“If I speak in the tongues of men or 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.”
Have you reflected lately on what Paul is telling us here in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3? It is incredible! Love is more important than:
- Speaking in the tongues of angels
- Having faith that can move mountains
- Self-sacrificing basically everything we have, from body to money
- The ability to fathom all mysteries and all knowledge
- The gift of prophecy, accurately seeing the future that is to come
Those things sound amazing. Can you imagine having even one of these incredible characteristics? Take a moment to actually reflect on what life would be like if something on this list described you.
And yet, love is more important. Love is more valuable than all of this. Without love, everything we have and everything we are amounts to nothing.
So, how do we cultivate a life of love?
We start by praying for God to fill us with his Spirit, since He is love (1 John 4:8). The more we are filled by God, enamored by him and living obediently to him, the more we will cultivate a life of love.
We continue by investing in the outline of love given in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. We work on our patience. We work on our kindness. We confess every moment of pride, envy, and boasting. We honor others, and confess when we dishonor others. We take stock of our temper, our anger, our rumination on the wrongs we’ve experienced, and lay these at the feet of the cross. We rejoice in truth. We actively protect others. We trust, hope, and persevere in the call of Christ. (If you haven’t already guessed, we can only do these things by the power of the Spirit in us! We must cover these goals in prayer.)
What next? We continue on by living as Christ-followers. We pray for our enemies and wish the best for them (Matthew 5:44). We put God first amongst all the other good things in our lives and actively pursue relationship with him (Luke 6:35). We sacrifice our own preferences and resources for the good of people around us who are in need (Mark 12:31). We care for the people around us, investing deeply in our church family life, inviting people to see Jesus through our love for one another (John 13:34).
With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.
1 Corinthians 13 tells us clearly that love is incredibly important. It paints a picture of love that is far beyond what we can do ourselves, despite our very best efforts.
If we want to cultivate a life of love (which Jesus commands us to do), we must invite the Holy Spirit to do a holy work in us. We place our faith in God Almighty. We place our hope in Christ. We allow the Spirit to shape us, change us, convict us, teach us, and grow us more and more into the image of Jesus, who loved perfectly.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)