1 Corinthians 13:1-13
13:1 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
13:2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
13:3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
13:4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant
13:5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
13:6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.
13:7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
13:8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.
13:9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part;
13:10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.
13:11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.
13:12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
13:13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
It is easy to walk around thinking that just because we are able to attain certain skills and reach certain goals in our Christian walk that we sometimes place ourselves on what I call a spiritual pedestal. This passage begins by describing some of the things that are not bad to have but loose their value if they are not fuelled by God’s love reigning in our hearts. Our aim is to serve and love God in all that we do. Whether it be in our workplace, home life, relationships, church, we are called to act in a way that reflects Christ’s love living through us.
This passage is split into three ways: What a love-less life looks like, what love truly is, and how love is everlasting.
- What a love-less life looks like (vs 1-3). These three verses basically describe the skills and goals that one can attain in life; such as the ability to speak, having all kinds of knowledge, and being the most generous person you can be. However, at the end of it all, if we are not filled with God’s love and joy in our hearts then these things are utterly worthless and will leave one feeling empty.
- What love truly is (vs 4-7). These next three verses essentially describe the Christ-like qualities that we are to exempt in our lives. We are to actively pursue these type of characteristics and prayerfully ask God to help us exemplify them in our everyday lives.
- Love is everlasting (8-13): Verse eight makes a definite statement “Love never ends”. It doesn’t end there, it goes on to say that things such as knowledge, tongues and prophecies do come to and end. If we go our whole lives not living in the light of pursuing God’s love in all that we do, what will we gain in the end? This passage speaks clearly on our hearts needing to be aligned with that of God’s.
Love is what drove Jesus Christ to be beaten, mocked, humiliated and ultimately put to death. It was love that caused Him to take on our guilt and shame and save us the heartache of experiencing God’s wrath. Let us pursue Christ’s love with intentionality and a heart that desires to not only exemplify it in our own lives but pours it out on others and those who we come in contact with.
If one could sum up the classic Corinthians 13 passage it would simply be, “without love everything you do it worthless.” While this might seem an oversimplification, it does perfectly capture the essence of the passage. Recall that the Corinthians had serious divisions and many thought themselves to be better than others because of their spiritual gift or the popular preacher that they followed. They even had problems sharing the Lord’s supper together without taking advantage of lower class and people of lesser means.
Thus, Paul clearly states that “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” If we do not love one another even our spiritual gifts can be rendered insignificant. This says something important about how powerful it is to simple love someone.
No wonder Jesus said that the greatest commandments are,
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:37-39)