Strength lies in differences, not in similarities. — Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (from here (medium.com))
We live in a republic that is slowly dying. Why? We don’t learn — we don’t teach our children — how to be the citizens of a republic. We teach our children about their rights, but we don’t teach them how to execute their responsibilities. We teach them how to start a career, but we don’t teach them how to love their neighbor.
Do we think citizenship unimportant? Consider the lip service.
Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. ― John F. Kennedy (from here (en.wikiquote.org))
What we neglect is the how and why of citizenship. What binds the people of a democratic republic together? Love. If we love our neighbors as we love our self, then each of us will begin to understand that we have role in our community as part of the Body of Christ.
Consider the chapter that chapter in the Bible that precedes 1 Corinthians 13. 1 Corinthians 13 is the Apostle Paul’s great discourse on love, the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit. Whereas 1 Corinthians 12 is about how we work together as one, each using our own spiritual gifts.
1 Corinthians 12:4-26 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
12 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. 19 If they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now there are many members, but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; 23 and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, [l]on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, 24 whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, 25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
You say you have nothing to offer? Do you have the gift of love? Do you understand that the greatest gift is love?
Love is the gift that enables us to take the first step, to become a member of our community, to do whatever we can do so that we might grow in Christ. Once we take that first step we will learn — the Holy Spirit will empower us — to do still more.
One can acquire everything in solitude — except character.― Stendhal (from here (en.wikiquote.org))
When we do not love our neighbors — when we cut ourselves off from the community that surrounds us — we give up the opportunity to become the person God meant us to be.
Today I shall speak to you on the subject of individual citizenship, the one subject of vital importance to you, my hearers, and to me and my countrymen, because you and we are great citizens of great democratic republics. A democratic republic such as ours—an effort to realize in its full sense government by, of, and for the people—represents the most gigantic of all possible social experiments, the one fraught with great responsibilities alike for good and evil. The success of republics like yours and like ours means the glory, and our failure the despair, of mankind; and for you and for us the question of the quality of the individual citizen is supreme. Under other forms of government, under the rule of one man or very few men, the quality of the leaders is all-important. If, under such governments, the quality of the rulers is high enough, then the nations for generations lead a brilliant career, and add substantially to the sum of world achievement, no matter how low the quality of the average citizen; because the average citizen is an almost negligible quantity in working out the final results of that type of national greatness. But with you and us the case is different. With you here, and with us in my own home, in the long run, success or failure will be conditioned upon the way in which the average man, the average woman, does his or her duty, first in the ordinary, every-day affairs of life, and next in those great occasional cries which call for heroic virtues. The average citizen must be a good citizen if our republics are to succeed. The stream will not permanently rise higher than the main source; and the main source of national power and national greatness is found in the average citizenship of the nation. Therefore it behooves us to do our best to see that the standard of the average citizen is kept high; and the average cannot be kept high unless the standard of the leaders is very much higher. — Theodore Roosevelt, The Man in the Arena (theodorerooseveltcenter.org)
How do we improve the quality of the average citizen? Is it by increasing the standard of our leaders? No. What is the quality of the average citizen that most matters? In The Man in the Arena Roosevelt speaks of patriotism. To love our country, we must love our neighbor. Without love, patriotism is meaningless. Unless we love our country, we will not choose good leaders.
If you do not have the gift of love, then pray for it for nothing else much matters.