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.1 Corinthians 13: 1-3
This morning’s sermon addressed both the Fruit of the Spirit and the Gifts of the Spirit which prompted me to read the passage above in a different light.
We read Paul’s chapter on love out of context a bit I think. In the previous chapter, Paul lists the gifts of the Spirit and I imagine the church at Corinth wanted to pursue those supernatural gifts in their lives, but Paul pauses with the closing verse of chapter 12 where he encourages the people to pursue “the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.”
As Paul opens the “Love” chapter, he uses several examples to illustrate his point. While the Corinthian church was focused on supernatural spiritual gifts, they were missing the major point of following Christ and living a life of love.
Do you remember the “voice” of the teacher in the Charlie Brown television specials? “Wah wah woh wah wah” or something like that at least. It was unintelligible and meaningless, much like the announcements we hear in airport terminals and bus stations.
So the tongues of men and angels are nothing more than an annoying noise unless there is love. And if I have great insight into the Bible or possess deep understanding or have great faith or if I am generous beyond belief and even if I sacrifice my life for others – without love, my life has no meaning.
The truth is that we take notice of those who have “special” gifts, but there is so much more to our lives than the applause of others. And this is not a set of circumstances that apply to other people. Without love Paul was nothing and the same can be stated accurately about you and me. So how loving are we?