REDISCOVERING THE ANCIENT PATH—Week of November 21, 2021
Live in Love: 1 Cor. 13:4-8
It is hard to believe that we are in Week 42 of our examination of Benedict of Nursia’s rules for Christian formation, which means we only have 5 weeks to go! This week we’ll look at Rules 4.67-69: Live in Love. The passage we’re examining this week is likely familiar—it’s read at most every wedding. I know that I have personally heard scores of sermons on the passage, and I have taught it myself many times. But as I was looking at the passage again in the context of the rules cited, my perspective on the point of this Scripture changed. Instead of seeing this list of the characteristics of love as a checklist of how I should relate to others or the character traits I should display, I was instead struck by this fact: God is love. These superlatives describe the way that my Creator and Redeemer perfectly loves and relates to me. So, this call to live in love is not necessarily an admonition to positive behavior modification. It is a call to abide in Christ.
If you’re like me, you have struggled with lists like the one found in this week’s passage. I remember reading a few years ago the suggestion to replace the word “love” with my name. Well, I didn’t have to get very far in the list to feel like an utter failure. In fact, I think the guilt started when I read, “Jerrett is patient.” I needed to try harder. I needed to do better. But I believe this way of thinking totally misses the mark. Instead of a list of legalistic demands, this list should be a spiritual thermometer, measuring my abiding in Christ. It’s a matter of focus: when I view the list in this passage as a legalistic punch-list, my focus is on my ability to love; however, when I view this list as a spiritual thermometer, my focus is on Christ and his ability to love. The former focuses on me and what I’m doing for God (pride). The latter focuses on Christ and what He’s doing in me (love).
Thus, to live in love is to live in Christ. Last week we looked at Gal. 2:20 and Paul’s declaration, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” The key to living a life filled with all the superlatives of 1 Cor. 13 is less of you and more of Jesus. It is not about trying harder; it is about abiding better. As we grow in our understanding and appreciation of Christ and what he’s done for us, the natural product is a way of living that illustrates his kind of love. And here’s the best part: if we are willing to surrender ourselves to the call of Gal. 2:20, we are guaranteed to change. How do I know that? I know that because 1 Cor. 13:8 promises us we will change. Paul concludes this passage with the promise, “Love never fails.” Though we may fail to change when we work in our own strength, Christ never fails. As Phil. 1:6 says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Let’s live in love by living in Christ.
- When you think of 1 Cor. 13, what comes to mind?
- What’s the difference between viewing these characteristics as a behavioral punch list and viewing it as a spiritual thermometer? What are the advantages to these points of view? What are the dangers?
- If abiding in Christ is truly the key to living in love, how do we abide in Christ? How do we determine whether we are living in legalism or abiding in Christ?
- This week’s passage concludes with “Love never fails.” How does replacing the word “love” with “Christ” change your perspective on this verse? Is it a declaration? Is it a promise? Is it both?