Esther 9:16-10:3; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Psalms 37:12-20; Proverbs 12:25
NT: “If I speak human or angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give away all my possessions, and if I give over my body in order to boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-7 CSB)
At the end of the 12th chapter, Paul encouraged the Corinthian church to desire spiritual gifts, but in desiring gifts, they should desire the ones that are not just sensational but helpful to the whole body. Apostles, prophets and teachers help the whole body grow and mature in the Lord. Miracles and gifts of healing help with immediate needs and bring great glory to the Lord. But, as helpful as spiritual gifts are to the Body of Christ and the Glory of God, there is a way that is more exceedingly excellent to pursue.
Far more important than the pursuit of gifts is the pursuing the way of love – love for God, love for the Church, and love for unbelievers outside the Church. The love that Paul spoke about is not brotherly or friendship love. The love that Paul spoke about is the love that can only come from God: agape in Greek. Agape is the selfless, sacrificial, unconditional, others-focused love that God showed us by giving His Son for our sakes. That is the same love that Jesus called His disciples to have for one another… and it is the same love that we are to display to the world. Of the fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23, love is listed first, for all the other fruit culminate and are ultimately expressed through love. Spiritual grace gifts are made effective when they are activated through love. Outside of love, whatever gift we operate in will be ineffective and oftentimes harsh noise. The Corinthian church wanted gifts so that they could have prominence… so that they could have a voice… so that they could be recognized over others. That is not love. I remember having to confront a young woman many years ago for her lack of love. She believed that she had the gift of prophecy and would often give very harsh and condemning words to people. Her words were not convicting nor edifying – they were cruel and condemning – because she was not using her “gift” in love. It seems that many who claim to be “Christian” have forgotten these few verses from 1 Corinthians 13. For some reason we have come to believe, that in order to be heard over the noise, we must be harsh, offensive and unloving as we proclaim the “truth.” However, according to Paul, by engaging with world in that way, we are simply adding to the noise and reducing our effectiveness. Not only that, we fail to represent Christ and give Him a bad name. Were Paul to have written this passage in our day, he might have written, “If we post on social media and have 10,000 likes… if we become a talking head on a news show and have millions of followers, but do not have love, we just make ourselves obnoxious, irritating and ineffective at leading people to Christ and helping them grow into godly maturity.”
Many people use verses 4-7 as a definition of love. While those verses do describe characteristics of Godly love, Paul wrote those verses to directly confront the Corinthians’ loveless behavior. The issues that Paul was having to confront in the Corinthian church were all the things that love is not. All the problems in the Corinthian church were there, ultimately, because they were not pursuing love. I wonder… how many of the problems that exist in the Church today are there because we 1) are not doing all things out of love for God and His Son Jesus Christ, 2) are not loving our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ with the same love that Christ has for us, and 3) are not loving unbelievers in the world with the same love that God showed when He sent His Son? Compare the list of what love is and is not to what the fruit of the Spirit is. The only way that we can love like that is to humble ourselves, become full of the Holy Spirit, and allow His fruit to mature in our lives.
Prayer: Lord, the greatest commandments in Your word are to love You completely, love others as I love myself, and love my brothers and sisters in Christ with the same love You showed me. All the grace gifts that are available in You are useless if they are not wrapped in and delivered with sacrificial, others-focused, Godly love. The only way that I can fully pursue the way of Love is to pursue humility before you and pursue the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Help me, as You fill me and mature me, to do nothing for selfish gain, but do everything out of love. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.