Hymn of Love (1 Corinthians 13:1- 8)

This passage is the definitive explanation of what is expected of Christian love (agape). St Paul explains to the Corinthians, and to us today, that love surpasses other graces or talents. St Paul rejects the idea that the gifts of tongues (v.1), prophecy, knowledge and faith (v.2), and even the acts of almsgiving and martyrdom (v.3) can be performed in a Christian manner without love. This helps us to understand that though works and faith are spiritually essential for us, they of themselves are not adequate to bring us closer to Christ.

They need to be done in the correct spirit. That spirit is one of love, which is the foundation of the two commandments given by Christ in the Gospels: to love God with all of one’s heart, soul, mind and strength; and, to love one’s neighbour as oneself. (Mark 12:29-31) The character of the love to be shown is then described by St Paul in the five verses which follow, and which flow like a poem in both English and the original Greek. They describe what we must do to achieve true agape of the kind which Christ expects of humanity, and to which humanity is called. This starts by highlighting the virtues required for perfect love. These are patience, kindness, not envying, not boasting, and humility. (v.4) This love is one which “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.” (v.7)

However, it is not a love which accepts all things. It takes “no account of evil” (v.5) and “does not rejoice in unrighteousness.” (v.6) St John Chrysostom describes love as “not only subduing vice, but not even suffering it to arise at all.” When it is performed in the way described by St Paul, and shown in the lives of Christ, the Theotokos, and His Saints, “this love will never fail.” (v.8)

Source: Lychnos October-November 2019