1 Corinthians 13:1-13 – Will Our Ministry Have Love?

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. (New International Version)

Love almost defies definition. It is so large and so deep that we can only try and describe it. That’s because love cannot be contained within puny human definitions. Every person in the world knows love exists. We have felt it, experienced it, longed for it, need it, and given it.

Throughout history, music has explored the dimensions of love. It seems that the 1970’s were especially smitten with singing about love. The ‘70’s give us a taste of how big love is in life and what it does in the human experience.

Just by looking at the song titles, we see there are all kinds of love: “Mighty Love,” “Lotta Love,” “Back in Love,” “Sweet Love,” “Radar Love,” “Hot Love,” “Puppy Love,” “Young Love,” “Sugar Baby Love,” “Easy Love,” “Burning Love,” “Our Love,” apparently “Chuck E’s in Love,” there’s even a thing called “Muskrat Love,” and, it seems, a person can have a “Love Hangover.”

Maybe the song titles give us an idea of what love is and does: “Love Will Keep Us Together,” “Love Takes Time,” “Fallin’ in Love,” “Love is the Answer,” “Love is Thicker Than Water,” “Love Will Find a Way,” “Turn Your Love Around,” “Love Grows,” “I Think I Love You,” “Don’t Pull Your Love,” “Give a Little Love,” “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” “Don’t Knock My Love,” and “Walk Away From Love.” 

It could be that love has something to do with attaching the word “baby” to it: “Love to Love You, Baby,” “Baby I Love Your Way,” “Lay a Little Lovin’ on Me, Baby,” “My Baby Loves Lovin’,” and Barry White is “Gonna Love You Just a Little More, Baby.”

Or perhaps love happens in certain places, such as: “Love’s Train,” “Love Rollercoaster,” “Love on a Two Way Street,” or maybe we need to slip into the ‘80’s to the “Love Shack.” Could be we just have to be a “Love Machine” (ooo-yeah!).

Indeed, when we think of love within our culture, it is something that we hope just happens to us, like the song, “I Woke Up in Love This Morning.” But when we think of biblical love, a real genuine godly love, it’s something we both give and receive. Turns out that love really is a two-way street; we all need love, to receive it and to give it. 

Without love, we die. Fish need water to swim; and we need love to survive. However, love doesn’t simply fall into our laps. Rather:

Love is a deliberate and intentional decision to meet the need of another person without showing favoritism or discrimination.

Mit Tdrahrhe

Love begins with God. God is love. Love is not only something God does; love is God’s true self and identity.  This is why love dominates so much of the Bible, as well as why our culture is so enamored with love.

Since, biblically, people are made in the image and likeness of God, there is an innate power, permanence, and presence of love deep within our souls. Even if people fail to know exactly where love comes from, we all have the collective human experience of understanding that love is supremely important.

The Apostle Paul’s beautiful description of love was penned because within the Corinthian church, there was a profound lack of love. The church was characterized by all kinds of unloving attitudes and actions, which is why they were so deeply divided among themselves. 

The Corinthian believers abused their freedom in Christ, refused to share with everyone, scorned their neighbors’ spiritual gifts, boasted about their accomplishments, sought power and recognition for themselves, and jockeyed for position in the church. So, the Corinthians needed to learn how important love is, as well as how and why to do it. Today’s New Testament lesson lets us know that love is essential, effective, and eternal. 

Love Is Essential

Love is of primary importance. Without love we might do great and impactful things, yet they will mean nothing. 

Once I decided to make a homemade pizza for my family. I spent a lot of time making my own crust, creating my own sauce, and carefully selecting the toppings. After it finally came out of the oven, it was a masterpiece!  As the chef, of course, I eagerly watched the family as they took their first bites, anticipating the rave reviews I would receive over my work of culinary art. 

But what I saw was the looks of people who were trying to be nice enough not to gag. My wise wife simply said to me, “Go ahead and have a bite.” I took one bite and spit it out of my mouth. I immediately knew what had happened. I accidentally used powdered sugar instead of flour to make my pizza crust. Even though everything else in the pizza was perfect, the one missing ingredient of flour ruined the entire meal and its experience.

Without love, it does not matter how many good works we do, how many people we help, or how much we understand the Bible and Christianity. Without love, life is just a schedule of activity with no heart to it. Apart from love, no one will ever be able to savor the good news of Jesus Christ. Religious activity in and of itself means nothing unless it is thoroughly infused with love.

Love is so large that it most certainly cannot be limited to a blog post. So we’ll pick it up in another post!….

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