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When Love is a Measuring Stick

The English word “canon” comes from the Greek κανών, meaning “rule” or “measuring stick”.  While Christians were the first to refer to the Bible as the measuring stick for life, Eugene Ulrich regards this notion as Jewish. A typical measuring stick is a measuring instrument with a sequence of marks at regular intervals; used as a reference in making measurements. As an introduction to his chapter on love, the apostle Paul is eager to introduce Corinthian Christians to the most excellent way.

But earnestly desire and zealously cultivate the greatest and best gifts and graces (the higher gifts and the choicest graces). And yet I will show you a still more excellent way [one that is better by far and the highest of them all—love], 1 Corinthians 12:31.

This transition uses spiritual gifts mentioned in chapter 12 as an illustration in verses 1-3. Although only a few gifts are selected, the point Paul is trying to make is clear. You can be one of the most blessed, gifted or talented individuals in your state, but if love isn’t the inspiration behind your actions, your spiritual gift is useless. According to Paul, love should be the wind beneath yours spiritual wings which motivates and prompts you act externally, out of the love of Jesus within your heart.

Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail, 1 Corinthians 13:4-6.

The major section of this chapter, verses 4-7, defines what love is by comparing it with every day actions and responses. When love is the measuring stick, like a mirror reflecting what’s inside a human soul, wrong behaviors are exposed. In the heat of the moment, how do you respond? Is your life void of love or do emotions open the door for acts of the flesh to take over, Galatians 5:19-21? Paul concludes this chapter with a powerful analogy, verse 11-13. As children, we all throw tantrums. Yet, at some point, you have to grow up spiritually. When you chose love on a daily basis, maturity is obtained.

by Jay Mankus

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