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. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, 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. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Cor. 13
Above is bar none my favorite Bible verse, and most of you know it, but it’s just so simple, truthful, and powerful. Paul is writing to the Corinthian church, and teaching them about love, love as we all know is the most important thing we can do in our existence. The most important commandment God has given us is the love the Lord God with all our hearts, minds, and soul. The second is the love our neighbors as ourselves. We are nothing without love as Paul teaches us. Love is so beautiful, we love, we want to be loved, and love makes the world go round. There is something about love that gets the best of all of us. We all love a good love story. Many of our best movies revolve around love. While may people look to the verse about loving our spouses, it’s not just limited to this. This is a blanket verse which covers all of our love. You do not have to be married to love, and love should be shown to all we encounter. Love is something we should show even to our worst enemy because this is what our Lord has commanded us to do. We can look at the verse and get all warm and fuzzy inside, but unless we put this feeling the practice we become many of the negative which Paul list. We like to live in this bubble because in this bubble we are safe, we have shelter, and inside our bubble all is well. Who doesn’t like bubbles either, but the issues as any three-year-old can tell you is they pop. I hate to pop your bubble here, but we are the body and our hands can not reach inside of a bubble. Being in this bubble prevents us from being the hands of the Body that reach out because we fear to pop the bubble afraid of the reality outside of it.
The Apostle Paul provides the textbook definition on how love should look. I teach Sunday school and have the pre-schoolers and it is such an amazing thing to see is how curious and hungry for knowledge theses children are. We need to seek God with a childlike wonder. I see them and they are there reliant on the things I do. One of their favorite things obviously is snack time, its one of the few times they are all in agreement on what they want to do. As soon as the church crackers come out their little feet patter to the mat and they all sit anxiously waiting for these crackers which most of us would overlook in our adult years. However, love is just that the cracker for our soul. It’s simple, its basic, and makes us full. Our souls need nourishing. We can seek for things which we think may be better, but nothing is better than love. Nothing is better than meeting the needs we have. Ok, I will concede there are much better foods than crackers, but that’s not the point of this analogy. What makes it such a good analogy though is that often we struggle to accept love. Many of us today make it hard for others to love us, and in this sense, we do not want this cracker which we need to love. We reject it thinking either we don’t deserve the love. So instead of seeking love, we seek things of the flesh and we fall.
Let’ts look at this a little closer, 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. Paul gets to the point we can speak as much as we want, but our words have no meaning without love. Part of this in my view is that we can say we love someone, but in order to show love takes commitment, time, and effort. Love is not something to be taken lightly. Love is about respect, honor, and commitment. I know in my marriage it starts with respect. We need to respect each other, our boundaries, and each other’s needs. Marriage is so powerful because it shapes us to love. Marriage is a powerful tool of commitment. I know I wrote about it a little bit ago, but to draw back on this. We can say we love our spouse, but it’s not enough to say we love them. Show them your love, respect, and care this is not something that cost money, but time. Dr. Gary Chapman writes about our love languages and one of the things that are important is knowing your spouses so you know how to love them. Not every person is a gifted person, not everyone responds to how you want to show love. The key to loving someone is to love them how they want to be loved. Your relationships should be a constant quest to learn about them.
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. Sometimes we give far too much value into what we know. We can be sharp as a tack in terms of knowledge, but if we do not know how to put it into action. Like that tack it only has so many uses, it can hold up a paper, make a hole, and some of the stronger ones maybe hold up a slightly larger item. However, we put too much weight on that tack gravity pulls it down. We can believe we are in the right all we want. Anyone who has been married, and again I use marriage because this is something I know a lot about, knows that marriage is not about being right. If you argue about who’s right eventually the topic veers away from the original issue, skeletons come out, and it’s just a nightmare. Every marriage, occasionally mine as well, ends up in a war of wits, but it leads nowhere. It takes strength to have the wisdom to fight your battles wisely. Now before I go too far down this road, this is not exactly what Paul is saying here, but its more or less a road which eventually intersects it.
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. It’s interesting how many people try to minimize Christianity as a body of “do-gooders” regulated by a set of standards. They try to make Christianity merely a body of rules to hold people in check. I feel here Paul shoots this down in one sentence. We can do all the good in the world and behave well, but what do we gain a firm pat on the back. When we do not do things out of love or for a purpose nothing is gained. Likewise, let’s look at the woman who gave it all, which seemed like a small amount, but it was all she had. She did so out of love. Doing good is the right thing, but love is stronger. Love is not something that you do it’s given.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, 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. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.
This is really the meat and potatoes of this verse. This exemplifies love and how we should conduct ourselves. Love is patient and in life, we need a lot of it. Love is kind and it seems so self-explanatory but in the grind of the day, we can tend fo forget it. Anyone in a marriage or at least a stable one can tell you pride gets you nowhere. It’s a fork which the devil puts in between you and love. Everyone want to be right but sometimes you have to put yourself aside. Jesus tells us to put ourselves aside. Pride is such a powerful sin, and it allows us to feel better than what we are. When my wife and I were preparing to get married we went through counseling as a pre-check to getting married in our church. We were wisely told that all couples fight, but if you do you need to fight fair. One of those aspects is that you leave the past in the past. It’s not ammunition we all mistakes. Any sort of conflict you may have had for the day ends at goodnight. Love never fails, but people sometimes do, and when we love we can overcome and persevere.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
I could go on about this verse all day, but I want to get to the conclusion of this verse because it says it all. Love is so important. Love trumps everything, nothing is greater than love. Jesus tells us this time and time again. You want to know how to check an authentic Biblical text analyze first does this lead me to love, if the answer is no then it’s likely a fake. Now don’t get me wrong not every verse does so but each book of the Bible does. The NIV which is my favorite translation list the word LOVE 551 times, yes, it’s that important. Like your teachers taught you in the first grade if I repeat it’s important. I think 551 times passes this importance test. The greatest thing we can do is love the Lord with all our hearts, and the second is love thy neighbor as thyself. I think a lot of us forget this once in a while. Stop kidding yourself and love more, love better, love all the time. Peace and blessings to you all my brothers and sisters in Christ.