“God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13b
This entire text is difficult to hear. I’m willing to wager that most preachers are like me, reluctant to take on a text like this for comment before a captive Sunday congregation, as it draws on an ancient text of the Hebrew Scriptures portraying God dealing out death and sickness as punishments for misbehavior. Episcopalians are not known for threatening congregations with a god of vengeance, and for that I thank God.
I have four hundred words available to me here, and so I’ll dispense with the harder stuff and get to my point, which is that Paul is here exhorting the believers in Corinth to a life of sacrificial love.
This text in a larger context shows us Paul teaching the Corinthian congregation that participation in the Eucharist obligates them to imitate the self-giving of Christ toward them, giving themselves to others in love and service. This letter to them begins with Paul pointing out how badly their practice falls short of this standard and calls them to this high standard. And let’s take his point. Who really wants to live in a world without sacrificial love?
Comedian Stephen Colbert recently summarized this essential Christian teaching. Having put his guest Dua Lipa on the spot to reverse roles with him, she responded brilliantly with a question to him:
Dua Lipa: Does your faith and your comedy ever overlap? And does one ever win out?
Colbert’s response included this statement:
Stephen Colbert: I’m a Christian and a Catholic and that’s always connected to the idea of love and sacrifice being always related, and giving yourselves to other people, and that death is not defeat if you can see where I’m getting at there.
Here is the interview if anyone wants to see it:
The essential truth of Christian faith is that God in Christ gives God’s own self to us in love and sacrifice. This gift of God is for the greatest sinner as well as the greatest saint. God always approaches us in mercy, evoking our response of love and gratitude and our willingness to give ourselves to others.
Christian life is a life of spiritual and moral challenge therefore, since sacrificing for others and loving others is hard. It will put us to the test. So I find comfort in Paul’s reminder that God is faithful to us, and will patiently assist our growth along this path.
Holy One, in Christ you have made it clear that there is no one beyond the reach of your love, and you ask me to walk in the way of his sacrificial love. That’s hard, O God, on some days more than others. Sometimes other folks irritate me, and there are times when I’ve been hurt. Help me to acknowledge that others may feel the same way about me. Help me on those days when it’s the hardest, and help me to trust that you’re always giving me the chance to try again. Amen.
-Fr. Jonathan Weldon