Minister’s letter for March by Revd Bonnie Appleton
‘These three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.’ Familiar words from the end of Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth. Chapter 13 is a very familiar passage about loving each other and is a popular reading at weddings but actually it isn’t about love between a man and a woman at all. It is about how we are to one another in church.
Lent is a good time to consider how we fit into the Church we are part of – nationally, internationally and locally. This passage is one that points us in a direction that helps us understand our responsibilities within the Church.
In order to fully understand this passage one needs to look at the context. Paul is writing to a church in trouble. There have been dissentions and arguments and Paul is trying to help the Christians in Corinth to understand that they all have something to offer but they need to work together in order to have a church community that works well together. There have obviously been problems about all sorts of things – leadership Chapter 3 and 4, incest Chapter 5, grievances between church members Chapter 6, married life Chapter 7, food sacrificed to idols Chapter 8 etc. Just like the best in soap operas 0- it’s all there in the Bible!
In Chapter 10 onwards Paul addresses worship and how some were abusing the Lord’s Supper then in Chapter 12 he talks about all the gifts that different people have in the church and how these should be honoured and respected by each member as all are needed.
It is in this context of issues, problems, the diversity of gifts, yet being one Body in Christ, that this famous chapter on love comes in. We can have all the best gifts but if we don’t have love they are useless.
This isn’t the lovey-dovey stuff of romance. It is about kindness, understanding, trust, faith and respect. Paul doesn’t even say that they should LIKE each other but they must learn to LOVE one another. Liking someone is about our preference. We like someone’s personality or their manner or the clothes they wear. That doesn’t necessarily mean we love them. It’s just that we like what we see.
With love it is slightly different. We may like the person but we may not. We may think they look ugly but it doesn’t stop us appreciating them. We may think they dress untidily but it doesn’t mean we should shun them. We may not like their personality but that doesn’t mean we don’t value what they bring.
Some of the people I’ve found hardest to deal with in churches have been the most valuable because they bring gifts that I don’t have and it’s been when I have chosen to embrace them and use them wisely by listening to them that I, and the church, have gained the most.
We in the G7 Benefice, are the Body of Christ, in this small part of the world, let us then love one another for the benefit of the whole Church and for the sake of Christ Jesus our Lord.