Where’s the Romance?Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud.
1 Corinthians 13:4
I've read 1 Corinthians 13 more times than I can remember when performing weddings. For a while, this "Love Chapter" went out of style, as couples preferred more innovative weddings. But when they decided to do away with powder blue tuxes in favor of the more traditional black (Thanks be to God!), they also began to request 1 Corinthians 13 for their weddings.
But often couples choose this text without really thinking about what it says and does not say. They know it's about love, and that seems appropriate for the hyper-romantic ethos of a wedding. Yet, when I meet with couples to discuss their choice of 1 Corinthians 13, they are often startled when I affirm their choice but then add, "You know, there's no romance in this passage. If anything, it's anti-romantic."
What do I mean by this apparently heretical statement? I mean that 1 Corinthians 13 has little to do with the feelings of being in love, with the fairy tale "and they lived happily ever after" wishes that accompany a wedding. Romance says, "Oh, that couple looks so beautiful. I'm sure they'll have a wonderful marriage. Look, they're so much in love."
But 1 Corinthians 13 says, first of all, that love requires patience. Kindness could be related to romance, I suppose. But then the text adds: "Love is not jealous or boastful or proud" (13:4). By natural inclination, people are these things, but love is not. You don't hear the violins playing as the couple rides off into the sunset celebrating their lack of jealousy, boastfulness, or pride.
In fact, more than half of the descriptions of love in 1 Corinthians 13 are negations. They tell us what love is not. And, though it's not mentioned, they imply that the sort of love envisioned in this passage is not romantic. No, not romantic, but realistic. Not romantic, but sacrificial. Not romantic, but Christ-like.
Don't get me wrong. I think romance is just great. And I can tear up at a wedding just as much as the next person (which is sometimes a problem when I'm the pastor performing the wedding). But romance will only take us so far in any relationship. The kind of love celebrated in 1 Corinthians 13, however, can take us all the way, "for better or for worse, till death do us part." This is true, not only for a marriage, but also for a family, for friends, and for a church.
In the days ahead, I'll examine in detail some of the aspects of love noted in 1 Corinthians 13. They may not be romantic, but they're essential to our lives and relationships.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: As you read the description of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, what stands out to you? What in this text speaks to you? What encourages you? What challenges you? How do you need to grow in love?
PRAYER: Gracious Lord, how I thank you for the joy and excitement of romantic love. It adds spice to life and can be a delight.
But romance is the spice, not the meal. It delights, but it also disappoints. It is so easy for us to believe that romance is everything in a relationship. Yet when it begins to fade, we are confused. We need to learn what real love is all about. And that's exactly what you teach us in this wonderful chapter of scripture. Of course, that's also what you teach us in the way you relate to us, most of all, in Jesus Christ.
As we work our way through the description of love in this text, may we be open to what you want to say to us. Help us to see ourselves honestly. Show us, Lord, where we are in need of repentance. Call us to new ways of loving. Help us by your Spirit to become people who live out each day the vision of love in 1 Corinthians 13.
Before I close this prayer today, Lord, I want to pray especially for married couples. I realize that 1 Corinthians 13 was not originally written for a wedding, but rather for a church in crisis. Nevertheless, it seems right to intercede for those who have pledged to love each other as husband and wife. Whether they had the "Love Chapter" read in their weddings or not, may this chapter inspire them and guide them in their marriages. May your church help couples to grow in the real love that is patienct and kind . . . All praise be to you, God of love and mercy. Amen.