1 Corinthians 4 is 1 Corinthians 13 in action. Because 1 Corinthians 13 is Paul’s great hymn about love, 1 Corinthians 4 is therefore love in action. Rather than seeing 1 Corinthians 13 as being some highfalutin theology, I see it as a record of the love that Paul has lived in his own life, the kinds of things he writes about in 1 Corinthians 4.
Come with me, and let us learn of love from the life of St. Paul.
Let us learn as children from St. Paul, the spiritual father of many of us, even though he has passed before us into glory. For just as he taught Timothy and the Corinthians, Paul, though he is dead, still teaches us today as a loving father.
Here is a list of Paul’s theological teachings about love from 1 Corinthians 13, matched with Paul’s experiences of love from 1 Corinthians 4.
1 Corinthians 13 1 Corinthians 4
(definition of love) (experience of love)
13:2 – have all knowledge but have not love, 4 (whole chapter) – Paul teaches with his life what
I am nothing he has taught with his words
13:3 – though I give all food to feed poor 4:11 – Paul hungers and thirsts
13:4 – love does not parade itself, is not puffed up 4:6 – “that none of you be puffed up on behalf
of one against the other”
4:7 – “what do you have that you have not received?
– “why do you boast as if you had not received it?”
4:18 – “Now some are puffed up”
13:5 – does not seek its own 4:12 – “we labor, working with our own hands”
4:9-13 – Paul’s sufferings
13:5 – is not provoked 4:21 – Paul could come with rod but prefers to come with gentleness
13:5 – thinks no evil 4:12 – “being reviled, we bless”13:7 – bears all things, endures all things 4:9 – “for we have been made a spectacle to the world”
4:11-13 – Paul endures his many sufferings
4:12 – “being persecuted, we endure”
How has Paul been equipped to live such a life of love?
Strangely enough, I believe it has to do with Lent. I believe that how a man is enabled by God to live such a miraculous life of love is to give up himself to God, event by event, thought by thought, frustration by frustration. I believe that Paul, like his greater Teacher, had learned obedience by the things he suffered.
As we proceed through Lent, don’t think of Lent as something merely to be endured, but as something to be lovingly carried. Whatever things you give up, you are giving up for the sake of Christ. Whatever you give up, you are to give up out of love for God.
You see, “Lent = love in action,” if you observe it with love. Whatever you give up is really a cross that you bear for Jesus Christ, and this is why you should lovingly bear it. Therefore, take up your cross of love daily, that you may be like your Master in all things.
If you do not observe Lent, or if you are observing it dully and out of mere duty, then you are missing out on an opportunity to be schooled in love. Listen to St. Paul, your teacher. Because Paul’s life was a life of love in action, I urge you to imitate him, (verse 16) as a child does a father.
Because Jesus Christ, the Master, led a life of love, imitate Him, as St. Paul imitated Him, by giving yourself up to God in love.
Prayer: Father, I ask that you would enable me by Your Holy Spirit to be able to follow Your Son in love. Help me to take up my cross of love daily, so that I may not seek my own things or become puffed up. Thank you, Father, for every good gift of grace that I have received from Your loving hand. For each of them make me truly thankful that I might not boast in what is rightfully Yours. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
1. Pick one teaching of love from 1 Corinthians 13 and one experience of love from 1 Corinthians 4 and apply them to your own life. How can you be more loving in this one particular way?
2. Which teaching of love from 1 Corinthians 13 is your Lenten fast most related to? Throughout Lent, practice recognizing your fast as an act of love and as God’s practical training in giving up self, which is love.
Resolution: I resolve to see my Lenten fast or discipline as an opportunity to learn to love and to give up my things for the love of God.
© 2013 Fr. Charles Erlandson