“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13
It has been said that “a text without a context is just a pretext for what we want it to mean”. In other words you can take any verse in Scripture and make it say just about anything you want it to say. Someone once delineated these six directions regarding the interpretation of Scripture: First, consider the entire verse in which the specific line in which you are interested is written. Second, consider the entire paragraph in which the verse is written. Third, consider the chapter in which the paragraph is written. Fourth, consider the book in which the chapter is written. Fifth, consider the literary genre in which the book is written. And sixth, consider the testament in which this literary genre is written. All of these steps can help us understand what the intent of the original author was, and what the text meant to the people receiving it.
When reading 1 Corinthians, one realizes that in chapters 12 and 14, the apostle Paul is giving instructions regarding the various parts of the body and the various gifts among the members. He is describing life in the church. It is important to note that Paul does not take a break from his topic, and decide to write a chapter to be read at weddings when he wrote chapter 13. Paul’s intent is that we read these three chapters together, and realize that life in the church can only be harmonious when it is characterized by the love that 1 Corinthians 13 describes. (The same is true for marriage, which is why this is still a good chapter to be read at weddings!)
Our church family is made up of brothers and sisters who have warts and imperfections. And if we dare take a long hard look in the mirror, we find the same to be true of ourselves. Yet, it is by the love that lives here, that the world is to be won to the Saviour! Jesus says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn. 13:35) And then he proceeded to give the greatest example of selfless, sacrificial love this world has ever seen, by going to the cross to redeem His bride from the slavery of sin! May God help us to grow in this love for one another!