All We Need Is Love
If I speak in the tongues (languages) of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13 (NIV)
One afternoon while I was waiting for the bus to take me home, my best friend looked at me with tears in her eyes. “Now that you decided to come out of the closet as a lesbian,” she said, “I have to tell you how much that you have hurt me.”
I was speechless. I got on the bus and rode away; I went home sad, ashamed of myself, and full of guilt for causing the suffering of my friend and others that loved me.
A few months later, I met a new friend that responded to my guilt by saying: “Hey, you didn’t do anything to hurt them. If they are hurt it isn’t because you love a woman, it’s because of their own prejudices. It is their arrogance that hurts, and their own feeling of self-importance that is being affected. If they love you they should be happy if you are happy.” When I heard him speak these words, I felt a moment of awakening as the verses of 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13, flooded back to me. That passage shows us what we all need—the acceptance, respect, affirmation, and celebration of our identities made flesh through acts of love by those around us. Without love, the use of biblical verses to condemn my sexual orientation feel like a punishment—even if the person speaking tells me that they love me. But love doesn’t need to be explained. It is felt because it is alive. I couldn’t feel the negative reaction to my queerness as love because it wasn’t love. Love doesn’t condemn, judge or punish. It takes away shame, it doesn’t cause it. It gives freedom!
About the Author
Esther Baruja, native of Paraguay, has a Master in Divinity from ISEDET Seminary in Argentina and Chicago Theological Seminary. Esther's focus is theological-based liberation from multi-layer oppressions at the intersections of race, class and gender. She lives in Cleveland, where she is pastoring at Archwood UCC church in Brooklyn Centre.