If you’ve been around The Village even a little bit you’ve heard us use this line from time to time. Here it is: ‘We don’t ever want to take ourselves too seriously, but we do want to take Jesus seriously’. Why do you think we say this often? It’s because we desperately want to be humble about who we are and what we know, yet we passionately want to discover who Jesus is and what kind of life he calls us to live. So for the next number of weeks we will be taking some time to narrow down what it is we should take seriously when it comes to our values, and to our faith.
There are a number of places in the scripture that do this for us. The writer’s of scripture often leave us with a few things to consider or a few things to take to heart; after a broad stroke of story and principals, they give us smaller bite size pieces to focus on. Take Micah 6:8. The minor prophet is begging to hear God tell him what he wants from him, God in turn leaves him with 3 things: Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly with God. Jesus, in Mark 12 and Luke 15 is asked what the greatest commandment is. Why? Because there were 613 of them and people wanted to know what to focus on. Jesus gives them two: Love God and Love Others. He says, ‘if you can get serious about these two, everything else will fall into place.
Paul does something similar in 1 Corinthians 13. This is known as the love chapter. It’s a beautiful, poetic, lyrical metaphor and description of love. It’s often read at weddings because it’s just a perfect definition of love. The interesting thing about this text is that it’s sandwiched between chapters 12 & 14, both of which are about the church as a body of believers who the spirit enables, with gifts, to serve and build up one another. Corinthians in general is a letter to a church with some issues that need solving. Chapters 12-14 are part of the solution. While Paul is helping the Corinthians to understand community in a healthy way, he throws in a very important tool for it to all come together: LOVE. Here’s how Paul narrow’s things down, with two verses, 12:31b & 13:13, “I will show you the most excellent way… And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
With all that is going on in Paul’s letter, he, like Micah, like Jesus, narrows it down to a few things to consider, a few things to take seriously, they are, Faith, Hope and Love. You can understand why, because even though all the things Paul is teaching about are important (i.e. gifts of the Spirit), faith, hope and love are that much more important. Faith (trust in God) is something that helps you in the present, but leads you to Hope, which is always about the future (knowing that tomorrow is actually better). These first two are key to our journey with Jesus. We must have full trust in God, knowing that our hope in him is secure. But Paul takes it a step further, he narrows down his list of three and turns it into a list of one – LOVE. But the greatest of these is love. Why would he do that? To confuse things, to simplify things? Neither. Paul wants to be very clear, without love everything else we have will not amount to anything; your gifts, skills, works, deeds, reputation, successes, all of it will mean absolutely nothing. What about tongues? What about prophesy? What about knowledge? What about _______? All those other things are temporary, important, but they can only help in the moment. Love (as well as Faith & Hope) launches things forward, it leaves an impact, it makes a difference.
So if there’s anything we really get serious about, it’s faith, hope and love – and if we have to narrow it down even further – LOVE.
Over the next few weeks we’ll be talking about the things that matter most, things like community, generosity, transformation, stories, and discovering what this all means together. Looking forward to it!