Wednesday 7th February 2024
Spending Lent with the Corinthians
Yesterday, I wrote about recognising the gifts which God has given to each one of us, and using those gifts for the benefit of all. But what might this mean in practice? How can we use our gifts for the common good?
Paul was aware of this question, and so he provided the Corinthians with the following answer. To start with, he stated the general principle: it’s all about love. “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or clanging cymbal, And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do have love, I gain nothing”. This passage from 1 Corinthians Chapter 13 is well-known; a less-well known passage to the same effect is found in Chapter 16 of the same letter – “Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love”.
Having stated the general principle, Paul goes on to provide some examples of what Christian love might mean in practice: “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”.
These are merely examples of what an attitude of Christian love might look like in a particular situation. Paul provides other examples elsewhere in his letter: for example in chapter 8, he writes about giving thought to effect which our actions might have on others (“take care that this liberty of yours does not become a stumbling block to the weak”). Paul’s examples can be helpful, but they are intended merely as illustrations of the general principle of Christian love, and it is this general principle which matters.
This brings us back to Paul’s pithy summary of the Christian life in Chapter 16: “Let all that you do be done in love”. If we do nothing else during Lent but think and pray about these 9 words, we will have spent a good Lent.