I remember family gatherings beneath the towering trees of Antioch Park in Kansas City. The moms laid out Midwestern cuisine on the broad rough tables and we kids descended upon the food. In our immaturity, our competition for food got tough at times. As we were not yet aware of our own selfishness, the moms had to teach us how to treat one another, lest the blessing of the feast spread out before us become the scene of a fight.
Paul felt it necessary to teach the Corinthian church about agape love, as they were arguing about the gifts of the Spirit. God’s intended blessings were becoming an occasion for conflict. Let us take a fresh look at this familiar passage:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have 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 can move mountains, but do not have 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. (I Corinthians 13:1–3)
In these verses, we see that love matters. Even ministry, service, and self-sacrifice are meaningless unless given in love. Paul goes on to describe the ways that love shows:
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. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (I Corinthians 13:4–8a)
If you want a challenge, read those verses again, and put your name where the word “love” belongs. Truthfully, there are moments that I would have a hard time reading parts of that with a straight face, testimony to the fact that we can all use more agape in our relationships. Paul goes on to say that even our spiritual gifts will one day be unnecessary, but qualities of the heart endure forever:
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (I Corinthians 13:13)
Here is a question that has haunted me lately. If we lived according to these verses in our homes, would more than half of Christian marriages end in disillusionment and divorce? It appears that we have a disconnection between what we profess to believe and the way we live, day to day. I believe that disconnection occurs in the heart.
We may sincerely believe it, but how do we live it? How do we get there from here? (end of excerpt)