During the Depression, there was widespread hunger, lack of employment, and homelessness. My Great Uncle and my Grandmother often told me that they knew of people who suffered greatly in town but being children of farmers they suffered very little and barely noticed the Depression. But what my grandmother remembered the most about that time period was that my great grandmother would invite the neighborhood children into her kitchen to feed them breakfast every day while they were on their way to school. She could not stand the thought of children not having food. She would also share any leftovers she had with those in need in the neighborhood.
She did this simply because they had extra and others had none and she could not keep that to herself. She loved humanity enough to share of herself. She had no way to employ people. She had very little in the way of money. But what she had was what they got from their subsistence farm. If she had she shared. This is the type of love that Paul is referring to here, a love that is the basis of all that we do, a love that does not look to be lifted up and praised and a love that acts not for pride but for pure reasons.
These passages on love are meant to inspire a humble service driven life of faith in the lives of Christians. Paul is describing what a Christian really is. In the literal sense, a Christian is a follower of Christ. But what that looks like changes based on who you talk to and what you see from a Christian might reflect something different than love. The Corinthian church was suffering from some very serious problems that Paul feared threatened the viability of this small community of believers.
They suffered from having inflated egos thinking themselves to be extra special and chosen because of Christ. They acted out of arrogance instead of out of love. Our society too suffers from too many people seeking to show off their special skills, seeking to gain praise for their works, or looking for attention. God’s love is pure and is meant to fill us and when it is a divine love it makes no distinctions, carries no grudges, and seeks only to bring hope to those in need. This is what it means to be a believer. This is what it truly means to be a Christian. This is the Christian lifestyle that we sign our names too.
There is no better example of how the love of God works in our world and how it should work in our lives than that of the prophets. Jeremiah was an uneducated child when he was called to share God’s urgent message. His message was not just for the Jews but for Jews and Gentiles alike. God’s message to the people was to warn and help the international world at the time. Jeremiah, like all the other prophets, had to act out of a pure love. Love not only of God but for the people they preached to because they were willing to face torture, death, and a life of struggle for the fate of others. Their message would have been meaningless if they did not have love as the basis of their actions and their words.
Love is the greatest and most important virtue of the faithful. We may all have questions, doubts, struggles, failings, but if we have love in our hearts and as the basis of how we interact in life then that love will be enduring and will change the lives of those that we meet. In many of the religious traditions of Jesus’ time, Paul’s time, and in the nations that Jeremiah served, gods and goddesses were defined by what they looked like, how they interacted with humanity and with often vengeful and lustful personalities. Yahweh, God, is very different. God is not a human. God is not a being with super human powers. God is not able to be named, recreated, and can only be understood simply as love. God is love.
If we are going to know God, if we are going to find the inspiration and presence of God, then what we should be searching for is love, a divine love, a love that is lasting, a love that we find deep within us and in the world all around us. Once we find that love and embrace the grace that comes with it. We will know that with that love we can move mountains, we can change lives, and we can teach the world how to live peacefully without vengeance, without seeking to elevate ourselves above others. Then the words that we claim when we say, “we are Christians” will ring true for to be a follower of Christ is to embrace the divine love of God and to live into it each and every day. Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote, “If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all embracing love”.
We are called to seek only to know the love of God. This is the knowledge we are encouraged to seek out in the New Testament. Paul goes further to describe what that love would look like when it was truly found. It is not a romantic love like that found between married couples though these passages have much to teach a married couple. It is a love that is not boastful, seeks not to be rewarded and is one that is open, welcoming, and accepting. Paul writes, “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”. Love is meant to be so pure that it creates hope that helps guide us through the troubles of life, a hope that expects the best out of people as opposed to expecting the worst as we often do. This love is a pure love that brings out the best in all people when it is enacted upon in life.
We seek out this love by working to place aside resentment, jealousy, hate, and anger and to seek the beauty of God all around us and seeking to see the spark of the divine in all creation. So seek out the love of God in your lives, in your worlds, and seek to make the divine love of God the essence of all that you do. For as St. John of the Cross wrote in the 16th century, “In the evening, we will be judged on love”. What matters most in this life is the love that we show, the love that we live, and the lives that we touch with that love.
 Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 19th century.
 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7, RSV.
 St. John of the Cross, 16th century.
(based on Jeremiah 1:4-10 and 1 Corinthians 13:1-13)