1 Corinthians 13:1-3
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,but have not love, I gain nothing.
A lot of ministry is a waste of time, not because it isn’t practically helpful to people, but because it is wrongly motivated. Even the highest ministry endeavor is negated when the minister lacks love.
Example 1: Communication (v.1)
Billy Graham’s preaching + Elevation’s marketing + Brooklyn Tabernacle’s choir – love equals a toddler banging pots and pans together. One quiet word spoken in love is worth more than Shakespeare’s entire works without love. One off-key syllable sung in love is worth more than Handel’s Messiah performed without love.
Example 2: Knowledge (v.2a)
Supernatural powers of knowledge and understanding cannot overcome a deficit of love. A loving Christian with some answers is always more fruitful than an unloving one with all the answers.
Examples 3:-5 Faith, Generosity, Martyrdom (v.2-3)
Even mountain movers are nothing without love. Even those people who give up everything to move into the slums gain nothing without love. Even giving one’s own life is nullified if not done in love. Love is the great prerequisite to worthwhile ministry (worthwhile living for that matter).
The Bottom Line
Loveless Christians say nothing, are nothing, gain nothing – even if they’re neck-deep in incredibly taxing and difficult ministry work.
It is deep, gospel love that fills the gun with ammo; the balloon with helium. Excellent, but empty communication, education, belief, and generosity cannot perform God’s work in the world. Those things are mere vessels.
What Love Looks Like: v.4-7
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
3. Rejoicing in truth
4. Bearing all things
5. Believing all things
6. Hoping all things
7. Enduring all things
What Love Doesn’t Look Like: v.4-7
5. Insistence upon one’s own way
8. Rejoicing in wrongdoing
Who is Like This?
Maybe you’ve studied this passage before and tried to insert your name for ‘love’ to see if you pass the test. For example, I could read it as “Matt is patient and kind; Matt does not envy or boast, etc.” Of course none of us come anywhere near passing that test. How rarely do any of us live lovingly?
Years ago my wife and I stood in a long return line at Wal-Mart. People were tense and frustrated. It was taking forever and there was only one woman working the return register. On top of the long, grumbling line, a disabled woman needed help getting the motorized buggy from behind carts stacked high with merchandise. We watched in awe as the woman behind the register calmly, patiently, gently helped this elderly woman into her buggy. Her patience effected all of us and there was noticeable change in the atmosphere. The entire line loostened up, breathed easier, calmed down – and were able to be patient.
Those who have received patience are able to be patient. Those who have received kindness are able to be kind. Those who have received love are able to love. And in Jesus Christ, we receive a fountain of living water, an endless source of love to satisfy our thirst and pour out for others.
Jesus is patient and kind, not placing impossible burdens on our shoulders but relieving them. Jesus does not envy or boast. Jesus is not arrogant or rude. Jesus does not insist on his own way, praying “not my will but thine.” Jesus is not irritable or resentful. Jesus does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in truth. Jesus bears all things, including the sins of his people on the cross. Jesus believes all things and hopes all things. Jesus endures all things, including the condemnation we’ve earned from our lovelessness.
Why is this so valuable? v.8-13
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
After every worship gathering, my son (5) and daughter (2) go into my study and “work”. They get out my scrap paper and my highlighters and draw. They pick up my phone and push all the buttons. It’s cute and I love them; but they’re not really accomplishing anything. Yet when they show patience with one another, its as valuable and effective as when I show patience. When my two-year-old daughter performs an act of kindness, the impact is as deep as if any adult had done it.
Love is the only work we can do maturely. We communicate, understand, believe, and give like children. When Jesus returns we’ll be shocked at how weak our work in these areas has been. But when we love, we’re connected with the fullness of God in a deeper way than we realize.
Dulins Grove (and whoever else is reading):
– Have you experienced Jesus’ love? Have you rested in his work done on your behalf, accepting his payment for your sin and failures?
– Are you plugged into this good news daily as your source of comfort and security, so that you don’t need to extract love from people – but are free to pour it out?
– Where are you toiling fruitlessly in service without love?
– Go to Jesus. Receive his love. Be filled with it. And overflow into the lives of others.