Part two in a series delving into 1 Corinthians 13.
Have you ever written a love letter?
Who was it to?
What kind of things did you share?
Was it full of gushy sentiment or did you share a few home truths?
There's something special about sitting and taking the time to write down our thoughts and feelings in a letter. It’s often easier to write down how we feel rather than telling a person face to face, but misunderstandings can occur if we're unsure of the status of the relationship or our words are taken out of context.
Now, think about your letter again.
How would you feel if I took out a paragraph and focused on that alone?
No understanding of the sender, the recipient or the relationship between the two of you.
How easily could your words be misinterpreted if I snatched them from their surroundings and shared them with someone else?
If we’re not careful we tend to do this with Paul’s letters to the churches throughout the New Testament.
When Paul wrote to the believers at Corinth he wasn’t writing to the ‘perfect’ Acts 2:42 church that we often idealise. He was writing to a church that had significant issues with division, cliques, sexual immorality and chaotic worship gatherings. In 1 Corinthians 5:9, we discover that this wasn’t the first correspondence between Paul and the church at Corinth. He was replying to their letter which we, unfortunately, don’t have a copy of. The Corinthian church raised a number of issues it was struggling with and throughout his reply, Paul repeats the phrase, ‘now about…’ as if he is working through their list of concerns.
Take a few moments and imagine that you are the one corresponding with Paul about your church.
What concerns would you raise?
How do you think he would respond?
What encouraging words would you hear from him?
What would be the words of tough love?
I need you to imagine this because it’s in this context that we will be looking at 1 Corinthians 13. The Bible Project clip below places the whole letter in context but it was clear that this church was struggling and it’s members were lost. Despite the harsh words and obvious frustration running through Paul’s reply, it still qualifies as a love letter. Paul deeply loved the church at Corinth, but more importantly, his letter aimed to centre them in God’s love and hopefully over the next month it will do the same for us.
‘All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus Christ to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.’
1 Corinthians 1:7-9 MSG