More than Fine Talk

Reading: 1 Corinthians 13
When the song-writer tells us that

we can all agree. But we need to ask, what is love?

By French law, only the cheese actually produced within the town of Roquefort can be sold under the name of Roquefort cheese. There may be cheeses very much like it, but if they don't come from Roquefort, France, they aren't official Roquefort at all. There's no substitute - anything else is just cheese.

Of course everyone believes that "love" is very important. Psychologists have been telling us how vital love is for our human lives, and the serious consequences in later life if love is missing from one's childhood. In the 60's at the height of the anti-war protests over Viet Nam, the slogan, "Make love, not war", was popularised. Perhaps it was also a protest for some who wanted a change in community attitudes to sexual morality.

Part of our problem is that love means so many different things to different people. Someone says, "I love ice cream"; another, "I love Beethoven"; and some one else, "I love Henry". What do they mean by "love"? Sometimes it is just the barest level of what I call "ice-cream love", a sense of pleasure that "I" receive, an experience (an emotion, if you will) that is essentially focussed on "me". My "love" for that food, that music, that person, may simply be a measure of the satisfaction they give to me.

We can't change the English language - that's "love"! But we can question whether it is real love, the genuine product that the Maker in his wisdom made so basic for our human life and well-being. It is a twisted distortion of real love which is meant to be a caring concern which seeks and delights in the highest well-being of the other person. The focus of love is meant to be on giving but we have centred it on receiving.

In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul points us to real love.

The Christians at Corinth seemed to think they had everything spiritually. They prided themselves in their many spiritual gifts. Yet they quarrelled among one another - they lacked this basic Christian quality of love. They were too wrapped up in their own spiritual experience, and that was of little value without love.

A young woman went to the editor of a magazine. "I want to become a writer", she said. "What sort of things would you write about?" the editor inquired. "I want to write about love", she replied. "Well, what is love?", she was asked. At this, she got a far-away look in her eyes. "Love", she said, "it's soft light and sweet music. It's the shimmering reflections of the moon upon the lake. It's…" "Wait", interrupted the editor, "don't write about love until you know what it is all about. Love is giving yourself for the sake of another. Love is getting up in the middle of the night to a waking child before your spouse wakes up. Love is giving and serving."

Paul writes, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal" (1 Cor. 13.1).

Love is more than fine talk. Without love the most eloquent words are pointless.

Yes, we need love - not just more talk about it, but the real thing. People in the world, in our community, need it.

But we need God's help, not just to understand this kind of love, but to become the sort of people through whom it can reach out to others.

PRAYER: Dear Father, my life is so small and selfish, my love so weak, my best efforts so spoilt by wrong motives. Help me to receive your love and to be a channel for your love to reach others. For the sake of Jesus, Amen.

I Looked for Love

I looked for love -
I needed love.
I said to life,
Give me love
to feed and nourish me,
to satisfy my deepest need.
The paper headlines told of crisis -
my musings stopped.

I looked for love
to wash away life's dreariness,
to set my every nerve atingling...
But as I turned the TV on,
I saw a starving child.

I looked for love
in the soothings of sweet music.
Yet the love-songs seemed an empty wail,
while others sang of protest.

I looked for love
I saw a Cross,
and there a Face
of beauty-in-agony.
There I found it!
Love for me,
for everyone -
self-giving Love,
rich and free.

© Peter J. Blackburn, Burdekin Blue Care devotions, 2000
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, © International Bible Society, 1984.

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