"And now faith hope and love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love. (I Cor 13:13)"
Back in 1984, Rhythm and Blues legend Tina Turner belted out the classic song “What’s Love Got to do with it?” It was a passionate and soulful ballad that expressed the intense vulnerability we feel when we fall in love. The words express a deep sense of emotion that comes when our hearts are open and so tender that we begin to fear what would happen if our hearts were broken. We can become so worried about a broken heart, that our instinct to protect overwhelms our desire to love…to the point where Love becomes “just a sweet old-fashioned notion”. Love, then is just another commodity, something to be rationed, used with caution, or traded for something of equal or greater value. Is that what love really is?
That’s not what St. Paul had in mind when he claims Love to be the greatest of things. Look at the list of properties he uses to describe love. Love is patient, kind, endless, joyful, truthful, hopeful and faithful. Love bears and endures all things that might be set against it. Love has the kind of power to transform the world into a better place.
So what does Paul see in love that Tina Turner sees so differently?
For Paul, the source of love comes from the source of all creation, the source of all goodness, the source of all grace and forgiveness and that is from the Holy Word of God made human in Jesus Christ. In Christ, we are loved, and empowered to love without the worry about what we will get in return. Christ’s love is not a commodity to be conserved, but a transformative power that can never be fully spent. When someone has been claimed by Christ’s love, there lies a new compulsion to “love wastefully” as John Shelby Spong has often said.
So when Paul talks about the greatness of love, he doesn’t meant the temporary love that two people might share until it no longer benefits them to be together. Paul speaks of a love from God that never ends, never dies, never gets emptied and always is available to us.
What’s Love Got to do with it? God has the answer – everything!
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About this website
Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church (GA) in New York City has been chosen as one of eight internship congregations to participate this year in a church-wide initiative designed to increase our understanding of Holy Scripture and most importantly, to cultivate our engagement with it. In partnership with The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Vicar John Heidgerd will be working to develop innovative ways to deepen our faith formation and sense of discipleship for the sake of ourselves and our communities.