“Knowledge puffs up, but loves builds up.”
So opens this famous passage from the letter of Paul to the Corinthians. We have an instant and visceral response. We know exactly what Paul means, we have encountered it so often, as children we could recognize it in a second. “Knowledge puffs up, but loves builds up.” Thank God for Paul. Thank God for someone who understands how things really are. Thank God for simple words of such blindingly, brilliant truth.
It is not our knowledge, our intellect, our reasoning or even the extent of our learning that establishes and maintains the life of a community, but the quality of the love that is the foundation of its common life. Love is the very core of life. The rest are trimmings. Our gifts of knowledge (talents, treasure, or time) are to be used for the betterment of the community. Our use of any human gift is to be preceded by the caring that is the sign of Christ in our midst.
Paul tells us to be mindful of our power – to use our time, talent, and treasure only for the building up of the followers of Christ, and not simply to impress others. If our personal gifts or power are used to undermine others, we fail. If they are used to strengthen the faith and life of another then we have succeeded.
What a relief to think of a community predicated around the common good. What a blessing to see so many of you engaged in precisely that work – building up the fragile, visiting the sick, welcoming the stranger, feeding the hungry, preparing holy space for worship, raising spirits to God through your music, serving reverently as a leader in worship, preparing a meal for a family in crisis, planning a fundraiser to provide for programs, teaching the young about the Lord, collecting an elderly person for church, checking the heating, pouring over the budget, praying. All these things and many more are the simple signs that we continue to grow in Christ and in love.
Each of us has a place in the kingdom. There is room for everyone. Let us build it through the grace of God and love of one another.
The Rev. Susan N. Eaves