Actually I thought of embarking right away into details of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Yet I did not really feel at ease with my plans.
So today I am giving you some general remarks on how we might approach these verses. I can easily think of a number of ways how to react on St. Paul’s words here.
One possibility is to stress how high these standards are and to focus on the various failures of other Christians or non-Christians to come up to these. It might be easy to really tell my readers how others are short of love. This also might be a way to invite criticism on my own demeanour.
Anybody who tends to feel disappointed or hurt by the behaviour of others may come to the realisation: Oh these people really are that short of love. They say they are Christians but they just don’t live it. I will use all my strength to tell them how bad they are!
Others might begin to say: I know why I am not really interested in the Christian faith. Christians I met are such a bad example of what Christian love really ought to be. Christians seem not to be interested in really caring for all my sophisticated expectations!
I do not know what you really think of when reading blog-posts about love. We all have a desire to be loved and to experience love.
But what is going to happen if everybody should just focus on how loving others should be. I am afraid the result will be a rather loveless and cold society. If we all of us merely use Paul’s teaching on love to nourish our self-centred desires, we are going to miss the point.
Another way of responding might be that we examine ourselves. This certainly is a good way of reacting. Yet I also ask myself where it is going to lead us. If we should get frustrated about our so many failures and get tense about improving ourselves, at worst we might end up showing everybody our frustration rather than being kind and friendly.
In his introduction to chapter 13 Paul says: “…and I will show you a more excellent way.” (1 Corinthians 12:31). He does not say: I am going to place before you a set of rules. He speaks of a way. A way is a possibility.
A wanderer in a jungle or in a wilderness will feel encouraged upon discovering some way where others have treaded before. He will get the feeling: I might reach my destination rather than getting lost in this inhospitable environment.
From a pastoral or counselling point of view it seems advisable to dwell on positive aspects of our lives. As we recognise and recommend traces of loving behaviour or attitudes that others show, we give them a feeling: I am on the right way and I can grow.
We all need some encouragement. We can encourage each other by appreciating each other.
Encouragement is one way to motivate others.