In my last post I briefly commented about the scripture read at Diana’s & Tim’s wedding: 1Corinthians 12:31-13:13. Below is the more detailed explanation I shared at the wedding. You may have heard this before, but it is always good to be reminded about the context of this passage.
The books of the New Testament like this reading from First Corinthians were originally written in an ancient form of Greek. There are several Greek words used in the Bible that we translate as love in English. I’d like to tell you about three of those words.
The first is Philiea; Philiea means friendship. It’s like Philly in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. Many romantic relationships start out as friendships. It’s good for your spouse to be your best friend: someone you can talk to, someone you confide in. When it feels like nothing is going right, when you really need someone to talk to, nobody else knows how to comfort, and can shelter you from hunger and cold like your spouse.
While a couple may start out in friendship, we know that two adults do not find their way to the altar by friendship alone. The second word is Eros which is where we get the word erotic. Unfortunately the word has gotten a bad rap. The meaning of Eros has much more to do with the romantic relationship between husband and wife than dancers at a club. Eros refers to the kind of love and passion that helps keep a couple together. This actually is something God wants for us. Only one love is stronger than the true loving passion between a husband and wife.
And that brings us to the third Greek word for love: Agape. This is the word that Paul used when he wrote the Bible passage read from first Corinthians. This passage has been read at more weddings than any other scripture. It is probably almost as well known as the 23rd Psalm. The funny thing is that when Paul wrote it, he was not even thinking about marriage. He was confronting members of the church in Corinth because they were being selfish and self-centered. So Paul writes to them describing what true love is like. So why wouldn't he use the word Philiea. Eros of course would not have been appropriate. Paul uses the word Agape because he is not just telling them how they should act, but describing God's love for them and Agape is the word that is only used when talking about God's love. Paul hopes that if he can help them see more clearly how powerfully and unconditionally God loves them, that they will strive to love each other in the same way.
Today we use those words of Paul to describe what we think a relationship between a husband and wife should be like. In Paul's words we find many things that can make a relationship healthy. Humility, understanding, compassion and forgiveness are some of the most important characteristics of a strong marriage. And there needs to be give and take. Sometimes it will seem like one of you is leading and the other following, and other times vice-a-versa. But we are faced with the fact that none of us are perfect. There is not one human that can always follow the ways of God's love.
But we also know from Paul that God's love is perfect. God always loves us unconditionally. God always understands us and accepts us just as we are. God always forgives us. When we fail to follow the ways of God's love. God can help us restore our relationships.
Please stay on topic.