"Facing Dragons"

​​​​​​If you’ve ever been to a wedding, there is a pretty good chance that you have heard at least part of this passage read. But that is not what Paul had in mind when he penned it.

The disciples examine the fresh wounds on Jesus's body after the resurrection

​​​1 Corinthians 13:1-13

January 30, 2022

Dr. Todd R. Wright

​If you’ve ever been to a wedding, there is a pretty good chance that you have heard at least part of this passage read. But that is not what Paul had in mind when he penned it.

His letter to the church in Corinth is not to a couple in love; it is to a church in conflict. So he is not describing what has brought them together – as if they had spotted each other at across a crowded room or been matched by some computer algorithm – love at first sight or calculated compatibility. In fact, the Corinthians had to be convinced to be in the same room together despite their many differences – in class and ethnicity, in gifts and morals – by the story of Jesus Christ. And Paul is not lyrically recommending the key to some dreamy future – endless candlelight dinners and notes filled with poetry and happiness ever after. In fact, they have argued and messed up over something as basic as the Lord’s Supper; they have called each other names and forgotten their need for grace; they have made each other miserable. Paul is writing because their future looks grim.

 

Roy and Donna can empathize with the highs and lows of the Corinthian church. They met on a blind date. It didn’t go well. They were too different. But the story goes on. On Groundhog Day 1969, he shipped out for Vietnam, but not before they had consummated their two year relationship. He left her pregnant. She thought she’d never see him again.[1] Maybe because of the baby, they got married when he was home on leave in July. No word on whether 1 Corinthians 13 was read. Her most vivid memory of the day was the fight they had on the way home from the church. When Roy was discharged from the Navy in 1970 he was an alcoholic. The family violence progressed from there until 1981 when they hit rock bottom. If they had been living in Corinth instead of Ohio, Paul might have whispered, “Love is patient; kind; it is not envious or boastful, arrogant or rude.” I’m not sure it would have done any good. The words alone are like a wind-chime in a storm. Still, the love they proclaim was enough to get Roy into a 12 step program. Donna writes, “In a lot of ways that part was harder than the first part. We had to stop and look our dragons in the eye. That took more courage than letting them chase us. You get used to running from yourself and the adrenaline becomes its own addiction.” She is not sure why they beat the odds, except while life is bumpy, love is an action verb.

 

Paul is not telling them what to do. There are no imperative verbs. No direct rebukes either. But he is forcing them to look their dragons in the eye – the ways their envy and boasting is tearing them apart; the way their arrogance and rudeness is reflecting poorly on the gospel; the way their lack of love makes it hard for anyone to believe that they are really following Jesus Christ. So when Paul talks about love he is like a doctor prescribing an antidote. Love is a solution; the only solution Paul can come up with for what ails them. Bruises can fade and broken relationships can heal because love that is modeled on Christ’s love is powerful and enduring. Roy and Donna hope to make it to their 75th anniversary. Paul hopes for more for the squabbling, Spirit-filled folks in Corinth and for all the churches that follow in their footsteps. I mention this because we are getting close to our 75th anniversary – a witness to the power of love in this place! Amen

[1] Their story is told in True Love by Robert Fulghum, pages 33-36
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