1Corinthians

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1 Cor. 13

This chapter is Paul's great write-up on love. He uses the word agape throughout. The King James Version renders this as charity, and that is perhaps close to the mark. Agape is unconditional love, freely given, which is of a sacrificial nature. It is the kind of love Jesus commanded his followers to give to their enemies. It is the kind of love that exists between a parent and a child, and in a marriage when two people bury their egos in service to one another.

The NIV translation is often quoted at weddings:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

In the First Century Church, when the Apostles were still alive, they did many miracles including healing the sick and even raising people from the dead. These powers seemed to end with the close of the Apostolic Age and this loss was predicted by St. Paul in this chapter:

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

Although the context of the whole chapter is agape love, some believe that the complete New Testament was "that which is perfect" which was to come and do away with the special powers of the Apostolic Age, especially tongues, which were a stop-gap measure to evangelize until the written word could go out. Paul was the first Christian writer, and John was yet to write his gospel and epistles and Apocalypse.

1 Cor. 15

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:26 "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death". Yet without death, wealth and power would continue to accumulate in fewer and fewer immortal hands, and old ideas would never give way to new ones. Without death, people would not feel the vitality of living that the very brevity of our life stimulates, and the Earth would continue to fill up with people until everyone was eating those funny green graham crackers Charlton Heston found out about in Soylent Green.

Whether death is destroyed now or at the end of time, it is not really our enemy, no more than pain is our enemy. Pain is a defense mechanism, just as the fear of death is. People who cannot feel pain rarely live to be twenty years old, and those who feel we should wage a war against Demon Pain are as ignorant as those who mistake, as the slings and arrows of an enemy, the natural fear of death which is ingrained in all living things to cause them to avoid risky behaviors.

People pay good money and go on diets to keep themselves from extending to infinity in all directions in space, yet they lament that human life is finite, and seek the holy grail of making themselves unlimited in the direction of time. But look around you. Nothing in this world is meant to endure forever. Even the redwoods last for only 2,000 years, an eyeblink in the life of the Earth. In time the very sun will die. Jesus said, "Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?"/. We cannot eliminate our fear of death and it is not really desirable to do so. But Jesus teaches us not to worry about death. And after teaching this to us in words, he died and rose again to teach us in a way that resonates directly in our soul.

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