´¯`•. November 22, 2016

Chapter 13, this week

This is the shortest chapter in 1 Corinthians (to this point), and… yet it’s the most confounding, I don’t even know how I’m going to write this one.  It probably didn’t help that I got snarky from minute one and it just went downhill from there, in my heart.

You’re probably wondering… ‘Why???  This is a most beloved and well-known chapter (or at least section of a chapter) in the Bible.  It’s read at just about every wedding (<< not mine.  Intentionally… I asked him NOT to read this one.)   We all know it:  Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy…  and so forth.  So… what’s the problem?

The problem is that this is NOT about love.  You read that right.  The church screwed this WHOLE thing up.  But you put hearts all over your journal page!  Yup… and if you know me (and what a person I am not), you would know that this would be the first sign that this chapter was going to be a rough one.  Of course, if you don’t know me, you had no idea what was coming, and thought this would be banal and easy.  Sorry… it’s not.

Let’s dive in and have us some controversy, shall we?

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.  vs. 1

Whoa, wait… that doesn’t say ‘love’, it says ‘charity’ in the KJV.  The version that’s been around (and a bestseller) since the 1600s.  WHY would they opt for the word ‘charity’ instead of ‘love’?  They had the word love in their vocabulary.  So WHY?

Because the root word here isn’t ‘love’.
It’s agape.

But…!!  Agape *IS* love, you argue.  Yes and no.  Actually (and here we go again)… there are four types of love, as shown in Mark 12:30 (command to us) and Luke 2:52 (Messiah living it out in example).  This is the ‘More Four‘ that I go on and on (and on) about.  Thou shalt love [the Lord thy God] with all thy [1] heart, with all thy [2] soul, with all thy [3] mind, and with all thy [4] strength.  

So far, you’re with me, right?  FOUR kinds of love: relational, spiritual, intellectual, and physical.  Well, there are also four names for these four kinds of love.  They are Philio, Agape, Storge, and Eros.  Did you see ‘agape’ among the names?  So YES, ‘agape’ is a kind of love, but it’s not love.  It’s one of FOUR love types.  Which begs the next question:  what’s the difference?  See Mark 12:30, again.  One is a physical love (eros), one is a person-to-person love (storge), one is an intellectual love (philio), and one is a spiritual love (agape).

Looking up the definitions is nearly impossible, because our society has watered down everything so badly, that ‘charity‘ now exclusively means ‘giving to the poor’, which is NOT what the Bible was saying, here.  (I did find a few definitions that called it ‘Christian love’.  Yeeeeah, that.  Hand me a wall to bang my head against, willya?)   Looking up ‘agape‘ wasn’t much easier.  Most said, ‘Christian charity’, although there were a few different definitions:  ‘kindness’, ‘forebearance’, ‘compassion’, ‘benefaction’, ‘altruism’… which basically all mean the same thing: kindness.  Which is also NOT agape.  Many definitions said, ‘Non-erotic’ love.  Well… yeah, but three out of four loves are non-erotic, hello!  Christians are astounding at watering down and losing the richness of everything.

The best definition I saw was this:  ‘a model of being spiritual and selfless amidst humanity’

Ah… there’s agape!  Finally!!!  Agape love is spiritual, not directed at man at all.  ‘Charity’ is towards man, so that’s not agape.  Agape is a love for the Lord… seen in a person.  Which means ‘love’ is wrong, and ‘charity’ is wrong… which makes it hard to read this chapter, because of the wrong word in it.  Do you see why I don’t LIKE this well-loved chapter?  Because it’s completely misused, every single time!

Now that you know what ‘Love/CharityAgape is, we can move begin again:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not [charity] agape, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not [charity] agape, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not [charity] agape, it profiteth me nothing.  vs 1-3

NOW it makes sense.  Anything you do here on earth… if you don’t have a spiritual and selfless persona that worships the Lord first and foremost?  Nothing you do will EVER matter.  THAT is what this is saying.  This isn’t about love, this is about devotion to our Creator, Yehovah Elohim.  This is about the state of our heart, our mind, our soul… who we live for.  It’s the CORE of our being.  It’s that deep!

In the last chapter, Paul gave us a list of spiritual gifts in 12:8-10.  Nine spiritual gifts, that he said wouldn’t measure up to what REALLY matters (covered in THIS chapter):  our devotion to Ha’Shem.  Take a look at verses 1-3 (in Chpt 13) once more with me, comparing them to the spiritual gifts from verses 8-10 (in Chpt 12):

 Chpt 13: 1-3  Spiritual Gifts
Tongues of Men  Tongues/Interpretation
 Tongues of Angels Discernment
Prophecy Prophecy
Mysteries Wisdom
Knowledge Knowledge
Faith Faith
Giving Healing
Martyrdom (not mentioned)

So Paul says that NONE of the spiritual gifts and wonderful things we could work with here on earth matter in light of the importance of a heart given wholly over to the Lord.  Good stuff, that!  He draws from what we talked about, and brings it forward into this whole thing… affirming what he said in the last chapter.  Taking this section alone – apart from the context – totally destroys the actual meaning.  Which is HOW it came to be so destroyed by the Christians… the masters of taking things out of context.

Moving on:

[Charity] Agape suffereth long, and is kind; [charity] agape envieth not; [charity] agape vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,  Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;  Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;  Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.  [Charity] Agape never faileth: vs 4-8a

Here’s another reason that this cannot be ‘love’ or ‘benevolence’, alone… because those are characteristics of this bigger… THING, y’see?  It’s ridiculous, and gets convoluted when you try to stick a different definition on something far more encompassing than just mere ‘charity’ or the christian definition of ‘luvvv’.   Anyhow, for a fun thing to do, try putting these into ‘is’ and ‘is not’ columns.  It helps to drive home what kind of behaviors a person devoted to the Lord displays.

…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.  vs 8b-10

Basically?  We’re given the gifts to help us get by until He returns, the world is purged and re-made, and they’re no longer needed.  These are like crutches to help us get along in a sad, fallen world.  They pale in the light of what’s ahead.  And man, I look forward to what’s in store.  Which is part and parcel of the ‘agape’ thing – if your devotion is true, you’ve set your sights on Him and His end game, and know that these things really don’t matter in the light of what’s to come.

Or you could do it christianity’s way, and insist that these gifts are the BE-all and END-all, and this is the heart of faith.  Paul kind of shoots that down with this chapter… which they can’t have, so they had to change the meaning of ‘agape’ to mere ‘charity’/’luvvv’, so that they can keep man’s eyes on humanity and our task here.  This whole deception has turned people from Mary’s into Martha’s.  But nevermind me… go on and fill your Samaritan’s X-mess box.  It’ll earn you the respect of your peers, even though the better thing is to ‘come let us adore Him’.  (As Messiah Himself said in Luke 10:41-42)

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. vs 11-12

Paul says that there’s a lot about the world a child doesn’t understand.  They don’t fully comprehend everything around them.  We’re like that, because our broken world is a mess.  We’re looking in mirror covered in grime, and we’re not seeing what HE sees.  But that’s where faith and truth play so very big a role in our lives.  Because there IS a clearer picture, and someday, we’ll get it.  And it’ll be so simple, so pure, and there won’t be all this crap to wade thru, trying to understand.  I don’t know about you, but I long for that day!

And now abideth faith, hope, [charity] agape, these three; but the greatest of these is [charity] agape.

If you prefer… faith in the Father, hope in the Father, and devotion to the Father.  THESE are what matters.  But whether we have hope or faith enough doesn’t matter, if we draw close to Him.  He will bless those who draw nigh with exactly what they need.  And THAT’S the message, here.

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