1 Corinthians 13, Paul’s famous writing about love, is one of the lectionary texts for this coming Sunday. It’s an interesting choice, alongside Jeremiah’s call to be a prophet (Jeremiah 1:4-10) and Jesus claiming his call in his hometown synagogue as he reads from Isaiah (Luke 4:21-30). Yet I see how love connects these two stories, because both are about the ability to speak and act congruently and courageously, powered by deep love of God.
Paul is blunt: no matter how powerful and dramatic our actions may be, if they don’t arise from love of God, they are meaningless. Our words about love are hollow if our actions aren’t congruent with them, not matter how emphatically or often we claim to love others.
When love dwells in our innermost being, our words and actions are integrated, and what we do and say builds God’s kingdom. If, however, pride is what dwells in our innermost being, there is no room for love, and no matter what we say and do to prove otherwise, there will be a disconnect between our words and actions. I believe Paul knew that, which is why he points out that love isn’t self-seeking, arrogant, jealous or boastful. Love doesn’t keep a scorecard of the good it does, while pride wants every good deed or word recorded and seen by others.
People rooted in pride may say they love others, but their actions betray their hearts. Or they may perform acts of charity, all the while criticizing those they claim to serve. Or they may shun small deeds of service because they won’t be seen or praised by others.
However, those who have hearts full of love act and speak with integrity. What they say is consistent with what they do. They may not say much and what they do may not be noticed by many, but in consistent ways they demonstrate what is within their hearts. It is such as these who lay down their lives for others in countless small ways, who sacrifice much without fanfare because love fills their hearts.
When I consider that Jeremiah faced hardship as a prophet, and that Jesus was rejected by those who thought they knew him, I can see that they endured because their eyes were fixed on the object of their love. They put God first, and not only with their lips but in their hearts.
Paul knew that pride and love cannot occupy the same space within us. Where pride dwells, there is no room for love. May we evict pride and invite love into our hearts!