Today’s Reading: 1 Corinthians 10-13
Today’s Reflection:1 Corinthians 13:8
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.
What is this text saying?
This scripture tells us that many of the gifts that are prized in the church will eventually fade away, but that the purpose for these gifts never will. That purpose is love.
Why is it important?
1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most read scriptures in the bible, and I’m certain it is also one of the least understood. If it were better understood it would radically transform our churches, us as believers in Christ, and ultimately our world.
Because its subject is love, 1 Corinthians 13 is often read at weddings, but the love spoken here goes far beyond the love shared between a husband and wife. It is not a wishy-washy notion of casual permissiveness, or a nominal catch all to describe the things or people we really like. The love spoken of in 1 Corinthians 13 is as bold and fierce as it is humble, patient and kind. This love does not stand for injustice, nor does it demand its own way. This love seeks and does what is in the best interests of others. This love does not always give people what they want but what they need, not necessarily what they desire but what they require.
This love seeks to unite us. It is this love Jesus spoke of when He said that the world would recognize His followers by their love for each other (John 13:34-35) and when praying that His followers would unify and be as one just as He and God the Father are one (John 17:11). But most importantly, it is this love that motivated God to give His only son to save us (John 3:16). Love is the driving force behind God’s mission of redeeming mankind, from Genesis right through to Revelation. Love is, quite simply, His reason for everything.
1 John 4:8 – He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
The placement of 1 Corinthians 13 was no accident. It follows a discussion of spiritual gifts in chapter 12 and leads into a discussion of prophesy and speaking in tongues in chapter 14. 1 Corinthians 13 elevates love above all else, making the astonishing statement that possessing these gifts without love is completely meaningless (1 Corinthians 13:1-2).
How can I apply this?
1) Understand that love is the purpose for everything God is doing in this world.
Our churches spend considerable amounts of time discussing doctrines, interpretations of scripture, prophesies and their meanings, and the gift of faith. All of these things are important. God gave them to us for a reason. But we often lose sight of the fact that the reason God gave us these things is more important than these things themselves. And that reason is love.
Without love all of the spiritual knowledge in the world is literally useless. The lack of love doesn’t slightly or partially diminish the usefulness or worthiness of spiritual knowledge. It renders it completely useless and completely worthless.
If we don’t share God’s heart of compassion for all people in truth we cannot even comprehend the truths of Biblical doctrine, scripture, prophesy and faith. We will become as Israel became, satisfied with our own observations of religious rituals and knowledge of static religious beliefs, yet lacking understanding of their true meaning (see God’s charge against Israel in Isaiah 1).
2) Understand that love cannot just be spoken of, it must be shown.
Love is an action word. We all recognize in our personal relationships someone must do much more than say the word to show they genuinely have love for us.
Matthew 24:14 states “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come (NKJV)”. The word ‘witness’ suggests the gospel will not only be heard, but seen. Because of love God sent His son to die for us. When we demonstrate love for one another the world will recognize us as followers of Jesus. If we’re clothed, fed, housed, and surrounded by loved ones we’re thankful that we have these things, as we ought to be. But when we love we will desire to see others blessed in the same way, and we will take action to help make it so (1 John 3:17). It is these examples of love in action that will open the eyes of the world to the truth of who Jesus is, and what only He can do for them.
3) Understand that this love cannot come from us alone.
The love I am speaking of here, a self-sacrificing love capable of bringing light and conviction to a fallen world, is not something that can emanate from the heart of man (Jeremiah 17:9). It must come from God. That means in order to live by this love and to demonstrate this love we must first receive this love from the source of love: God Himself through the gift of His son Jesus Christ (1 John 3:23-24).
1 John 3:16-18 – By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.