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Love for goodness sake

By Hilary Wenzel, November 5, 2023


1 Corinthians 13:4-13 isn’t the lectionary passage today…

I didn’t start with it for my theme…I ended up with it.

I started with a question..What is/does it mean to be a good person?


This question came to me a couple weeks ago…We had a memorial service for a former member of this church. It was great to share and hear what he had meant in our lives…our hearts recognized and responded to the goodness in him. But he wouldn’t want to be the focus today.


So, back to the question. What does it mean to be a good person?..or what is goodness?


“Good,” like “Love,” is a powerful word, though it can be weakened by overuse or manipulated to suit a situation:

“I love your dress,” “That was a good dinner, walk, movie,”

“Love me, love my dog / The flag, love it or leave it.”

“Be a good girl.”


Goodness and Love are pretty universal ideals. We may know them when we see them, but how do we teach and learn them? How do we live them? The reason we “Church” is to seek and practice the answers……


I don’t know the Bible well enough to know where to look, so I went to my Bible index and the internet to explore. Here’s a nerdy list of what I found…I didn’t digest it all, and I apologize if I bore you with it. Feel free to take a little nap….But It’s how I connected the dots between goodness and love.


The Bible begins with God’s acts of creation, and “God saw all that he had made and it was very good.” Genesis 1:31


In addition to the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20: 2-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21, the Hebrew Bible is full of rules, and laws and concrete details for how this people are to live in relationship to God, each other and non-Hebrews.


The entire book of Job is about “a man of perfect integrity, who feared God and turned away from evil.” Job 1:1 and how he dealt with suffering.


David’s Psalm 23 sees God as the Good Shepherd, whose care surrounds us with goodness and mercy / faithful love.


Solomon’s Proverbs are short sayings “for receiving wise instruction in righteousness, justice, and integrity.” Proverbs 1:3….for example, Proverbs 12:25 says “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”


Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth has various interpretations of the

heavenly host proclaiming peace and goodwill Luke 2:14.


Jesus’ acts and teachings are the most complete example we have of God in human life. In Mark 10:17-18 a rich man addresses his question to Jesus saying “Good Teacher,” and Jesus responds “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.”


In Matthew 7:12, Jesus sums up the Law and the Prophets, saying “Do unto others what you would have them do to you..” and in 22:37-40 he adds “Love your neighbor as yourself.”


In John 13:34-35 He commands his disciples to “..love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another..”


Paul’s letters to new Christian communities counsel them how to act among themselves and with the world around them……


To the Galatians he writes “...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control..” 5:22-23.


And from the idea of the ‘fruit of the Spirit,’ I found myself in 1st Corinthians Ch 12-14, learning about various Spiritual gifts that each may be given and are encouraged to use “for the common good.” Paul says to ‘‘pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts…’’ 14:1


And best of all, in Ch. 13: 4-13, he shows what he means when he says that love is the greatest gift….so let’s listen and I’ll read it again.


1 Corinthians 13:4-13


Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.


When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.


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