Last Sunday, Joe spoke to us about love – the single most important attribute presented in the Bible, shown in the life of Jesus, and for us to develop. We focused on 1 Corinthians 13.
The context of this chapter includes the divisions in the church at Corinth and the contention caused by some people with spirit gifts; but Paul would show in ch 13 how our most important goal should be developing love – “a more excellent way” (1 Cor 12:31) – without which even the most impressive works are just empty (13:1-3). Paul actually did have spirit gifts, so he was speaking from experience!
There are four different Greek words for love, with different shades of meaning, but the love that Paul speaks of in 1 Cor 13 is the particular kind of love that God shows to mankind and that we should reflect in our own lives. It isn’t always a natural love for us to show – like trying to love our enemies doesn’t come easily (Matt 5:44) – but it is a part of what makes God perfect (v48). This kind of love will take an act of will; it’s only going to come about through effort.
The ultimate example of this love is shown in the life of Jesus. Working through 1 Cor 13:4-7, we saw how Jesus was:
Patient (Matt 18:21-22)
Kind (Luke 23:28)
Humble (Phil 2:5-8; Luke 18:18-19)
Not irritable or resentful (1 Pet 2:22-23)
Not joyful at wrongdoing (John 8:1-11)
Able to bear all things (Isa 53:4-5)
None of those characteristics were easy for Jesus in these examples, and they won’t be natural for us either, but they are our goal. In fact, Jesus taught that love was “the great and first commandment” (Matt 22:38); everything in our lives should be based on this love.
Finally, Paul reminds us that although the spirit gifts of his day would soon pass away, love would endure (1 Cor 13:8). This is still true today, as we don’t need any special spirit gifts to show love; this is something that all of us can do. And even when Jesus has returned and faith and hope are no longer needed, we will still show love in the Kingdom (v13)!
Remember that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16), and that love is the principle behind everything God does. Let’s make love our guiding principle too.