I don’t think I’ve ever previewed the content of a message to be delivered on Sunday in this space, but that’s what I want to do this month. Our current series of Sunday messages we’ve been doing is from I Corinthians. The series title has been What Kind Of Community Are We? Much is implied in that. Mainly, that we are a distinct community from the one around us and this community is very different from the outside one. But in what way? As we’ve read the letter, we’ve found the Christians in Corinth didn’t look very different from the average Corinthian. Corinthian Christians divided into camps over things as small as what Christian leader they preferred. Criticisms of each other were merciless. Getting advantage in money matters meant more to them than relationships. They were puffed up and proud when they took a brother to court over a civil matter, and won. A person being able to look in the mirror and say, “Ha! I’m a winner!” was all that mattered. They were willing to stick to their personal opinions about debatable matters even if doing so could cause irreparable harm to someone else. My preference matters, too bad for you. Getting what I want over an opinion matters more than your eternity matters. They wanted the microphone in worship and talked over each other to get a little bit of the sunshine of attention to shine on them. I matter. And I have power to get what I want. Too bad for you.
Get the picture? The Corinthians were indistinguishable from, well, Corinthians. It isn’t supposed to be this way. But what way is it supposed to be? What kind of community are we? Paul’s answer, what we’ve been waiting for, is found in I Corinthians 13. The love chapter. He says love is the single most important, most needed factor in the life of a church. Love, he says, is everything. Everything else, even the really good things, without love, are background noise. Love is the tune, the melody. If we don’t love, we are nothing. To go somewhere else, Revelation 2, if we don’t have love, we don’t deserve to exist. Christ is willing to remove an unloving church’s candlestick since it really isn’t a light for anyone anyway.
But what’s love? We read I Corinthians 13. Paul describes but doesn’t define it. Maybe love is indefinable. Maybe when we see it, we can point to it and say, “That’s it,” and that’s the best we can do. We have pictures of it. Those pictures are always of the ones who are grown serving and giving to those who aren’t. Christ, showing the full extent of his love, on his hands and knees, washing feet. Christ stretching out those hands on a cross. It’s saying, “You matter so much more than I do.” That’s love. I think of home. Mom and Dad giving to the little ones. A wife caring for every need of a sick, dependent husband. And people knowing everything, absolutely everything about you but welcoming you, embracing you, and knowing that their lives would not be whole if you weren’t there. Home. Where you are always welcome and will always be a part. Where you are wanted. That’s love. Think of home, wherever or whoever it is for you, and you have a picture of love, of the kind of community we are supposed to be.
I hope when people cross the threshold of your church, they have the sense of coming home. I’m loved here. I matter here. I’m helped, needed, included, listened to, forgiven here even though everyone knows everything. When I am here, I’m home. And that’s what love is. That’s what church is.