2014 Lent 27

LPICI_~1

I Corinthians 12:27–13:3

Now we come to a still more excellent way: love.  Whatever else we are, without love we are nothing.

But the word itself is thrown around lightly by us English speakers, isn’t it?  “I love you, man,” one friend says to another over a beer, a bowl of pretzels, and a football game.  Is this the love without which we are nothing?

I could go on to illustrate other uses of the word, some glib and others not so much.  But it’s been done already by many others, far better than I can do it too.  Read C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces for one of the best illustrations, in my opinion, of various loves.  Or read my book review of it on this blog–if I ever get around to writing it.

But to Paul’s point, the love we must strive to possess is that same love of the Great Commandment from Jesus.  Love the Lord your God, Jesus tells us.  And out of this love, we then infer, flows all goodness, truth, and beauty in life.  That’s why Jesus quickly names a second commandment that is like unto the first: love your neighbor as yourself.

This is no silly, glib, emotionally charged impulse.  Instead, it’s a firm resolve to put others first, starting with God and extending to others.

It does not focus too much on humanity.  We might strive to get along with a relative, to say encouraging words continuously to others, or to bring about world peace.  But without God-focused love, all these efforts amount to nothing.

But neither does it focus too much on self, like Narcissus did, and we all know what happened to him, yeah?

Maybe, then, instead of thinking of four different types of love–eros, agape, and so on–we should limit it to one, as we do in English with our one word: love.  After all, this sort of focus is really what Jesus does when he narrows ten commandments, themselves a summary of so many more, down to one.  But then we would have to reserve its use for only its purest form, as it appears in today’s reading.

But that would mean taking a lot of love out of the world, or at least out of our language.  I’m not so sure I like that idea.  For then we wouldn’t be able to say things like, “Man, I sure love this Beethoven symphony”; or, “Don’t you just love this Thai restaurant?”  Etc.  And the whole world would feel a little colder, or at least a little less lovely.

So I guess we’re back at needing at least four ways of describing love.  Maybe we should add some more words to the English language then, words to describe the subtle differences of love, like the Greeks did.

But there are so many facets to this diamond.  There’s brotherly love, for instance.  But isn’t this the same love we share with friends, relatives, and even colleagues?  Trying to come up with a different word for each, then, and then doing so again with romantic love (I’ve heard these adjectives attached to it, to name a few: dating, courting, engagement, marriage, and platonic), godly love, and so on–and before you know it we’d need to add thirty-seven new words to Webster’s.  Indeed, facets within facets!  And I’m not being facetious!

Which brings us back to an admiration for the economy of the English language, yeah?

Anyway, John Lennon offers a solid paraphrase of Paul today: all you need is love.

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