The lessons that the Bible teaches us are fairly straightforward. However, when scripture is misused, we often wind up with a problem that we all too often encounter in everyday life: the word of God ends up becoming naught but a soundbite. For those unfamiliar with soundbites, these are little quotes from a speech or other public appearance that are used to cast politicians or other public officials in either a positive or negative light, depending on the intent of the media.
Take for example, this piece of scripture which is quoted in For King & Country’s “The Proof Of Your Love”:
1If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstacy, but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 2If I speak God’s word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. 3If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (MSG)
This contemporary language version of the scripture is called The Message (MSG). Compare and contrast with the same set of verses taken from the New International Version (NIV), the bible that is usually quoted at wedding ceremonies:
1If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NIV)
There is a reason why that quote may look vaguely familiar to you. It’s because those verses are the opening lines for the oft-misused (not to mention overused) 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 which are used in wedding ceremonies. But what was the original context of “Love is patient, love is kind…”?
It is all answered in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 and 1 Corinthians 13:8-13. These verses do not put love in the context of an earthly concept, however people do this every day. It is not merely love in the context of marriage as is often portrayed wrongly during wedding ceremonies. Yes, it is a beautiful piece of scripture, but the love described in 1 Corinthians 13 is Godly love. Unconditional love that is not just reserved for those in a marriage or those who have children, but for everyone. This is the brand of love that we should show others, as God has shown us.
When we look at the scripture as a whole, love doesn’t seem like such a glorious concept. When it is put into the mix of prophecy and completeness, we no longer see love as merely something between friends or between lovers but something that in fact, is shared by all. So please, the next time someone decides to quote Corinthians, put them to the test. Challenge them: ask them, “What chapter is that? Do you know the rest, before and after?”