In the English language love is often used in the form of a verb, which are words that typically denote an action. An easy example is: I love you (I is the pronoun and love is the verb… you get the point). That’s exactly how Anna (my stunning fiancé) defines love, “It’s not just something you say, love is an action.” I may be slightly biased, but I agree with her 100 percent. I would even add that love makes you do some crazy things. It’s the wind that fans the fire, the fuse that lights the bomb, and the gas that moves the car. I think that is what the Apostle Paul is getting at in 1 Corinthians 13, that love is the substance that drives you to be patient, kind, humble, peaceful, and selfless. That’s a big word; selfless… we will come back to it in a moment, for now let’s look at the Scripture.
“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)
What is Paul saying here? How is it possible for me to speak in tongues of men and of angels, yet sound like I’m honestly just making a bunch of pointless noise? How could I prophesy with power and move mountains with faith, yet still be…nothing? This next one is my favorite because it blows my mind the most: It is possible for you to sell every possession you have and die as a martyr and yet gain nothing. How you might ask? I’m glad you did. If love is not the substance that drives your actions, then your actions are anything but sincere and genuine. In fact, without love all of the above-mentioned scenarios are done for one reason: to feed that ego. For example, if not in love…then why would you give everything you own away to people who could never repay you? Perhaps it’s to receive praise for your generosity. Dear friend, that ego is subtle is it not?
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it his not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6)
Next up Paul quickly defines what love is. For the sake of time I’m not going to expound on every word listed in Paul’s definition. I will mention what appears to be the overarching trait, selfless. The more that I think on it the more I am convinced of it. Love is just that right? Love is selfless. It is impossible to truly love another human being and not put them before yourself. Love doesn’t think of ‘self’ first, it thinks of ‘others’ first. Love doesn’t lift itself up over others; it doesn’t try to bulldoze people over either. It is certainly not self-centered, because it does “not insist on its way.” Yes, I will stand by this statement: to truly love is to be selfless, and to be selfless requires that others come first.
Friends listen, love when it sees a poor man does not think about gathering praise from others. Selfless love motivates one to give all he has, not to feed an ego but to feed a hungry man. Selfless love simply helps those who are hurting, those who are in need. Take Jesus for example who “emptied himself, by taking the form of the servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” I tell you guys this all the time, but may we never grow tired of hearing or saying the most wonderful truth in the world: Christ came down from heaven and made a way for sinners. He died on the cross in your place and He was raised up to life from the grave on the Third day!! Why would God in the form of the God-man Jesus Christ (Fully God/Fully man) selflessly hang and die on a cross for a wretched sinner such as I? As always… the answer is in the text, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all thing. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8a)
Brothers and sisters, let us follow the example of Christ, but you should know one thing.
The way of following Christ is not a self-promoting path driven by a hungry ego.
The way of following Christ is a selfless path driven by love.
Grace be with you,