Just as lots of people have a favorite website, many Christians have a favorite Bible verse.
Before I go any farther, let me just say that it’s fine with me if you’re a Christian, or from some other religion or no religion at all. I’m not going to try to convert you or un-convert you. This blog is for everyone. It may change your life. But that won’t be because I tell you to change. It will be because something in you vibrates a little brighter or a little louder or a little sweeter or richer when you read this blog. It’s because there’s something here for you.
Now what was I saying? Oh yeah. Just as lots of people have a favorite website, many Christians have a favorite Bible verse. Although I’m no longer a Christian, I still have one verse that sticks in my mind more than any other. Or rather, part of a verse. I may be the only person in the world for whom this is their favorite verse, but that’s pretty typical of me.
It’s the segue from 1st Corinthians 12 to 13. (I Cor. 12:31b)
Don’t worry. It’s okay. If you have no idea what that means, it doesn’t matter. If you do, and if you have a Bible lying around, feel free to go look it up. I’ll just wait here. But you don’t have to, either way, because I’ll tell you what it says.
But first, as they say on talk shows, “let’s set up this clip.” The Apostle Paul is talking to the church in Corinth. Hip, upscale, cosmopolitan Corinth. Fashion hub of the known world, maybe? Worship services must have been pretty chaotic. People talking in tongues nobody had ever heard before. People were going a little wild with their so-called “spiritual gifts,” like teaching and healing, and prophesying and leadership, and languages of humans and angels. And so they’d asked Paul to comment on which ones were better. Sounds like a bunch of children each showing Daddy their artistic creations and saying “Daddy, my picture’s the best one, isn’t it?”
And Paul gives them his feedback, that the most important gifts are the ones that build up the community, rather than serving the individual.
And then comes my favorite moment. Paul says all the gifts are important and the church needs them all. “But strive for the greater gifts.”
And then his tone changes. He says, “And I will show you a still more excellent way.” That’s it. That’s my favorite moment. Because what follows is what life is really all about. What could be a more excellent way than striving for the greater gifts? Better than any gifts? Better than striving to build up the community? Better than impressing people with your clothes or your money or your erudition? Better than having more blog hits than any other blogger? A still more excellent way.
So what is this “still more excellent way”?
What follows is one of the most famous passages in the Bible.
“If I speak in the tongues of humans and of angels, but don’t have love, I am a noisy gong, or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge and have all faith to move mountains but don’t have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I have, but don’t have love, I gain nothing.”
Then Paul goes on to describe love. It’s a beautiful statement.
Love. The still more excellent way. Agape, in the Greek. Unconditional love. Not eros (sexual, physical love), not philios (brotherly love), but AGAPE: love no matter what. Radical Compassion. Nothing else really matters without it.
* * * (c) JD Gamble 2011 * * *
That’s what this blog is going to be about. Love. Living by love. Living a still more excellent way.
Oh, of course, I’ll talk about lots of other things, too. I’ll talk about relationships, and control and community. I’ll look at people and parenting and politics and participles. And money and marriage and meaning. I’ll tell stories and recite poems, and give you quotes and photos and whatever else I stumble upon that I think will enrich your life. But if it isn’t all rooted in love, none of the rest matters.
You’ll forgive me if, from time to time, I refer to you as “my beloved readers.” No, I’m not delusional enough to believe I’m “in love” with each of you (most of whom I’ve never even met). Love is an action. It’s a thing you do. It’s a way you live. An excellent way. THE excellent way. And a beloved is someone you do it for.
What I hope for you, is that you would be able to strive for the greatest gifts, whatever you believe they are, but at the same time, live the “still more excellent way.” Live by love, my beloved readers. Live by love.
… at least, that’s the way it seems to me.
- The Irreverend JD