CATEGORY: EDT Editorials
Editorial, Sunday, Sept. 20, 1998
The Apostle Paul never minced words when writing to the Christian congregations scattered around the Roman Empire. He said directly what those small churches needed to hear in facing specific challenges to what they believed and how they lived in following the ways of Christ.
Paul’s two letters to Christians in Corinth are among his most extensive correspondences. The 13th chapter of I Corinthians shines as one of the most powerful and evocative passages in the New Testament. Paul is addressing the importance of spiritual gifts those qualities that guide and direct the attitude and conduct and outlook of Christians like an inner light. He boils it all down to one word: Love.
“If I have all the eloquence of men or angels,” he writes, “but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything, and If I have faith in all its fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all. If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and if I even all them to take away my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever. … In short, there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.”
Then, as an affirmation of what he had just written, Paul adds in the beginning of the 14th chapter, “You must want love more than anything else …”
The absence in anyone’s life of the love about which Paul writes spells trouble. The absence of love creates a spiritual void that makes room for all kinds of unloving attitudes and actions. No one is exempt from the moral decay that sets in when love isn’t the controlling virtue.
The contemporary writer Frederick Buechner says of love and virtue:
“Next to the Seven Deadly Sins, the Seven Cardinal Virtues are apt to look pale and unenterprising, but appearances are notoriously untrustworthy. … Maybe it’s only “love” that turns things around and makes the Seven Deadly Sins be the ones to look pale and unenterprising for a change. Greed, gluttony, lust, envy, pride are no more than sad efforts to fill the empty place where love belongs …”
The standard of love applies to people individually and, by their actions, to whole cultures. People and cultures either reflect love or its absence.
What is it that all of us in the late 20th century want more than anything else? What do we see in our reflection?