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Greg Brothers is an Adventist pastor in Oregon.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

When bad families happen to good people

As a rule of thumb, I won’t do a wedding for any couple unless they’ve had at least one big fight.

That’s because I don’t think you really know anyone until you know just exactly what it is that really, really irritates you about them.

And if you can still love someone who really, really irritates you . . . well, then you have a marriage.

Or for that matter, a church.

That’s why I’d suggest you spend some time discussing I Corinthians 13 with your class. Paul did not write this chapter to people starry-eyed in love and happy to be with each other. No, he wrote this particular chapter to a church full of people who were hostile, ambitious, and bitterly divided by envy.

Kind of like some families I know.

And if you can figure out how Paul would bring these people together, then maybe you can do the same for some of the families in your class.

I Corinthians 13:1-3
Every group has certain expectations – and in these verses, Paul lists some of the behaviors that would be highly valued in any church, i.e. speaking in tongues, prophecy, faith, generosity, and martyrdom. What kind of behavior is expected (and valued) in your group? In your family? Is it possible to do these things without love? What is the result.

I Corinthians 13:4-7
What does Paul say love is? Which of these characteristics do you have the most trouble practicing? Why is that? What does Paul say love is not? Which if these characteristics do you have the most trouble avoiding? Why is that?

I Corinthians 13:8-12
Paul says that prophecy, speaking in tongues, and knowledge are not our ultimate goals, but merely means to an end. Why is that? What does he say should be our ultimate goal? How can we avoid confusing “means” and “goals”? Why does Paul suggest that humility is important?

I Corinthians 13:13
Paul ends this chapter with a list of there “ultimate values” for a Christian. Why are these three all important to a healthy family? To a healthy church? How can you encourage these values in your family? In your church? And of these three values, why did Paul focus on love?

General reflection
If "love never gives up," does that mean you should never give up on a relationship? If "love endures all things," does that mean you should put up with anything and everything in a relationship?

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