The Love Chapter and Parenting
I Corinthians 13 is a famous passage in the bible. It's been called "The Love Chapter". It's in the middle of a section where the apostle Paul has written about spiritual gifts. It comes just after another famous section where Paul compares the community to a human body.
We are in relationship, and so we need to live in a community based on trust, respect, care, hope and intentionality. In I Corinthians 12, the chapter before, Paul encourages each person to recognize each person as being different. He praises each difference and stresses that each person has value and needs to be honoured. He points out that "[t]he eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don't need you!' And the head cannot say to the feet, 'I don't need you!'" As Paul continues the metaphor, he later on says, "[T]here should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it." What an important concept for any community, but particularly a family! We all have things to do in that family community that we share, but we each bring our identity and our integrity into that community. We need to recognize each person's identity and integrity, so that we can work together to build community using trust, respect, care and hope.
Now in the I Corinthians 13 chapter, Paul talks about how to be a community builder. "And now I will show you the most excellent way", he begins. That "way" is to use love. Think of love as an umbrella over everything we do, love as an overarching principle.
Let's look at Paul's explanations and definitions of love. Paul gives visual pictures of what love looks like.
“Love is patient” Do parents give children second chances? Third chances? More? Do we encourage determination? Are we pushing for the extra mile? Do you celebrate when your child is the persistent learner in school?
“Love is kind.” Kindness is in the voice and the body posture. Kindness is in the tone and word choice. Kindness is thoughtfulness and it is intentionally putting the other person first. Kindness is hard in our society, because it can be about submission, and people don’t like to submit. They see it as a loss of strength. It’s time to switch that paradigm and see kindness as strength.
“It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” Envy and Pride, two of the seven deadly sins, places the individual ahead of everybody else. Envy desires what others have for oneself, and pride is exultation of self ahead of others. Both are community breakers.
“It is not rude” Manners show respect to others. Do we know how to greet another person? Do we know how to politely say no to someone? How do we conduct ourselves in public? To have manners sounds quaint nowadays. We prefer to think about ourselves instead of working in community, and manners are the tools that we should use to conduct ourselves in this public forum. Manners need to be taught.
“It is not self-seeking” What if in every relationship, we put the other person ahead of us 95% of the time? The other person is the priority. Everybody has a soul and that should the reason that they should be honoured. How do honour our parents, our family members, our coworkers and our children? Show love by showing respect. Show love by trusting.
“It is not easily angered” Tough. Tough. Tough. People hurt other people, so when there’s injustice, don’t show more anger. I need to find love when I need it most. Loving those people who hurt others or fight against you or say hurtful words in the living room or make things difficult for you is very hard. When someone says, “That person hates me”, we need to equip our children to find ways to show love. Jesus talked about how easy it is to love someone who loves you. It’s a lot harder to show love to someone who doesn’t show you love.
“It keeps no records of wrongs” Love doesn't say, “You've got three chances and then you are out.” This is a hard one though. Is the person who did the harm treated with trust, respect, care and hope? How is that measured in the discipline?
“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth” Do we teach morals? We as parents need to model honesty, respect, trust, care, hope and the positive virtues that we as a society should be lifting up. We hope that other adults will be positive role models for our children, so that our children can recognize and hopefully internalize those virtues. Also, we define for our child what evil is and what hate is. We as parents have a priority to teach discernment, and we need to call out wrongs when we see them.
“It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Protect equals care. Trust is overtly stated here. Hope is optimism. Perseverance is the sticking to a task that needs to be completed, but surrounded by love, it is not self-serving but benefiting the community.
“Love never fails” Here’s Paul “most excellent way” to live in community. It’s easy to say but hard to do, because other people are hard to work with. I can say that because I’m also “other people”. I can’t think of a time where love did not succeed. People do horrible things to one another. As a teacher, when I did current events with learners, they would share articles of horrible events of school shootings, murders and war? What do we do with that? Where’s the love? Did it fail? Then I would say what children’s television host Mr. Rogers would tell children. He told them that after tragedies happen that we need to look for the people who come to help, the common bystander, the hero, the police officer or firefighter. Many times these people are risking their lives for someone that they don’t know. They help because it’s the right thing to do. Bad things happen. Good people help. Love never fails.
“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”(1 Corinthians 13: 12-13)We look in a mirror in which we can’t see the image clearly. Our use of love is imperfect. When we intend to bless and the perception of care is received, then we create inviting hospitality, putting the other person first and showing love.