To understand 1 Corinthians 13, we need to read 1 Corinthians 12:31: "But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way." Paul, in this passage, is getting in touch with his inner Bill and Ted. He is showing the community a way for them to be more "excellent" together. And that "excellence" is centered in love. We have to remember that love in the Bible is never a noun; love is a verb. Love does something and that love always has someone it interacts with. Love is the one thing (compared to faith and hope) that we can't do on our own. For Paul, love needs a beloved or else love isn't present. That is probably why we read this passage often in weddings. But when Paul wrote this text, he wasn't thinking about two people getting married. He was writing to a community in conflict. He was showing them how to love and take care of each other. I wrote last week that Paul understood faith as a team sport. We need each other to fully believe in the God who is already with us. But a team that can't love each other is a team that cannot feed the faith God gives us. A community is a life-giving community when it loves. And when it can't, faith and hope fade away.

When we read 1 Corinthians 13 today, remember that love isn't a noun. Paul isn't writing about what love is; Paul wrote about what love does. Love practices patience. Love isn't rude. Love doesn't assume it is the only expert in the room. Love works with others. Love is open to possibilities. And it's love that helps us serve, listen, and carry each other's burdens together.

Love, then, is the foundation for the life of a community. As followers of Jesus Christ, our faith is what makes us distinctive. Without our faith and without our hope in a God who keeps promises, we are not Christians. But we can't be Christians unless we have a community that loves. The community is called to love us and we are called to love each other in our community. This does not mean that we'll always like each other. But we can promise to hold each other in prayer, to help each other thrive, and to be a Christ to one another. The more we love each other, the more we can love the world. And the more we can love the world, the more we can discover the Jesus Christ who has saved it and us.