1 Corinthians 13:1-3
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 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. 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.
This is a passage that most of us are familiar with … and I think it is a timely word for us to pause and consider. 1 Corinthians 13, often called the Love Chapter, is Paul’s exhortation about the virtue and preeminence of love in all relationships. Paul asserts that everything we do within our relationships with others should be motivated and guided by love. But I think we should review 1 Corinthians 12, which precedes this discourse, because Paul addresses the spiritual gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit and their exercise and operation within the Church (Body of Christ). It is within this context that we need to understand how love itself us should govern how we interact with one another. I believe the point that Paul was trying to make here is that regardless of our spiritual giftings and talents; regardless of the offices or roles God has appointed some within the Church; regardless of the abilities and anointing people have received to minister to the Church … if these are not offered or fulfilled with love as the sole motivation … then we have missed the will of God for His diverse appointment of gifts, designed for the mutual edification and unity of purpose of His Church.
Now with this perspective in mind, look at the following verses:
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)
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.
Do you see your spiritual gifts or talents … your offices or roles within the Church … your anointed abilities in light of these qualities of love? Are you patient and kind with others in the Church? Are you envious of others’ spiritual gifts? Perhaps, worse, are you boastful or filled with spiritual pride because of the spiritual gifts you were given by the Spirit as He has determined? Love is not self-seeking; rather, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” (Cf. Philippians 2:3) Love does not dishonor other people or present them in a negative light. Love does not provoke nor is it become easily angered. Love forgives and you have been forgiven in Christ Jesus. Yes, love always seeks the highest good so that we conduct ourselves with this overarching principle … to love as we ourselves have been loved by God (Cf. John 13:34; 15:12) and to glorify Him through every relationship brought into our lives.
With Valentine’s Day approaching this week, we will probably think about the Love Chapter and its instructions regarding love. Many of us will probably recount the vows we made to our spouses at an altar – or maybe as prompted during romantic occasions or anniversary celebrations. But I encourage you to revisit 1 Corinthians 13 and to consider its application for other relationships … especially those within the Church. As Paul observed, if we do not have sincere love as the motivation and intent of our hearts, then no gifting or anointing … no talent or ability … no role or office … will hold any value in the eyes of God. Love is the reason and purpose behind any and all spiritual gifts because the Lord Jesus gave them for the benefit of the Church and for the glory of God the Father. As the Apostle John wrote, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (Cf. 1 John 4:8) So, without the “excellence” of love in operation, there is a deep flaw in how we approach our part … our role … in ministering to others with the Body of Christ as well as reaching those we have been commissioned to proclaim the Gospel.