1CORINTHIANS 12:31b-13:13 (NIV – UK)
Love is indispensable
And yet I will show you the most excellent way.
1 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. 2 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. 3 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.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 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. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 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. 12 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.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
THE NEED FOR LOVE
Paul has just been speaking about the importance of unity in the Body of Christ – and now he moves on to commend the central role of love in achieving that. This really is a well-known chapter of 1Corinthians – we hear it read at wedding after wedding – I had this read at my wedding! But what’s surprising is that it almost seems an unrealistic vision of love. The description of love (v. 4-7) seems unattainable by human standards! If we are honest with ourselves, we probably can rob ably admit we haven’t always loved like that. What is described here is the perfect standard of love – and we need help to even begin to achieve it.
Through knowing God, we are able to experience this perfect love first-hand – being a beloved child of God. It is through experiencing that love that we are able to begin to love both God and our neighbours in a similar way. Matthew Henry, the 17th century English Bible Commentator puts it like this: ‘Here the apostle shows what is meant… love in its fullest and most extensive meaning, true love to God and man, a benevolent disposition of mind towards our fellow-Christians, growing out of sincere devotion to God.’ How wonderful that God invites us to relationship with him, so we can begin to love like 1Corinthians 13.
Question: In what ways do you experience the love of God?