1: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” – Paul continues his lesson on Spiritual Gifts but now his focus shifts from the gift itself to how the gift is used.
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 have not love, I am nothing.” – We can be gifted, talented, intelligent, even beautiful, but if we do not love God and those around us, all these special attributes are a waste.
4-7: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…” – Paul lists the characteristics of love. It is easy to tell when love is present.
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.” – All things we deem important will pass. Only love persists.
12: “Now we see but a poor 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.” – We should keep a heavenly perspective in mind.
13: “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Points to Contemplate:
Do you love?
Remember the context in which Paul writes these famous verses. He is writing to a strife-torn, split-apart church. He has just written an intriguing chapter on Spiritual Gifts. But now he says there is a better way. As you interact with your family and friends, do you exhibit the attributes Paul lists for love? Do you ever lack patience? Are you envious of others? Do you keep a laundry list of wrongs that people have done to you? Do you quickly become self-righteous and defensive? Do you love?
When should we love?
Paul could not mean that we always should be loving, does he? It is only human to be prideful or rude occasionally, right? He couldn’t possibly mean that we should love that other guy who is so obviously wrong, could he? Is Paul outlining a perfection of love that is unattainable? If so, why bother? Why write these verses if they are used only as an illustration of how much we fail? Or, is there hope? Is it actually possible to grow and achieve these loving qualities?
Why does Paul link love together with Spiritual Gifts? We generally use these verses at weddings, yet Paul links them directly to his discourse on spiritual gifts. Are we limiting the importance of these verses when we set them aside for marital love only? When we wrap love into our spiritual gifts, is there a sudden sense of rightness that takes place? When we focus on God and follow His lead, when we step out in faith and respond to his call with the skills and talents He has given us, does His perfect love simply flow through us? Is the love that Paul describes God’s love revealed through us? If so, then is becoming more loving no longer a goal, task, or objective? Is love simply the result of something bigger – a solid relationship with God? Promises of the Gospel:
God is love. So, when we see true love, as Paul describes it, in our lives, we then see God. God created us out of love. He created us so that we would love Him. He wants us to love Him, but, more importantly, He created within us a need to love Him. As we grow in our faith, as we advance ever so slowly towards being the devoted Christians He is calling us to be, the more clearly the world begins to see a reflection of God’s love in us. We may always be “but a poor reflection as in a mirror” as we struggle with our human tendencies towards self-righteousness and self-centeredness. However, the better way that Paul describes abides as a pathway to follow: “faith, hope, and love.” Our destination is love.