The Need for Love
1 Corinthians 13
Last January we adopted two dogs. A member of my congregation texted me that his kid brother’s dog had given birth to puppies; did I know anyone who might want one?
Well, yes, I did—me! My wife, much more unsure than I was, went with me (she would never have let me go alone!). We took two dogs. We’re out a lot, and we felt this would give them companionship.
The trouble with puppies is that they grow (That’s not the only problem. They chew things—anything!—but growing is the problem I want to focus on.). Our two have grown a lot! Beau, the male, has gotten especially large, and hasn’t stopped yet. He’s still got over a year of puppyhood ahead of him. No telling where this increase in size is going to end.
Beau and Bella are two of the most affectionate dogs I have ever known. They can’t wait to be petted. Beau is particularly in need of affection. When I pour them fresh water, Bella immediately takes a drink. Beau is likely to come to me for another touch instead. At their size being desperate for affection can be problematic. What do you do with a 60+ pound animal who wants to be a lap dog?
When it comes to affection there’s not much difference between our dogs and human beings. We all need all the love we can get. People go to extraordinary lengths to find affection. If we can’t find love by doing something good, we will choose antisocial behavior if that is the only way we can get attention. Some of us latch onto possessions as a source of love. Even though inanimate objects can’t love us back we lavish affection on them, loving things that can’t love us in return. Anything—anything—for love.
The early apostles understood the force of love. In his gospels and letters John emphasizes Jesus’ love, letting his readers know that God is love, that God’s love is made visible in Jesus Christ, and that God loves all humanity more than we can ever love each other.
Paul thought love so important that he called it “a more excellent way,” (1 Cor. 12:31), and wrote a whole chapter about it. 1 Corinthians 13 is referred to as “the love chapter.” It is often used at weddings, and sometimes at funerals. But if we limit its use to these occasions we miss its main point.
Paul is aware that the Corinthian Christians do not love as deeply as they should. He wants the church to know that love must be its central characteristic. If people don’t love each other—fervently, constantly, overwhelmingly—God is not working in them and cannot work through them. Love is the essential element in their relationship with God and with each other. Jesus said the two most important commandments are to love God and love each other. Paul is echoing Jesus’ message in this chapter.
As desperately as we need to receive love, we also need to give love. Our dogs prove this every time we have a petting session. They snuggle up to my legs, getting as close to me as they can, stepping on my feet, almost knocking me over in the process. They do everything they can to lick me. I’m not fond of being licked by dogs, but I realize this is their attempt to give me as much affection as I am giving them. As annoying as I find it, I don’t object. They need to express their love in return for the love they receive from me.
“So now faith, hope and love abide,” Paul says, “but the greatest of these is love.”