“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not 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 have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” I Corinthians 13: 1-3
Paul couldn’t be clearer in this verse. If you and I are to live as Christians, then love is the basis of all we are and all we do. He lists a number of impressive spiritual gifts in the text; tongues, faith, and prophecy, and yet they are nothing without love.
The book of Galatians tells us, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Paul is admonishing the churches of Galatia to not get bogged down in this controversy over circumcision, but instead to love each other.
I can’t help but notice that when we as Christians get into controversies with each other over doctrine, teachings, ethics, or host of other issues we end up becoming hurt, discouraged and angry. If someone can’t see things our way then we either quit in a huff, or we vow vengeance. Yet, the core of the Bible teaching is that as redeemed people we should love one another.
Have you perceived that people often don’t have your best interest at heart when they discuss issues with you; instead they just want to be right? How different the perception of the church would be if we followed Paul’s directions, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘do not commit adultery,’ ‘do not murder,’ do not steal,’ ‘do not covet,’ and what ever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule; ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13: 8-10
The Ten Commandments are all about loving God and loving our fellow man. I find it interesting that so much talk in the Christian church is about keeping the commandments and yet so little love is manifested to a hurting world. It would seem that what Paul is saying in Romans is that if you want to keep the commandments then love others with the same zeal that you love God.
It is beyond me that someone can claim to love the commandments and long to keep them, and almost in the same breath attack someone who disagrees with them over some minutia of Bible teaching. In the verses in 1 Corinthians Paul makes it quite clear that we miss the point of Christianity if we miss the point of love in our lives.
Paul goes on to say, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” I Corinthians 13: 4-8a I don’t care if you are a Christian or a non-Christian, I’m quite certain you would like to associate with people who held these values. Has it ever dawned on us as a church that people don’t attend simply because we don’t always manifest those graces within our fellowship?
When we make our Christian experience all about obedience to the things that we believe in and how we perceive something regardless of the views of our fellow believers, we are not a church. We are simply a group of people who get together once a week out of duty, or ritual, or guilt. A church, as the representative of Jesus, should live as that representative. In chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians Paul writes, “But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (V.24-26) Real love within the church means we care about each other and have concern for our fellow man.
God pours out unconditional love on us, and we are to reflect the glory of God back into the community through love. We can either sit around debating with each other over doctrine and morality or we can be the church in the community. The commission of the church is to go into the streets with the gospel. Only love will motivate us and direct us in that great commission. “And now these three remain; faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13