessary.  It seems that expressions of love are not always easy to embrace.

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, 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.  1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Without going into great expository detail, as this is one of the more familiar passages of Scripture, let me state that I take these verses to mean that expressing love is messy.  Those who express the love that Paul is talking about will be subject to misunderstanding and mockery.  They will be required to sacrifice themselves and strengthen others.  Love means overlooking fault and overcoming self.  Love is not something that comes naturally or instinctually; despite the mantras and the memes, we must learn to love (as our sinful human nature will always nudge us toward the opposite).  Love is a choice and, when chosen, can be a catalyst to change the world in big and small ways.

God bless those who gathered at Boston Common last weekend whose sole intention was to counteract hatred – may that be what people remember.  God bless the staff of the Adams Street branch of the Boston Public Library for enabling a few hundred to share in community around a few dozen pairs of “eclipse glasses”.  God bless family, and Jake, who made a stressful day so much more than bearable; they made it memorable.  My you, too, witness a little bit of love in your little corner of the world.