January 4 I Friday
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” —1 Corinthians 13:1
1 Corinthians 13 is considered the classic chapter on love and contains one of the most beautiful and penetrating descriptions of love in all of literature. In the above verse, Paul is talking about spiritual gifts and how they are to be exercised in love. Love is everything, because without it, everything is nothing.
In this chapter, Paul unites loving activities with loving attitudes and aspirations that work together in giving us the deeply fulfilling and fruitful life God intends for us. Without love, our spiritual gifting and ministries are empty. Our work is just a job; preaching from the pulpit comes to nothing; artistry will not move people; and on a mission team, we are just a visitor. Spiritual gifting is enabled by the Holy Spirit, but if exercised without love, Paul says, “I am nothing; I do nothing; I gain nothing.”
Paul then speaks about loving attitudes when he writes, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (13:4-7). This paints a beautiful portrayal of Jesus Christ and is God’s ambition for us.
Loving aspirations are what we look forward to. Prophecies will cease, tongues will be stilled and knowledge will pass away, but “love never fails” (13:8). Love has no shelf life and endures forever. Jesus said, “A new command I give: Love one another.” It is not always easy to love everyone, but Jesus explains how it works. “As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). This means that our first capacity for love is to know that we ourselves are loved. We do not have to be lovable, because love does not originate in the attraction of the loved; it originates in the loving nature of the lover.
God is love and draws us into relationship with Him in which there is no need for fear or shame. God knows us and loves us through and through. If we tend to forget this, we will inevitably stunt our spiritual growth, because God’s love for us is what gives us the joy, freedom and capacity to love others. The kind of love Jesus speaks of is not something we must work for or build up in ourselves, but is a supernatural love, derived from His life within us. His love is the infinite reservoir we are to draw from in loving one another.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I ask that You fill my heart to overflowing and make me a conduit of Your love in all my interactions with others. Thank You, Jesus.