1 Corinthians 13:1-8
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. 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 poorand 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.
As we think about the Character of Christ one of the driving forces of His life was love, which is the first virtue listed in 1 Corinthians 13. It’s here in the famous “love passage” that is read at most weddings, that Paul helps us to understand what real love is and what it looks like in daily living. The first thing that we discover, contrary to Hollywood propaganda is that love is not just a feeling but an action. Now we need to realize that when Paul wrote this chapter, he was not thinking about weddings or romance. Chapter 13 is slap bang in the middle of a lengthy discussion on the use of spiritual gifts found in chapters 12 and 14, where we discover that all sorts of disputes and divisions plagued the Corinthian church. They were caught up in arguing over which spiritual gift was the greatest; they were selfish and impatient with each other and were even suing and taking each other to court. This was a church caught up in reflecting the carnal instead of reflecting Christ. As the writers of the New Testament looked out on the world of their day they saw plenty of people who preached about love but very few practicing love. The common communication of the day, Greek, did not have adequate words to describe the kind of love that the Holy Spirit was revealing to them. While they had several words for love none of them fully reflected the kind of love that came from the leading of the Holy Spirit. The love that Paul wrote about here in 1 Corinthians 13 was a stranger to this planet because it was supernatural love, an all-encompassing agape love. It’s a selfless and unconditional commitment to imperfect people. Agape is a love for the utterly unworthy, a love lavished upon others without a thought of whether they are worthy to receive it or not. It proceeds from the nature of the lover, rather than from the merits of the beloved. This is the word that Paul uses to describe the fruit laidened with love. D.L. Moody once said “some men occasionally take a journey into 1 Corinthians 13 but very few people actually live there.” The fruit of the Spirit is not some sporadic endeavor that we periodically undertake like a once a year vacation but something we live out all year long. God’s goal if for us to live in love not vacation there. As we look at learning to love Paul reminds us of 4 important truths about love. First he tells us about the:
- Power of Love – Vs 1-3
In the first 3 verses Paul points to some great gifts, all the languages of the earth, prophecy and possessing all the knowledge, as well as faith that move mountains. But as great as these gifts are the real powerhouse that levels the playing field is love. Touching people for the kingdom of God is not found in ability, talent, skill or giftedness. The power that touches people is love. You don’t need to speak all the languages of the earth we just need to learn to love. The power of love is that it is universal, for it has the power to transcend peoples, nations, culture and religions. Love is truly the universal language of this world, because people from all different walks of life don’t just recognize it they run to it. People that are loved don’t care about the language they listen because love has the ability to bypasses the ears and touches the heart. Who has God placed in your life to love? You want to be a powerful person then unleash the love of the Lord and lavish it on others. Second we see the:
- Priority of Love – Vs 1-3
We need to learn to put love first. This is where we make loving people a priority. Look the first few verses remind us to express love first even before the exercise of spiritual gifts or even great sacrifice. Without love, such things are of little value. Without love, any ability you have is of limited. Teaching without love isn’t tough love it’s tough without the love, and preaching without love is just principles. Some of my greatest teachers are the ones who didn’t just lecture me with truth but they touch me with lessons of love. Without love, any knowledge we obtain will hurt instead of help. Without love, any service rendered will never be pleasing to God. Whatever I do and say is useless without love. Leadership without love is just an annoying noise, like a clanging cymbal. In Paul’s day outside pagan temples there would be a big gong or cymbal hanging at the entrance. And when people came to worship, they would hit this gong in the hope that it would awaken the pagan gods so they would listen to their prayers. What Paul was saying is that even if we had all of the greatest gifts if we don’t lead with love it will be as useless as the ridiculous act of pounding on a piece of metal to wake up a non-existent god. Without love, instead of touching the heart we will just hurt the hearing. Parents when we lecture without love our kids will stop paying attention because they will get tired of the pounding gong of criticism. It’s the difference between just pounding on a drum and actually playing a beat on it. Instead of wanting to cover your ears and scream stop you find your foot tapping and then your whole body moving to the beat. You can hear because your heart is open. Instead of dreading the gong you are dancing to the song. So, what about you are you living in the power of love and making love a priority? Is your life reflecting the character of Christ’s love or is your life lacking when it comes to love?