Pentecost

Love, Sex, Marriage: The Power of Love

Terry had a fight with her husband last week. This unfortunately was not a rare occurrence. Terry and Bob fought regularly – over the dumbest things. Last week it was about cell-phones. Bob thought that if they were going to pay to have cell phones they ought to be able to get through to each other when they needed to. Terry had left her phone at home and hadn’t been able to answer Bob’s persistent calls through the day went unanswered, she hadn’t even known about the calls until she got home. She had a busy day at work anyway, and she figured she wouldn’t have been able to answer the phone anyway – and besides, Bob wasn’t’ so great at answering his phone when she needed him. But still, they went back and forth – each one accusing the other of essentially not coming through for each other – not being available. Oh, they went at it.

Silly argument really. But both of them were so angry they were fantasizing about leaving the relationship. Terry called her mother crying, “I can’t take him talking to me that way! What is wrong with him?” Her mother tried to reassure her, reminding her what a good provider Bob was, that he always tried to do the right thing. He seemed to want to do the right thing. “You gotta cut him some slack, honey. You’re not the only one under pressure you know.”

Meanwhile, Bob wasn’t talking to anybody. He couldn’t believe his wife didn’t get it, couldn’t believe the way she had talked to him, when he raised a simple concern, how it had escalated so quickly into an all-out fight. Yeah, it was ridiculous, but he didn’t have any room for this craziness. He wondered how long he could put up with this level of tension and grief. It put him on edge and his job put him on edge too much as is. He did not know what to do, who to talk to. After work, he went out to have a drink – and he turned off his cell phone.

Terry and Bob are going through a hard place in their relationship. More than likely they’ll work it out this time – come back together again, make up and go on. They both are right and wrong. They both are right in feeling like it shouldn’t be so hard, and that the argument they’re having is really silly. They’re both wrong in thinking the other one is the only one who can do something about it.

It’s a funny thing about arguments – when you’re inside of them, they can seem so important. It’s really clear that the other person just doesn’t care and isn’t getting it. In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, he chastises them for getting lost in petty arguments and conflict with each other in their fledgling church. He keeps trying to help them come up with compromises, but in the end he summarizes his argument by telling them the bottom-line is they have to love each other. He says you can do everything right – you can be more than right in fact, but if you don’t have love for each other, it’s all for show, it will never really work.

Paul is talking to the church about their spiritual gifts. He says they might be able to be eloquent public speakers, have tremendous faith, or truly giving hearts, but if they are not motivated at their core by love, then it will all go for naught – the church will fall apart. In the same way Terry and Bob are stuck in wanting the other to take the first step, wanting to make sure the other one cares and proves their love.

Love gives 100%. It doesn’t wait for the other. Love doesn’t keep score, always keeps going, never looks back. Love is easy to idealize in general, but when it comes to practicing it in relationship or in the community, it isn’t that easy. I know some pastors don’t even let themselves use the word love in their preaching, because it is too general a word; it means too many things to too many people. It only gains meaning when you start talking specifics, in specific situations.

Paul is clear though that love is just one gift among many, one thing that we have to learn to do. Love, he says, is the way in which God intends us to practice all of our gifts. We practice love in everything we do. And the way he talks about love, Paul obviously believes that you can’t quite pull off love on your own. It’s too hard to do on your own. To act out of love, you have to receive divine help. The Spirit that blows into our lives on Pentecost is the Spirit that enables us to be loving people in all the things we do.

You see, Paul is not talking about ordinary love. When Paul says, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” he’s reaching to a way of being that can only come into our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. I’ve been wanting to talk about our church slogan/motto for a little while in this regard. We have it on our bulletins and newsletter and now on our mugs that we give out to visitors. We say that what we’re about is “growing in love for life.” It’s a nice little slogan with it’s double meaning – growing in love for a lifetime, or growing in our love for life. It begs the question of which is more important – the love that we live out all our lives, or our love and care for life and all that lives.

I Corinthians 13, I think, concludes that life cannot be our ultimate value. Life ends. If we value life, our lives, above all else, we will be limited by the end of our lives. Paul is suggesting that it is more important to value love, to grow in love all our lives and beyond. Love never ends. When we accept the love of the Spirit into our lives and reflect it back into God’s world, we love 100%, we love beyond the end of our lives. Because God says to us, “I love you and there’s nothing you can do about it.” That’s what we say to our partners, to our LIFE group friends, and to the world, “I love you and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.”

Responsive Hymn: 408 The Gift of Love