Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
More than a few couples have tied the knot to these words that were penned by the Apostle Paul.
One could easily conclude that Paul intended this to be a meditation on love … a paean to wedded bliss.
Contrary to what one might see inscribed on the decorative plaques staring back at you from the shelves at your local Christian gift store, that was NOT Paul’s intention at all.
Consider Paul’s audience: the Corinthians. Back in Paul’s day, Corinth was Sin City. If there was a rule, the people of Corinth broke it. If there was a sin, the people of Corinth committed it. (Drunkenness? Check. Incest? Check. Idol worship? Check. Sexual immorality? Check. Jealousy, Quarreling, and Infighting? Check, Check, and Check. The list goes on … )
Earlier in 1 Corinthians 3:2-3, Paul vents his frustration with the church in Corinth:
I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly.
If 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 should be read as anything, it should be read more in the manner of an exasperated teacher having to correct a group of wayward schoolchildren than as an ode to romance.
Paul is REALLY having to get down to basics here (“A is for Apple, B is for Banana, C is for Cat … “). Anything more advanced would completely go over the heads of the sinning, stubborn, recalcitrant church in Corinth.
Something to consider the next time you hear this scripture passage recited at a wedding ceremony.