1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most famous passages in the New Testament. We tend to jump to verses 4-7, where Paul says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud….” And we usually hear these words read at weddings.
But 1 Corinthians 13 was written to a church in the midst of conflict. Paul was not writing primarily about the love between a husband and wife, but about the love between brothers and sisters in Christ. And he starts off the section with some powerful words.
If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that con move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. (13:1-3)
Here Paul says some incredibly important—and incredibly challenging—things about love.
1. If you don’t love, nothing you say will matter. We are impressed with eloquence, with those who know how to give a good speech, but Paul says, “What does it matter if every time you open your mouth people get goosebumps? If you don’t love the people you speak to, it doesn’t matter.”
2. If you don’t love, nothing you know will matter. You could be esteemed across the land for your knowledge. You could have major parts of the Bible memorized. People could sit enthralled as you expound on theological ideas for average folks to comprehend. But if you don’t love people, it doesn’t matter.
3. If you don’t love, what you believe doesn’t matter. You could have enough faith to make mountains move. (I’ve been trying for years to get a mountain from the Colorado Rockies to move here to York—but you can see how well I’ve done!) People could come from all over the world just to have you pray for them. But if you don’t love the people you’re praying for, it doesn’t matter.
4. If you don’t love, nothing you give matters. You could fund scholarships for hundreds of students. You can establish a foundation that sends missionaries across the world. But if you don’t love, it doesn’t matter.
5. If you don’t love, nothing you do matters. You can spend the rest of your life on the mission field. You can preach on the street corners. You can eventually be martyred. But if you don’t love people, it doesn’t matter.
As I said, challenging words. So how about it, East Hill—how is your love life?