By Dr. Harold Sala
Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 1 Thessalonians 4:9
Broadway producer Eddie Dowling says, “When I interview actors and actresses for roles in my play, I ask them to say only two lines: ‘I love you’ and ‘I believe in God.’ If they can read those two lines well, they can play the role.”
Dowling based his criteria on the words of Jesus. It happened when a lawyer came to Christ trying to trick him and asked, “Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” And He said unto him, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments, depend the whole law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40).
Two great commandments: Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. When you really love God, you find a motive for loving your neighbor, and unless you love God, there will be no motive for loving your neighbor.
In our world, love seems to be so far removed from the conflict between nations, the violence on our streets, the dark face of terrorism, and the unraveling of our families. Certainly a lot has been written about love—by sociologists and romanticists, by lovers themselves, by street corner philosophers, and arm-chair poets. Over the centuries, literature has left us with not a few beautiful sonnets and poems describing the nature of love, but nothing has ever been written that excels the classic words of a Rabbi turned Christian—Apostle Paul.
In a time when pressures, instead of driving families closer to each other, seem to tear families apart, we need to rediscover what love really is. How better than to turn to those time-proven words of Paul and apply them to our lives today? But first a word about the culture of the people to whom Paul wrote.
Paul was writing to a group of immature Christians in the ancient city of Corinth—about 40 miles from the great city of Athens. The Corinthians were people who had been cut loose from their own heritage. Corinth was overthrown by the Romans in 149 B.C. Then nearly a hundred years later the descendants of those who had been carried away in chains came back and rebuilt the city. Corinth was a natural for success. It was a port city that faced the Ionian Sea to the west, which provided access to Rome, and the Aegean Sea to the east, which led to Asia and the Middle East. In only a few years the money began to flow and the Corinthians began to lead pretty shallow lives dominated by wine, women and song.
The Temple of Apollo stood as a sentinel a few hundred meters from the public forum where Paul was brought to give an account for what he was teaching. On the crest of the city, called the acropolis, stood the Temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of sex and love, where 1000 priestesses plied their trade in the name of religion.
When Paul came to Corinth and preached, many were converted but still had the sensual culture of their environment in their hearts. But because he loved them, he diligently wrote at least four letters to them, giving them instruction as to how a Christian lives and loves in a secular world.
Of course, the Corinthians talked about love, much as we do today, but it is questionable that their understanding of what love really is, was any better than ours today. What is this thing called love all about? This series answers that question. You’ve read the introduction.
Resource reading: Acts 18.