By Dr. Harold Sala
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 1 Corinthians 13:8
Agape love never fails, writes Paul to the Corinthians. And when Paul said that, he used a word which immediately triggered an image dear to the hearts of the Corinthians. Stop! Corinth was a Greek city which had been built by the Romans, and in every city which amounted to anything there was a theater–usually an open air amphitheater which had remarkable acoustics. No, they didn’t have opera style seats, padded and upholstered with soft velvet. Greece is rocky, and the theater was usually carved out of the rocky hillside and the seats were slabs of white granite. Nonetheless, the Greeks loved their theater where the plays of Sophocles and Euripides and lesser poets were presented.
Today teleprompters are used for the evening news on television. A clear screen covering the camera lens, which the reader sees and you don’t, has the text of what the person says. It’s designed to make you think he’s looking you in the eye and talking to you when he’s only reading.
But in ancient days, the actor memorized his lines–several hours’ worth of them, too, and sometimes he forgot or stumbled badly. The crowd knew and began to hiss and boo. In shame he stumbled from the stage disgraced and embarrassed.
When Paul says love never fails, he used the same word that would be used of the actor who fails or muffs his lines. Agape love, says Paul, is never booed off the stage of life. It wins, and wins, and wins.
The prominent psychiatrist Karl Menninger was featured in an article carried by the Chicago Daily News entitled, “Love Working Miracles for Mentally Ill in Kansas.” Dr. Menninger contended that love is one of the most effective cures in healing mental illness. When reporters asked Menninger how it was that 80% of his patients recovered, he replied, “The secret is not in electro-shock, surgery, group-therapy, drugs, or any of the conventional treatments of mental disorder. These play a part, but the real secret is contained in a single word: Love!”
Every individual is born with three emotional needs: 1) To give and receive love; 2) To feel worthwhile to yourself and to others, and 3) To have a sense of security. When an individual is loved, he’s emotionally secure and his anchor is strong enough to withstand the storm. Without it, we struggle and are often booed off the stage of live.
This agape love that Paul talks about is not an ethereal, “pie-in-the-sky-in-the-sweet-by-and-by” kind of love. It’s a grass-roots kind. It causes us to put each other first rather than to live “me” first.
Paul Tournier recognized the bread and butter, the rice and fish qualities of love when he wrote, “To love is to pay one’s bills; it is to keep things in order so that the wife’s work will be made easier. It means arriving somewhere on time; it means giving your full attention to the one who is talking to you….”
When it’s all said and done, the great need of the world is not for more powerful armament or even better communication. It is to learn how to love with a simple but pure love that inevitably puts the welfare of the other—whether it is a member of your family or the most insignificant person anywhere—first.
Without love, we are simply going through the motions. But with love, we live out what God intended us to do and to be. And that makes all the difference in the world.
Resource reading: 1 Corinthians 13.