The second reading from last Sunday (Feb 3, 2013) was from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians about love. This is the common reading we often hear at weddings, including mine and Sarah’s. I decided to dig a bit deeper into this reading and visited various websites to do my research. I was truly intrigued by what I learned and just how powerful love truly is.
Why did Paul even write to the Corinthians?
Corinth was a bustling port city in ancient Greece where Paul established an early Christian church. Corinth was a tough community for Paul to convert. The Corinthians seemed to have been stubborn and set in their own ways; after 18 months of evangelizing and establishing a Christian community, Paul felt it was time to leave. But many issues quickly arose, and people in Corinth were not living up to the Christian values about which Paul preached. With so many travelers in the area came sexual immorality; the citizens of Corinth were fighting and suing each other, people were drunk, and ultimately everyone was treating each other poorly. The Church in Corinth was in trouble.
In that era, congregations did not gather in assemblies or halls but, rather, in homes. Chloe was a Christian woman, the head of one of these homes. Chloe wrote a letter to Paul informing him about the corruption in Corinth and the fledgling Christian Church there, and asked him for advice and direction.
Paul’s response was detailed in his first letter to the Corinthians that we find in the New Testament. One of the first teachings that Paul brings up is that our body is sacred and a temple of the Holy Spirit. He reminded the Corinthians about the importance of marriage and being loyal and faithful to your spouse. If someone was unmarried, he taught that they were to remain celibate and to refrain from sexual permissiveness.
Paul began to encourage the Corinthians to live as new persons in Christ. To treat people with kindness, help the poor, and respect others – to live a life of metanoia, which is the conscientious turning away from an old life (of paganism) to new life in Jesus Christ.
And so here we are today.
As one reads the First Letter to the Corinthians, we as Christians need to bring the same message to our present day world. Between the conflicts across the globe, sexual immorality, hatred and other sins, we must still heed Paul’s message and apply it to our own situations. But it’s Paul’s big finish that sums it up for all of us – the gift of love. Paul emphasizes that what people want is love, and that love is the greatest gift God has given to us. He wanted the Corinthians to love one other and to make love the reason for everything they did and said. As Jesus taught.
Like most of us, each time I hear the reading about faith, hope and love–“and the greatest of these is love”–I immediately think about weddings and marriage. But after studying more about Paul’s letter to the Corinthians I am convinced that love is everything. And that The Beatles, though perhaps not great examples of how to live one’s life, had it right when they sang, “All you need is love.”