Today we are looking at 1 Corinthians 13, the famous LOVE passage many of us know by heart, especially if you have been to a wedding recently. Hopefully, since week 2 of our “Greater Gifts” sermon series, you have had time to study and prayerfully reflect on the passages that list the various spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:12-31a, Romans 12:6-8, and Ephesians 4:11-13). Our prayer is that this is an ongoing, perhaps yearly practice that you take up to discover what gifts God has given you and the best ways to activate them to serve others. And now that your gifts are becoming clearer to you, I want you to hold those and reflect on this morning’s passage, which tells us that none of those gifts matter if we don’t have love and if are gifts are not guided by love.
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. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 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.
To summarize what Paul is saying here, all that we do in life, or can do, is meaningless, if we do not have love. And what kind of love? I caught a quote that had been posted on Facebook – can’t remember the author’s name, but it was profound. “I keep giving Christ countless reasons to stop loving me. Nothing I’ve done has changed his mind.” If we move around in this world with that kind of love for one another, that unceasing, unstoppable love, it would look very different. What does a world without love look like? Well, we don’t need to look far to see it anymore.
I recently saw the movie Christopher Robin. This i movie looks at what happened to Christopher Robin, Winnie-the-Pooh, and friends from the 100 Acre Wood after Christopher Robin grew up. As adults, we are introduced to a hard-working Christopher Robin, who works for a luggage company. It becomes clear that Christopher Robin works long hours and seems to be having less and less time for his family. When weekend plans to go to the country with his family change due to work, his wife and daughter become very disappointed. His wife chides him for choosing work over his family and for missing out on the life that is right in front of him. Later, Winnie-the-Pooh asks Christopher if his “case of important papers” is more important than a red balloon, to which Christopher replies, “they are.” (Christopher Robin at this point in his life has given up all forms of play and replaced them with work.) Later in the film, Pooh asks Christopher Robin if his case of important papers is more important than his daughter. Christopher Robin pauses and then says, “of course not.” Christopher Robin is reminded of what is really important in life — his family and the quality of time spent with them.
So often, even in the church, it is easy for us to begin to value the wrong things: productivity over spirituality; effectiveness over a caring heart; people in the pews over lives transformed; being members over being disciples; power and position over service and servant-leadership. We can even begin to think so highly of our gifts that we forget to love. Paul reminds us that it does not matter how “successful” we are as a church if love does not flow through everything that we do.
Now that we are discovering and activating our gifts, understanding how we are dependent on one another, will we let love – love of God and love of neighbor guide us?