No love? No worth.
1 Corinthians 13 is commonly known as the “love chapter” in the New Testament. It’s a clear description of what godly love looks like and how it behaves. Love is just that - a behavior. It’s not a gushy, warm feeling that we ascribe to our soulmate in one breath and an excellent steak in the next. Whatever we may call it, love is not love if it's not accompanied by behavior that reflects self-emptying. Our culture wants love without limits and without truth. We're shown another way in Paul's 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians.
“If I speak human or angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give away all my possessions, and if I give over my body in order to boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
Because love is a behavior, we are told that without the guiding foundation of being loving, the eloquence of love’s description has little worth. Without love, there’s no worth.
If I speak…
With angelic tongues. If I am articulate, coveted as a speaker or writer. If I am acclaimed, able, recognized and lauded for my words. If I sway people and touch hearts. If I manipulate or coax. If I promote policies or politics by smooth speech or captivating vision.
If I have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. No love? No worth.
If I have the gift of prophecy… mysteries… knowledge… all faith…
Even if I stand tall as a wise, discerning leader. Even if I proclaim truth, apply scripture to the times in profound, convicting ways. Even if my trust and confidence in God is solid, inspiring and unshakeable. If I have a grasp of scripture’s depths and teachings and am renown as a teacher or leader. If my word is the word on a biblical issue. If people turn to me for guidance, understanding.
If I have not love, I am nothing. No love? No worth.
If I give… if I die in the cause…
All I own. Even if I lay down my life for the gospel. If I’m seen as generous and people make much of what I’ve sacrificed or done. If I refrain from evil and for the sake of the gospel choose a path of lowliness. If I miss opportunities for advancement.
If I am not loving, I am nothing. No love? No worth.
Lots of spiritual activity but no love
These verses were a sure rebuke to Christians in Corinth who prided themselves on how “spiritual” they were. Amazing, wonderful things were being done in their churches. Tongues-speakers babbled boisterously. It was not boring, to be certain. Rather, it was chaos. A spiritual free-for-all. So much was going on, all at once. Healings and prophecies propogated. Personalities bubbled to the surface like a shaken Coke. All the while, the less sensational and behind-the-scenes church members were being relegated to the background - in activity and esteem. The Lord’s Supper had degenerated to feasts of fashion and firsts. The brash got the beef. The popular got the prime rib. It was leftovers for the rest.
So Paul wrote Corinthians with an earnest, heavy heart. He was determined to remind them of the way of Jesus - love. In fact, in his eloquent description of love, you can substitute the name of Jesus for “love” in each of its occurrences. When you do, it’s an “aha” moment. Jesus is love.
“[Jesus] is patient, [Jesus] is kind. [Jesus] does not envy, [Jesus] is not boastful, [Jesus] is not arrogant, [Jesus] is not rude, [Jesus] is not self-seeking, [Jesus] is not irritable, and [Jesus] does not keep a record of wrongs. [Jesus] finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. [Jesus] bears all things, [Jesus] believes all things, [Jesus] hopes all things, [Jesus] endures all things. [Jesus] never ends." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
The follower of Christ should also be able to put our names in love’s place.
For God so loved the world… Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
Jesus did exactly that. Love behaves. Breath, blood, time, importance, preferences… laid down in love.
No love? No worth.
Consider the reverse. Where there is great love, there is great worth. Jesus loved you so much He laid His life for you. And our appropriate response to His sacrifice? It’s simply and only love.
“Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”
Jesus said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:36-37)
Chris McClarney’s song “Known by Love” is worth listening to…