From Our Pastor: October 2015

ROAD LESS TRAVELED

“Love is not self-seeking” (1 Corinthians 13:5).

Rev. Dr. Avedis Boynerian

In many churches the “love chapter” is read only at weddings. Naturally, it is appropriate for wedding services and ceremonies and serves as an excellent guide for Christian marriage, but the apostle Paul intended this hymn to love to be a model for all of life. He, therefore, commends love as a source of healing for the many problems and divisions that the members of the church in Corinth were facing.

The church members, among others things, have been arguing and fighting over the spiritual gifts. Paul mentions “greater gifts” and then says, “I will show you the most excellent way” – the way of love (12:31b); He shows them the best way to behave like Christians and church members. So he, wanting to move to a higher level of love among the members of the church in Corinth, selects a new word, “agape” and fills it with new meaning. He seems to tell the church members to set aside all their divisive gifts and put on love - agape. The Corinthians knew what eros - passionate (sexual) love is all about and they also knew what phileo - brotherly (familial) love is all about. But what they did not know is this agape – divine love. Therefore, he, in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, defines what agape is and agape does – “Love is patient, love is kind … Keeps no record of wrongs ... Rejoices with the truth. Always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Then he also defines what agape is not and agape does not – “Love does not envy, does not boast, is not proud. It does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered … Does not delight in evil.”

What Paul is saying here is this: Agape is not directed toward ourselves, but toward others. Agape is concerned not with the self, but with the other. Agape is completely and totally unselfish and it goes against our natural feelings to put ourselves first. Agape is a love that reaches out to others and is “not self-seeking.” It looks beyond its own interests and embraces the concerns and needs of others.

Corinth was, long before Christianity, a city of love in the worldly sense. There existed the Temple of Aphrodite - the Goddess of love and the city was populated by thousands of temple priestess (prostitutes). So Paul chooses his discourse on agape because many Corinthians, including the church members, had the wrong idea of love. They needed to be introduced to Agape, the most excellent way - the way of love that is “not self-seeking”, but seeks the wellbeing of the church members.

Paul, by introducing this new word agape, sets before us a true challenge. He takes agape as his model and wants us to replace it with the name “Jesus.” It’s amazing! Jesus fulfills them all! “Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind … Keeps no record of wrongs ... Rejoices with the truth. Always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Jesus does not envy, does not boast, is not proud. Does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered … Does not delight in evil.” Now, the challenge is to try to replace it with your and my name. Thus, the more we become like Jesus, who was and is the embodiment of God’s love – agape, the more agape we will show to others.