If We Speak

Published 6:45 pm Friday, February 4, 2022

Do you have a favorite scripture? Or a favorite book of the Bible? Maybe some scripture you memorized or that somehow stuck with you along the way. Maybe there is a text from the Bible that you realize has traveled with you for a while now, and you are attached to it in a lasting way.

I can recall a time at another church when I dared read the 23rd Psalm from a newer, might I say more accurate, translation. Someone among the membership quickly informed me that I had read it from the wrong translation, and that I should always read it from the one they are used to hearing it from. Which is, of course, absurd.

Except that I get it. They were used to the poetry of the old translation, and had an emotional tie to hearing it that way. So when they said I read it from the “wrong” translation, that’s what they really meant. They were saying that It didn’t sound right to their ears.

There are probably others besides the 23rd Psalm. John 3:16 comes to mind. The Luke 2 Christmas story of Jesus’ birth. We could go on. We have emotional ties to a certain few scriptures.

When I think back on 1 Corinthians 13, the so-called “Love Chapter” of the Bible, I immediately go in my own mind to some fond places. I think of my youth group days when someone read it probably about every other week for one reason or another. I recall weddings I have done. I have lost count how many times this text has been requested for those. Recommitments of wedding vows, anniversary celebrations, covenants of new church or ministry-related groups or organizations. This text is popular.

This one is tied to everyone’s deepest thoughts of what married or relational love is supposed to be. Visions of happy couples, arm-in-arm and practically flitting out of a church sanctuary newly married just dance in my head.

So, you tread carefully when folks have this one in their catalog of sacred scriptures. Which makes it all the more daunting for me this week to remind us that when the Apostle Paul first said these words, he didn’t immediately go down the back staircase to the fellowship hall and eat chicken fingers. He didn’t dunk a marshmallow in the chocolate fountain while waiting for the newlywed couple to finish their photos.

No, he was actually fussing at a church. The church at Corinth had so much going for it. They were in arguably the coolest, hippest and most happening shipping port city of all the ancient world. They had talent, money and all the capability you could want in an affluent city.

They also weren’t getting along, especially with the community around their little spiritual community, these early Christians we know as The Corinthians. They could be a little selfish and unfocused. They didn’t always get along with each other.

What was really at stake, if we look at the big picture, was that the kingdom of God was paying a price for all the missed opportunity the Corinithian church was letting go by. They could do better. Paul was telling them to behave like people who believed in God through Christ.

He was telling adults who claimed the name of Christ how they should grow up and act like adults in their relationships, and maybe their church would grow some and maybe it would be held in better standing within its own community. Let me encourage you to read these words again now, because I want you to hear it in its original intent.

If we speak and have demonstrated Christ’s love, then all things are possible.