Last summer many of you committed I Corinthians 13 to memory. The chapter is so rich with treasure I promise to do an entire sermon series on it someday. It will probably take an entire year.
I know you just read it, but do yourself a favor and stop right now and read it a second time—this time a little bit slower.
Now I’d like to have you do a bit of an exercise with this chapter. It’s an exercise I sometimes have couples do with each other in pre-marital counseling, but this time you can do it by yourself. Read through the following verses of the chapter and substitute your name for the word “love.” For example [Marc] is patient, [Marc] is kind…
______ is patient, ______ is kind, does not envy, ______ does not boast, ______ is not proud, ______ does not dishonor others, ______ is not self-seeking, ______ is not easily angered, ______ keeps no record of wrongs. ______ does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. ______ always protects, ______ always trusts, ______ always hopes, ______ always perseveres. (I Corinthians 13:4-7)
Now, if you will indulge me, read through it a third time. But this time after each sentence add a phrase that may resonate with where you are at right now in relationship with others. For example, [I am] patient [with those who are different from me.] [I am] kind [to those who are different from me] (or “to those who think different than me;” “to those who do not treat me well.”). Or maybe what you insert after each sentence will be someone else’s name—someone in particular the Lord may place on your heart.
How did it feel to hear your name read into those verses? Did it ring true or did it sound hollow? I suspect every one of us found ourselves lacking in at least one area or another. Though the point of this exercise was not to heap guilt on you, consider for a moment in quiet reflection how the Holy Spirit may be speaking to you through that exercise.
Having done that, there is one more assignment I would give you with this chapter. Read through the chapter once more. This time when you get to verses 4-7, turn it into a prayer for yourself.
And the next time you step out your door (or see your spouse or kids) be thoughtful about whom or in what circumstances the Lord may want to work this out in you in real time.