“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (v. 13).
Hardly impressive . . . far from the kind of godly interaction you would hope to witness or experience between believers. Nevertheless, the Corinthian church was punctuated by envy and arguments. Some of them related to each other the way those outside of the church would. They were like people who had never been impacted by the unconditional, sacrificial love of Christ. It wasn’t pretty.
They fought over spiritual leaders. But spiritual leaders are like farmers with different roles. Ultimately, it is God who causes the harvest (1 Cor. 3:1-9). There was no reason for division based on leadership loyalty!
There were feelings of inferiority/superiority based on spiritual gifts. But Paul reminded them it was the Spirit of God who distributed them as He saw fit and, ultimately, for the good of the whole body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:1-30). There was no reason for arrogance or inferiority!
Still, even with the rational, cognitive understanding about these important issues in place, there was still something missing. That something was love — the kind of sacrificial and unconditional love modeled by and experienced in Christ. That is the kind of love that believers are to have for one another. It is to characterize the relationships between sisters and brothers within the family of God.
Without love, spiritual gifts, biblical insights, miraculous abilities, incredible sacrifice, and even acts of martyrdom are of no value! (vv. 1-3)
Here is how Eugene Peterson summarizes part of this passage in the Message Bible:
- Love never gives up.
- Love cares more for others than for self.
- Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
- Love doesn’t strut,
- Doesn’t have a swelled head,
- Doesn’t force itself on others,
- Isn’t always “me first,”
- Doesn’t fly off the handle,
- Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
- Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
- Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
- Puts up with anything,
- Trusts God always,
- Always looks for the best,
- Never looks back,
- But keeps going to the end.
Are you sacrificially and unconditionally loving? Does love mark your life?