1If I speak in languages both human and angelic, but do not have love, I have become like a clanging gong or a clashing cymbal. 2And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know every mystery and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so that I can remove mountains, but have no love, I am nothing. 3And if I give up all my possessions and hand over my body so I can boast, but have no love, it doesn’t profit me anything.
4Love is patient, love is kind. It’s not jealous or boastful. It’s not self-important. 5It doesn’t behave indecently, nor does it seek its own way. It doesn’t get provoked. It doesn’t plan evil. 6It doesn’t rejoice in injustice, but it rejoices with the genuine. 7It endures all things, believes all things, hopes all things, is patient through everything.
8Love never fails. But prophecies will fail, tongues will cease, knowledge will vanish. 9Because we know partially and we prophesy partially. 10But when what is complete comes, what is partial will vanish. 11When I was a child I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things. 12For now we see dimly in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know partially, but then I will know in the same way that God knows me. 13And now these three remain: Faith, Hope and Love. But the greatest of these is love. — 1 Corinthians 13
At a meeting recently Linda Smith pointed us all toward John 17 and the prayer of Jesus for unity. Unity is achieved when we all practice love toward one another. People will be attracted to us as Christians and challenged by us when we practice the love that God has shown to us. As I was leaving that meeting, rushing to my next appointment, I was listening to 1 Corinthians 13 on CD.
One of our major problems is that we don’t really understanding what love means. I have been accused of being a â€œlove preacher.â€ This is said by people who want something tougher and more demanding. â€œNone of that soft stuff,â€ they say. â€œWe want sound doctrine, righteous behavior, obedience, excellent church discipline.
But love is not an easy standard at all. â€œIn this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as a means of forgiveness for our sins.â€ — 1 John 4:10. Jesus has set the standard of love, and asks us to â€œlove one another.â€ How shall we love? â€œAs I [Jesus] have loved you!â€ ( John 14:12).
Now I don’t know about you, but if I was asked to allow myself to be crucified so that someone else could live, I would regard that as a pretty high standard! Yet that is the call. Preaching love is not soft, though it may require you to be soft. Love can and should be the most demanding message you will ever hear from a pulpit or in a Sunday School class.
And this love isn’t just a church thing. It’s for your whole life. It’s for when you’re with your family, your coworkers, your friends and relatives, and with strangers you meet. In each and every circumstance, each and every day, you’re called upon to love that person the way Jesus loved you.
Paul placed 1 Corinthians 13 right between chapter 12 where he talked about the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s presence in the church, and chapter 14, where he talked about how we get along in worship services. It’s no accident that many of the nastiest disputes in our churches come over how one conducts the worship service. Guess where the enemy doesn’t want you when it’s time for church? He’d like you anywhere but at church. Guess what he doesn’t want you to do? He doesn’t want you to study, pray, and worship with your brothers and sisters.
Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to write a number of devotionals from 1 Corinthians 13, looking at what it means to love one another at home, at work, at church, and at play.
What’s standing between you and your brother or sister?