The Lasting Legacy of Love.
1 Corinthians 13
Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love. – 1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT
This section of Paul’s letter has come to be known as the famous “love chapter.” It is a staple at most weddings and has come to be the consummate statement from the Scriptures on the topic of love. And while what it has to say about love is completely applicable to the context of a marriage relationship, it is essential that we not lose sight of the situation going on in Corinth that caused Paul to write these words to begin with.
There was a great deal of disunity and division going on among the believers in Corinth. A spirit of selfishness and self-centeredness had crept into their fellowship and was causing all kinds of strife and animosity. They were even taking one another to court. There was a certain sense of spiritual pride among them, that was causing them to treat one another with disrespect. An attitude of spiritual aloofness and arrogance was evident because of the way they treated one another. There was a marked lack of love. Personal rights and freedoms ran rough shod over love for others. It seems that they were even using the spiritual gifts as a barometer of self-worth and a badge of honor. Certain gifts were seen as more important and, as a result, were more eagerly coveted among them. These more “significant” gifts had become a source of bragging rights for some within the fellowship. But Paul brings them back down to earth and provides them with a sobering reminder of what is really important among the people of God. There is one essential ingredient that they have ignored and which, if absent, invalidates all their efforts at spirituality and so-called godly living.
What was missing was love. They had salvation. They had all the spiritual gifts among them. They had their new-found freedom in Christ. But they lacked love. And Paul let them know that it really didn’t matter whether they could work miracles, predict the future, or speak in foreign languages – without love, all of their efforts were worthless. Love is to permeate and motivate all that we do as Christians. The spiritual gifts performed without the spirit of love are a waste to breath, time, energy and effort. The outward evidence of spirituality among the Corinthian believers was little more than hypocrisy without the inner reality of love. And the kind of love Paul was speaking of was not some kind of sappy, sentimental emotion. It was a rubber-meets-the-road kind of attitude that expressed itself in action and showed up in the worst of circumstances and expressed itself to the least lovable and most undeserving. This kind of love showed up in the form of patience, kindness, humility rather than pride, selflessness, forgiveness, trust, hope, perseverance, and truth. In other words, this kind of love is the very essence of the gospel and a snap shot of the way in which Jesus Christ loved us.
Love is eternal. It lasts. It has staying power. So much of what we seek and what we place our hope in in this world is temporal and short-lived. It doesn’t last. Our acts of service fail to make a lasting impression because so often they are done without love. Our words of wisdom seem to fall on deaf ears because what we say, while possibly profound, is lacking in love. All our efforts on behalf of God – done without love – are a waste of our time and a lousy measurement of our spirituality. Long after words of knowledge, tongues, prophecy, healing and the other spiritual gifts are gone, love will remain. Because God is love. It is not what He does, it is part of who He is. Love is His nature, His essence. And as His children, we share in that divine nature. Our love for one another – in spite of one another – is the greatest proof of our spiritual heritage and validates our claim to be sons and daughters of God. Love is our divine DNA. It has been passed down from the Father to His children. It is the very essence of who we are and it is to the motivating factor behind all that we do.
Father, like the Corinthians, we find love too often missing from our midst. We have allowed selfishness and self-centeredness to replace the sacrificial, selfless love that we have been called to express to one another and to this lost and dying world. Bring us back to the heart of love. May our love not only be visible, but practical. May the world truly know we are disciples of Jesus Christ because of our love. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men