In this season of Valentine's Day, it was strange to read about a love-crazed Michigan woman who tried to use the classified website "Craigslist" to hire a killer.
Authorities said the woman posted two ads for "silent assassins" to "eradicate" a California woman whom she saw as a romantic rival. She was arrested after being indicted by a grand jury and faces up to 30 years in prison for soliciting an assassin.
Love causes folk to do some strange things. Love figures into the plot of many Shakespearian plays, sometimes bringing about great harm. I saw the movie "O" recently, a modern adaptation of "Othello," and was reminded of how love can be perverted.
The apostle Paul wrote a summary of true love in 1 Corinthians -- a summary that cannot be improved.
The apostle wrote to a troubled church. This fellowship was filled with problems that mocked the church's reputation in the community.
One problem was lack of order in worship. Some church members chose to deliver messages in a "Spirit language" that others didn't understand. This brought about Paul's assertion that he'd rather speak five plain words for the benefit of those seeking God than 10,000 words in a Spirit language that was misunderstood. And if the Spirit language were used, Paul insisted it be used with guidelines.
"Let all things be done decently and in order," he wrote.
And some Corinthian women, rejoicing in a freedom to participate in Christian worship denied them in Jewish worship, used their freedom irresponsibly by casting off social custom.
"What will people think who come to you to hear about God?" Paul asked.
The service of communion had likewise become perverted. The Corinthians celebrated this event much like our tradition of covered dish meals, but worshippers selfishly refused to wait on their Christian brothers and went ahead with their eating and drinking.
Amid all these problems, Paul wrote the beautiful love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13.
Inspired preaching or Spirit language or acts of mercy pale in comparison to love, he said.
Then getting to the very heart of the matter, he insisted love "seeketh not her own" (v. 5). Another translation says, "love is not selfish."
True love is one that seeks the advancement of others over ourselves. True love means we are servants to others and desire their well-being more than our own. True love means that we never seek the harm of others but their fulfillment in life. True love is giving, not taking.
Paul's standard is still valid.
Unselfish love is the kind God showed when he sent his Son to save us all, and unselfish love is yet the standard all who follow him must seek.
Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church's website issiluriabaptist.com.