Telly Savalas was one of my favorite actors as a kid. I loved his “Who loves ya, baby” catchphrase when he played detective Kojak on his TV show!
Wait, you don’t know who Telly Savalas is? Well, I am an old man, so perhaps he was before your time!
What isn’t before anybody’s time is the whole idea of love. Most of our movies are about this one way or another. Most of our TV shows have some “love” interest. All of our sentimental greeting cards talk about it. And, frankly, there isn’t a more misunderstood word in the English language than the word “love.”
Look at our lesson today in 1 Corinthians 10:28-33; 11:1-8:
Brethren, if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then out of consideration for the man who informed you, and for conscience’s sake – l mean his conscience, not yours – do not eat it. For why should my liberty be determined by another man’s scruples? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please all men in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but any woman who prays of prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head – it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair, but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. (For man was not made from woman, but woman from man.)
St. Paul is having to deal with a bit of trouble in the Church community in Corinth. Actually, it’s a lot of trouble. The Corinthian parish was filled with converts from pagan religions and they were still struggling to overcome the way they had been formed to think about everyday life and how their new faith in Jesus was supposed to change their actions and attitudes.
In other words, they were still too self-centered for their own good.
Some were still very offended by the notion of eating anything from the market there in Corinth that had been offered to the pagan idols in the pagan temples in the city. You see, that was a common practice in paganism to offer some of the meat and the produce to idols in thanking these false gods for a particular harvest or some good fortune that befell the seller. Others reasoned that since the false god was actually not real, who cares if the meat had been offered to some false god. And besides, we Christians are under grace now and we know Who the True God is and it ain’t these silly false, pagan gods we use to worship for all the wrong reasons.
The problem was that these Christians in Corinth weren’t struggling with what it meant to love one another. If eating something offered to an idol was offensive to my brother Christian, I should be willing to love him more than I love exercising my freedom! Real love isn’t self-centered but others-focused! Real love, Christian love, doesn’t ask “Why can’t I do this.” Real love, Christian love asks “How can I imitate Jesus and how He would treat someone?”
Today, is your love more self-centered or others-centered? Are you able to so love someone else that you would rather avoid something that made them stumble in their lives? Being Orthodox on Purpose reorients my very idea of love away from what I can do to how I can serve. Who do you truly love?
P.S. O Lord Who loves mankind, You love me with a selfless love that challenges me to love like You love. I confess, Lord, I can’t live up to that standard. Please forgive me. I hunger for the love You offer me, and I know that everyone around me hungers for that love as well. Please help me grow up so I can love selflessly as well. Amen.