That Stupid Love Passage
Or how I learned to love 1 Corinthians 13
Two months ago, God used my brother's wedding to teach me a lesson. And when this episode of my life is turned into a movie (I'm waiting for Hollywood's call any day now), I'd like to borrow from 1964's Dr. Strangelove for the title. Whereas that classic's complete title is Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, my new classic would be called How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love 1 Corinthians 13.
It all started this summer when Chad, my younger brother by three years, asked me to read the Scripture at his wedding ceremony. The best part, I thought at the time, was that Chad and his bride gave me free reign to choose whatever verse I'd like. This made me very happy—and maybe for the wrong reasons.
I planned to use this freedom to serve a personal agenda: To extricate those old worn out "wedding verses" you always hear. Specifically, I promised myself that Chad's wedding would be completely free of that old wedding standby 1 Corinthians 13, because I decided the apostle Paul's "love verse" was just too clichéd. Not in this service, I thought, I'm mixing it up.
In retrospect, I see more dubious reasoning behind my bullheadedness: My heart had been hardened to Paul's words about love by years of singleness pity parties. I guess I wrote off 1 Corinthians 13 because I've sat through too many weddings that use this verse to pronounce all the happy, shiny things about love. And as a sometimes-bitter 28-year-old single, it was only too easy to equate this use of the word love with merely romance and marriage. So, I'd sit in my pew silently complaining that love sure must be nice for those who can find it. And in my bitterness, I gradually grew jaded to the Bible's premier love verse—and didn't even really listen to what it was saying.
In planning for Chad's service, I poured over dozens of other verses about love. Nothing spoke to me. Finally, I decided to just check on how The Message translated 1 Corinthians 13:1-8. As I read it, I felt it coming alive for the first time.
Really, what got me the most that day wasn't just the passage itself. Or the way The Message translated it. Instead, these verses spoke to me mostly because of where I was emotionally at the time. My younger brother was getting married. I wasn't dating anyone. I was lonely. And worst of all, I was struggling with low confidence and the whole concept of why someone would love me. This emotional mess all came to a head on a family trip only weeks before Chad had asked me to read in his ceremony. To make a long story short, I felt like everyone was out to get me, so I attacked first. I treated the very people I love the most without love or trust and with much bitterness. My temper flared, I thought only of myself, and people got hurt.
So as I read 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 in The Message weeks later, I was convicted by lines such as: "If I speak with human eloquence … but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate," and "Love doesn't want what it doesn't have, isn't always 'me first,' doesn't fly off the handle … doesn't keep score of the sins of others, puts up with anything, [and] always looks for the best." Right then, I realized 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 was never about marriage. It's about life. It's about what it means to love as Christ loves. And almost every line showed me a place of growth needed in my heart—single or not.
As I prepared to read The Message's version of 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 at my brother's wedding, a thought struck me one night. 1 Corinthians 13 is considered one of the great love passages in the Bible. And it's often read in weddings. But who wrote these verses? Paul. A single guy. I smiled as I realized that true godly love has nothing to do with marital status. Instead, if one single guy can write what it means to love, this lowly single guy surely can learn to stop worrying about marital status and just model it.
Written by Todd Hertz
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