“What the World Needs Now”
1 Corinthians 13:1-8 – January 31, 2016
One of the most popular themes for songs is that of love. Songs that describe love of one person for another, or songs that tell about how awful it is to have unrequited love. Also, songs that tell about the emotions and feelings that come with being “in love.”
One song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David talks about love in a basic and simple way. Saying, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.”
What is the state of the world, anyway? Judging from a quick view of the local news, the city of Chicago, the state of Illinois, the federal government, unemployment, the drug and substance abuse problem, not to mention abuse of different kinds—against women, children, and seniors. That is not even mentioning the various armed conflicts throughout the world—fights over territory, disputes over resources, differences between people of different religious beliefs.
What can possibly bring harmony, hope and wholeness into the world today?
This brings us to our scripture reading for the day, from 1 Corinthians 13. This chapter is called the Love Chapter. So often used as a scripture text for weddings! Perhaps you or a friend or relative had this chapter read at a wedding. But, did you know that the apostle Paul did not write this chapter to glorify romantic love?
I appreciate Brian Peterson’s words. “What is often missed, and perhaps actively ignored, is that this text was first written to a community that was having a very difficult time staying together. Perhaps preached with that in mind, it makes a surprisingly helpful text for a wedding! It is in the difficult realities of relationships and communities that the love described by Paul needs to be lived out in costly ways.”  We can see how much discord and infighting is happening in the church at Corinth. Maybe because of that dynamic, this bible passage is exactly what that group of believers needed to hear.
Yes, verses 4 through 8 give a good deal of information about love. Not eros love, the romantic type of love, or phileo love, brotherly love or the love between friends. Instead, the Apostle Paul talks of agape love, the love that comes from God, which is a higher and purer form of love. Agape is the Greek word for love that Paul uses throughout 1 Corinthians 13.
“All of the lovely poetry in verses 4-7 is designed to show a divided church how agape love looks and acts. I emphasize ‘show,’ as opposed to ‘tell.’ Paul doesn’t give a definition with a few words; he paints a picture with a full pallet of words (16 in all). It is a verbal picture, that is, a picture that focuses on verbs. That is, Paul tells us what love does, not how it feels.” 
Yes, Paul shows us in these verses what love does. However—he also mentions some things that love is not; what love does not do.
Starting with verse 4, love does not envy. Envy: if I envy some other pastor because of their huge church, that means I’m actively jealous of them. But, love does not work that way.
Moving on, love does not boast. Boasting? There is a fine line here. It is beneficial to have a good opinion of yourself! But, not to go overboard. I suspect we all know of someone who is boastful. That would be like me, speaking of my church administration skills with excessive pride and vanity. (False! Church administration is one area where I can learn a great deal! I am learning so much from Pastor Gordon. He is marvelous at church administration!)
Next, love does not dishonor others. This made me think for a bit. I checked out the original Greek word. I found that Paul was talking about being arrogant and conceited. You know, walking around with my nose stuck in the air. That would be like a minister who climbed so high up on a pedestal that there wouldn’t be a way of getting him or her down. Without a great big fall, or a huge crash, when the minister finally came tumbling down.
Love is not self-seeking. It doesn’t insist on its own way! I’m reminded of the character Veruca Salt from the children’s story Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Veruca is rude and has absolutely no manners, and always insists on her own way! Enough said.
What is more, love is not easily angered. I love the way the Amplified Bible has this phrase: “[love] is not touchy or fretful or resentful.” We all know what those emotions are like. Anyone who is showing those qualities is not showing love.
Love does not delight in evil. That means that love does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness. When I watch television or read articles in the newspaper or online, sometimes I see horrible injustices. For example, I just read an article in the BBC World Service of a province in India where the birth of every girl child is met with mourning and great laments. That’s right—for every girl child born. One doctor, Dr. Ganesh Rakh, runs a hospital in that province. He thought that was not right. So, he has decided that every girl baby he delivers with be delivered for free. But the boy babies—for those he still charges.
In the four years since he started this campaign, he has delivered 464 baby girls. What a way to change the closeminded injustice of a group’s mindset. He now gets praise from many Indian ministers and government officials. All because he shows love to girl babies. 
Here, in this sermon, I have given several examples of what not to do. How not to love.
This is a penetrating way to teach people. Show them by example—examples of how not to love. Examples of jealousy or boasting, arrogance or rudeness. And especially, an example of a horrible injustice, where people are openly bigoted against females. (This can also be true of people who are bigoted about other differences, too, like about slavery, or people of color, or of a different class of people, or of other nationalities or countries of origin.)
Those bad examples? Paul shows us clearly in this passage—don’t do those things! Don’t be that way! Sometimes, a bad example is the quickest way to our hearts and minds.
We can clearly see that Paul’s ministry of love, harmony and wholeness is for the whole world. Not just about taking care of those in our family, although that’s important. It’s more than “taking care of our own,” although that is certainly laudable. It’s about showing love for everyone. For those affected by loneliness, or despair, disaster or disease wherever they are, without exclusion of those not like us or even of those we fear.
What did the Apostle Paul tell us about love? Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (That is, always. Always.)
Love never fails.
Ending as I began, we look at the Bacharach and David song, “What the World Needs Now.” The chorus of the song tells us the world needs love, sweet love. Badly.
“No, not just for some, but for every, every, everyone.”
Amen, Lord. Amen.
 http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2734, Commentary, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, Brian Peterson, Preaching This Week, WorkingPreacher.org, 2013.