If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2-3 (NIV)
Some of you may remember the ‘love is …’ cartoons by Kim Casali. The comic strip has been very popular since the 1960s. I remember in the 1970s, just before I was married in 1976, that I collected the cartoons and stuck them into a book. The message in the cartoon always seemed to strike a chord and that explains why the cartoons have been translated into many languages worldwide.
I was at a wedding a few days ago and one of the Bible readings used was the passage about love from 1 Corinthians 13. The passage is traditionally shared with couples as they get married, to inspire them and to see the ideal to which their marriage should aspire. But it is not just an aspiration, it is a reality. Of course married couples don’t possess all these attributes from day one of their marriage. Marriage changes both partners for the better, but while the ‘improvement’ process starts before marriage, it doesn’t end once they are married. Refinement is a continual process.
So here is the challenge – using the words of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 replace the word ‘love’ with your own name and see how you measure up
…… is patient;
…… is kind;
…… does not envy;
…… does not boast;
…… is not proud;
…… does not dishonour others;
…… is not self-seeking;
…… is not easily angered;
…… keeps no record of wrongs;
…… does not delight in evil;
…… rejoices with the truth;
…… always protects;
…… always trusts;
…… always hopes;
…… always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIVUK)
How does that make you feel? Hopefully not totally despondent. When we enter marriage all of us possess these attributes to varying degrees. What changes it? I think two things do. One is being in the company of your spouse, where the attributes are tested and developed on a daily basis. Secondly, and most importantly, a Christian marriage that puts God at the centre of the relationship will seek to mirror God’s relationship with his people and Christ’s relationship with the church.
So don’t give up … always persevere!
Marriage is so important that we are going to spend most of the next month looking at each of the 1 Corinthian attributes in turn, to see how they apply to us as Christians today.
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