Of course, we’ve heard Paul wax eloquently about love, about how it is patient and kind, not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.
But, recently, my friend opened up a new insight for me when he asked that, in addition to 1 Corinthians 13, I read Ephesians 4:1-3 at his wedding.
Ephesians 4? At a wedding? Not 1 John 4!
Well, despite my unfamiliarity, I have come to believe that my friend’s choice suggests a genius interpretation of one scripture with another; let’s look at this text from Ephesians . . .
In the first verse, the writer uses both the noun and the verb form of the word, call, imploring us to be worthy of the call to which we have been called. The repetition here is a key: to be called suggests a purpose in light of God’s plan. It is part and parcel of the Lord of the Universe’s apparent preference for working through the muttering, mumbling types of you and me.
But, lest we get too big for our britches, the next verses clarifies that this calling should be with humility, gentleness, and patience. Sounds rather like 1 Corinthians, doesn’t it? Well, the connection is made explicit in the next phrase – “bearing one another in love.” Agape, just like in other parts of scripture, is focused outwards, not inwards. As a result, love for one another culminates in “making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3).
Don’t get me wrong, 1 John 4 is still a beautiful text. Yet, I like Ephesians 4 as well. Wedding or otherwise, it suggests that love is not just an abstract ideal, floating around in the ether, but as real and concrete as the bond between two people – a bond of peace, which is not only the absence of violence, but the very embodiment of mutuality, self-giving, and shared joy.