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Day 18—Tuesday, March 5

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love complicates things. It can be hard even to understand what love is in the context of our world and our personal relationships. How do we know when we have it, and when we do, how do we respond? In our daily lives, both within and beyond RCPC, metrics are important. Basic needs must be met and higher order goals prioritized. Resources must be developed and stewarded. When plans are operationalized, they must be assessed for effectiveness and efficiency. We expect more of ourselves and each other than to settle for a compass pointing in the right direction. We live in a GPS world. We need to know where we are, in addition to where we’re going at every moment.

As someone who long ago traded in his Boy Scout compass and collection of dozens of carefully folded roadmaps for Waze navigation, I’m sympathetic to the Corinthians’ questions about their Christian practice. I, too, want to know how I measure up. How do I hold myself accountable for the things I believe, say, and do?

Chapter 12 is somewhat comforting in this regard. Paul casts a wide net, noting that God provides gifts and opportunities to everyone (12:6), that there are different varieties of these (12:4-6), and that they all originate in the Spirit (12:11). Everyone has a role to play, a contribution to provide, a talent to share. It seems straightforward enough. Just make good use of the talents and opportunities we’ve each been given and call it a day.

Then we turn the page to chapter 13, and Paul pulls the rug out. All those gifts and opportunities so generously given, even the most blessed of spiritual gifts detailed in chapter 12, are meaningless without love. As someone who wants to believe, say, and do the right things, this is a difficult conclusion for me to accept. Even if I’m able to check the boxes on my task list, now Paul is telling me there’s no partial credit for showing my work. God gives us skills, resources, and opportunities not so we can spend our days accounting them, but so that in pursuing them, we can truly come to know and express God’s love in Christ.

This understanding puts a little different spin on the verses commonly read at weddings that follow, describing love as “patient,” “kind,” “not envious,” etc. (13:4-7). This passage is much more than a compelling description of the bond and shared responsibility that leads a bride and groom to the altar. This passage provides us tools to measure our use of God’s gifts and ensure they are achieving their intended purposes for us individually, for RCPC, and for the broader community.

Even when we know where we are and where we’re headed, we’ll never reach the destination without love. Love is the destination.

Lord, help us remember that your love is both our source and our destination. Thank you for your generous gifts of talent and opportunity. As we pursue them, grant us clarity of mind so that we may better apply the teachings of Jesus and openness of heart so that we may step into his love and share it in everything we believe, say, and do. Amen.

-Christopher Ptomey


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