“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, so as 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.”
1 Cor 13:1-3 NRSV
It’s such a simple word.
And, we sure like to toss it around a lot, don’t we?
“Oh! I love that show!”
“That’s my favorite! I love that song!”
“You look cute! I love your shirt!”
God is compared to it. Jesus commands it. In fact, the Bible says that if you don’t have it, you don’t know God.
Love is not to be taken lightly.
God is Love
“But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” This is one of my favorite scriptures in Word. It’s found at 1 John 4:8. A little later in the chapter, you’ll find this one:
We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.1 John 4:16
God is love. And if we don’t have God in us—in our hearts, minds and souls—we don’t have love either.
Love Comes with Rules
Stick with me here. I know “rules” aren’t always our favorite things, but when it comes to God and the Bible, He laid out a series of requirements (or rules) for what love truly is. We’ll find it in 1 Corinthians 13; 4-7, right after our “clanging cymbal” verse from above.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, 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. (Emphasis my own.)
That’s quite a list of rules if you ask me. And I’m asking myself right now…
How many times have I broken them?
Love Never Fails
1 Corinthians 13 continues:
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. (verse 8)
The material things of this planet will end. Even us. But love never fails.
Let’s imagine it. You’re in the check-out line at the grocery store. Everyone in front of you is grumpy and ready to get home. The teller is trying his or her best to keep up, plaster a smile on their face, and get these people on their way. Then you come along.
How are you going to react? Are you going to jump on the train to Cranky Town? Or are you going to be the love/kindness/joy train pulling into that station?
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.Galatians 5:13-15 NIV (Emphasis added)
That “bite and devour” part gets me every time.
Love isn’t always easy, but as Christ followers, God gives us the tools we need so we can be reflections of HIS love and not “clanging cymbals.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 gives us some powerful instructions on love straight from Saint Paul:
“Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.“
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