Yesterday I mentioned how I started to yearn earnestly for the gift of tongues and then changed my thinking based on Paul’s spiritual gift priority list to desire “the greater gifts.” That is, of course, until I read chapter 13 in its entirety. We often truncate it to fit it into a wedding ceremony or read it without understanding in what context it was written (we did it too). Let’s see what Paul says about love.
1 Corinthians 13
13 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. 4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Before we go further, I’d like to quote the Apostle John in 1 John 4:19, “We love, because He first loved us.” Not only was 1 Corinthians 13 quoted in our wedding, but so was 1 John 4. John talks a lot in his writings about the essence of Christ. It is where we get the understanding that God is love and love originates from Him. This is congruent with the ancient findings of Solomon who tells us there is nothing new under the sun. We might love someone but God loved them first. Love is the greatest spiritual gift of all.
Read Paul’s description of love again in verses 4-8. Unconditional love is more powerful than any other supernatural spiritual gift we can think of. Without the element of love for others because of Christ, the other things are just wasted gifts and skills. The reason is because without this love, we will misuse the others. Without untainted and perfect love for one another, it doesn’t matter what kind of magic tricks we can perform. In the second half of this chapter, Paul insinuates that the other Spiritual Gifts are childish in comparison to love. When Christ returns, all the other things will go away but love will remain. So then, why do we not first seek out love?
Paul has mentioned a couple times now that spiritual gifts cannot be invoked in a “controlling the spirits” kind of way. Yet, he has told us that we can strive and desire these gifts in order to further God’s kingdom. This gift, the gift of love, is the greatest of all and therefore we should strive for it the most. If we first strive for the love of others (not to be confused with strive to love others, but actually having a deep desire to love others unconditionally as Christ did), then we won’t necessarily care about the other gifts, will we? If our desire is to love others in whatever way Christ calls us to, then the others will come and develop naturally since those with specific spiritual gifts will flourish. Faith and hope are the gas and oil that make spiritual gifts run, but love is the constant spark that gets the engine running and keeps it moving effectively.
Are you seeking out love above all things?