Friday, I mentioned how Christians Turn Facebook Into Hatebook. We’ve all seen it happen. It might not seem like it at first, but keep reading. This post is a direct follow-up to that one.
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Love is patient, love is kind…apparently especially between husband and wife, because weddings of course are the go-to place where you hear this passage from 1 Corinthians 13 read. (Probably by someone’s aunt who wasn’t close enough to be a bridesmaid, but the bride wanted to include in the ceremony in some way.)
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
I mean, this makes sense, right? That two spouses enduring together for decade upon decade would benefit from this humility-infused definition of love.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
We don’t need Dr.Phil to tell us that the worst way to win an argument is to nit-pick, to make a list of our spouse’s wrongs, to remind them of how they screwed up back in 1999.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
How fitting for the apostle Paul to have provided us with this little sermonette on marriage, don’t you think? Particularly since he himself was not married and he in fact advocated that people should stay single and devote themselves fully to God when possible.
Which, of course, makes Paul-the-Wedding-Sermon-Writer a bit confusing. And we probably know that a quick examination of context would show us Paul was up to something more than a bit of pre-marriage counseling when he penned these eloquent words which will be repeated at weddings for all time.
Paul wasn’t talking about marriage at all. He wasn’t elevating the love between a bride and groom to some higher standard, where he called us to have this special kind of “patient” and “humble” love with…you know, that one special someone, who we’re going to wake up next to every day.
His intention was to define love as it should manifest in life and culture, to friends, family, society, humankind…and probably, he especially meant to impact how people of faith thought about and treated each other (since that is who he was talking to).
So will you help me reclaim that 1 Corinthians 13, is not a marriage passage, which allows us to only worry about applying these principles to one relationship in our lives? Will you help me remind ourselves and others that this passage holds equal inspiration for how to treat all the “others” in our lives, maybe particularly the religious others?
What if we allowed the Love Passage to be a sort of filter or guide, a heart-check for what we say and do or how we post online? An anti-virus for social networking rudeness?
What if we let its words breathe a new, healthier formula over our spirits? If we stopped before hitting “send” or “post” to ask:
Does the tone and attitude of my post lack patience and kindness?
Or Is it boasting and proud?
Does it seek to dishonor or anger others or keep a record of their wrongs?
[Insert justifications: But my other, especially my political or religious other, is in the wrong! They're spreading mis-information. They must be put in their place.]
Maybe. But I don’t hear in Paul’s ideas an exception for asserting intellect and faith
apart from or at the expense of expressing love.
If we can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and have faith that can move mountains, if we don’t have love, the apostle Paul says this in fact:
We are nothing. (Verse 2)
That may be frustrating for some whose online habits revolve around posting news links from the opposition and berating them for their lack of intellect, heart, and so on. Look what those ridiculous Republicans did this time. Look how villainous these Democrats are. Can you believe the Conservatives on this one? Can you believe the Liberals went there?
How stupid, stupid, stupid other people are, we chant in the name of Christ and right beliefs.
[Insert protest: But if we do not do this, how will people know what we stand for? How will we set ourselves apart from those with wrong behaviors and beliefs?]
By our eloquent and persistent attacks on the opposition?
By the way we zero in on some pastor or politician we consider errant?
By the way we highlight the failures and missteps of the other party?
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – Jesus of Nazareth