St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 13:13
It might be a surprise to some that 1 Corinthians 13, commonly known as the "love chapter" was not written by Paul for use at weddings. It was written by Paul as the bottom-line of Christian living. In all of Paul's writings this may be the clearest in describing how following Jesus works. His intent may have been clarity, however, it was not ease.
The acts of love described in 1 Corinthians 13 are several:
- Joy in Truth
These come with opposites. Love is not
- Joy in Wrongdoing.
Paul was a smart man and certainly knew that he was writing to human beings who would find following the way of love difficult. That does not mean that he gives us the benefit of the doubt when we fall into those opposites. We need always to be on the alert and when we are tempted by envy, for instance, or find ourselves discounting someone who is not like us (that's what he means by "rude"), have the capacity to bring ourselves up short and change direction (the meaning of "repentance").
Now if we combine this with the position of Jesus that everyone is our neighbor, without exception, then we have chosen the hard road to take, but it is the only road, both Jesus and Paul say, that we can call faith, hope or love.
It is extraordinarily difficult to follow the way of faith, hope and love in a world where the temptation to lose our values in the sea of chaos and fear and hate is on "high alert." Perhaps the greatest single temptation is simply to say that reality of this age of terrorism means we cannot always follow the way of Jesus and Paul. When we fall to that temptation then suddenly "taking care of our own first" trumps taking care of our neighbors, especially when those neighbors are from a strange and foreign culture or religious system.
The hard truth is that "charity begins at home" and "safety first" are not Christian values, never have been and never will be. We can never successfully work out our suspicion and fear in that way. Jesus did not command us to love our neighbors as ourselves except when we fear them.
Do we have the right to protect ourselves? Of course we do. But the trick is to do so without living a fearful life and demeaning those we perceive to be our enemies. We are actually told by the one we call Lord to love them.
Terrorists by definition want to breed terror. They want to throw the world into chaos, make people live in fear, and define the world by the hatred of us vs. them. We allow them to be successful when we give in to any of those things, when we allow them to undermine our own values by their threat, but also by our own hand.
To react in fear and even hatred is to cooperate with their agenda. So let's not do that. Let us unite in faith and hope and love. It is a hard road. But if we confess ourselves to be Christians, it is the only road that will lead to the kingdom of God "on earth as it is in heaven" for which we pray.