08-12-07

In the middle chapters of his letter, Paul is trying to address the problems that the Corinthians had getting along with each other.  He deals with their selfishness in the communion service (1Cor.11), he encourages them to realize that each person in church is important (1Cor.12), and he teaches them that having a few ground rules during the service can keep things orderly and edifying (1Cor. 14).  But it’s in chapter 13 that Paul talks about the “more excellent way” to get along, the way of love.  Paul uses the Greek word “agape” to describe the best way for people in church to get along with each other.

As Paul clarifies what love is all about, he writes, “Love suffers long and is kind” (1 Cor 13:4 NKJV).  The phrase “suffers long” is often translated “patience”, and the original Greek word speaks specifically of being patient with difficult people.  The word “kind” speaks about doing good things for others.  I usually take these two words as separate things in a long list defining love.  But the New King James translators stuck that word “and” between the two words, and it made me think. Love doesn’t just “suffer long” with difficult people and then is finished with them.  Love also does good things for those same difficult people.  Sometimes I will “put up with” those difficult people I suffer with, but “kind” things are reserved for people I like.  Do you have difficult people you are learning to “suffer” with in your life?  Then take it a notch further and learn to do good to them as well.  God’s kindness changes us (Rom. 2:4).  May our kindness change others.  This is the more excellent way.