I'm going to take my category of "Words Worth Defending" and stretch it out today. We need words, and we need to agree to standards about what words mean, if we are to get through difficult times such as the one in which our country -- no, our world -- has landed.
I know that many of us are saying many different things, and not understanding that people are going to stay different, no matter what happens.
After a lot of thought, what seems to be a part of the answer came to my mind this morning. The Bible does talk about differences, but the best part is hiding -- just before a very famous chapter.
Whether you're a Christian or not, if you've been to a Christian wedding, you're likely to have heard the words of I Corinthians, Chapter 13, about love: "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. ... Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude." All this and more make this one of the more, well, loved chapters in the New Testament.
But what I remembered this morning is what St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians in Chapter 12, right before the more famous part about love (starting with Chapter 12, verse 14):
"For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?...
The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you,' nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you.' On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those parts of the body which we think less honorable we invest with the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. ... If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together."
You might well be saying by this time that this works well as a description of the body, and it is indeed a strong one for ancient times in particular. But how does it work as a metaphor? How do we put it into action as a community?
Chapter 12 ends with a few questions about whether all people are any one thing. Of course, they -- we -- aren't. The last verse of the chapter reads, "And I will show you a still more excellent way."
Then Chapter 13's famous opening is right there (verses 1-2):
"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing."
What's going on in the world? Who really knows? From Chapter 13, verse 12, to the chapter's end:
"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
So love is the mechanism, the "still more excellent way," for working together as one body.
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