The first three verses of I Corinthians 13 are not often read at weddings. People want to get to the “good” stuff about what Love is and is not. However, these verses emphasize clearly that whatever else your ability, your knowledge, or your generosity, if you do not have the key ingredient of Love, there is no usefulness, gain, or benefit.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 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 have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1Co 13:1-3)
It is worth reading that part of this passage over slowly a couple of times. IF I.. (fill in the blank) but do not have LOVE then whatever I can do, whatever I know, whatever I have given in charity I will not be benefited by it.
In a recent Olympic trial run a British athlete accomplished a personal best in a running event using the hurdles. However, after the trial race was run, the time was not recorded as a record because…the track did not contain the correct number of hurdles. The officials had missed counted and put one fewer than was necessary. All that effort and, yet, it was in vain. If I run the best time but do not have the correct number of hurdles, I gain nothing.
Paul said that, in his life, he constantly buffeted his body and disciplined himself, to be sure that after he had run the race, that he would not be disqualified. Only those who run lawfully win the prize. (I cor 9:27, 2 tim 2:5)
So it is with our lives. We can accomplish great and maginificent things for the Lord, we can do much to help other people, we might even solve world hunger and win Nobel peace prizes but, if we do not have Love…it does not profit us a single thing.
I hope you realize that Paul is not talking about profit in this life but profit in the life to come. We may fool men, we may even fool ourselves, but we will not fool God.
Read those characteristics that follow and substitute your name in there in place of Love. Steven is Kind, Steven is long suffering, etc. etc. Does it fit you? Is that really YOU? I don’t mean that you have to be perfect in this but in general, would someone say that your character is made up of these descriptions?
As we look at the characteristics that make up Agape love, let’s remember that we are not trying to gain one or two of them, we want them all. In pursuit of a higher calling we try to become more like God because, after all, God is love. And, if you have not God or Love, what else matters!
As we have been studying the qualities that Peter has told us to add, we finally have come to the last one: Love. Defining the word is necessary because it is used in so many contexts and each can be quite different. In the passage of 2 Peter 1, we are looking at the Greek word Agape.
Agape, is a duty bound love, it is one that does not rely on emotions. Warm fuzzy emotions may be present but are not necessary. Agape love is the love of a parent disciplining a child, it is the love of a parent at 2 a.m. feedings, it is the love shown toward an enemy. It is a love that can be commanded precisely be emotion is not needed to carry it out. I generally define this love as “doing what is in the best interest of the person being loved”. Even though a parent hates to discipline a child (this hurts me more that it hurts you) or get up for that 2 a.m. feed, the necessity compels them to do so.
It is easy to see that this can be done even to an enemy because you can always help an enemy fix a flat tire, give CPR, save their life, etc. In recognizing that, we have our first clue as to how you can become like God.
One of the hardest things for me to accept was the utter sinfulness of my life. I don’t think of myself as a sinner. This isn’t to say that I cannot identify sin in my life; I can look back and see some horribly, awful things that I did but I don’t think of myself as someone who is devoted to sin; wanting to do evil. I think most of us are that same way. Because of that, we don’t count ourselves at the level that we should. We don’t see things as God does.
When we think of God’s salvation being offered, we don’t really think we deserve it but at the same time, we tend to think of it as something done for people who really wanted to do right and be godly people. In other words, good people who deserve a second chance. Who doesn’t want to give a second chance to a good person, right? The Scripture reveals a different perspective.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8 NKJV)
God showed love toward us not as good people but as sinners. However, verse 10 takes it one step further:
For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Rom 5:10 NKJV)
God didn’t just send His Son into the world to save good people but to save sinners; not just sinners but enemies.
If the Scriptures count me as an enemy of God before He saved me, then perhaps I have another clue as to how to become more like God.
The Scripture says that God is love. While it is certainly true that God shows love and demonstrates love, I would like to focus on the thought that God is Love. Love is not just an action but it is something to become. How would you like it said of you that you are love? Certainly, we cannot do so do to the degree God did but, to imitate God (however imperfectly) as a son does his father, is an both an honor to the father and a credit to the child.
When the Scriptures say that we are to love our enemy and we see what God did for HIS enemies (that would be us), then we begin to understand how far we should go.
First Corinthians 13 gives a long list of what qualities make up love. In the next few posts, we will look at those qualities and try to understand them better. In the meantime, read those qualities listed from verse 5 onward but where you read “Love is…” or “Love is not…” substitute your own name and ask yourself: Does this describe me? If not, why not?
If we want to become more like God who is love, then we have to become describable by those qualities that make up love.
Question: Aside from God and Jesus, which Bible character do you think showed love the best?