The Importance of Love
By Steph Nickel
What does the Bible say Christians should do about the importance of love? Using I Corinthians 13, Steph Beth Nickel explores the topic of love.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 says, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is 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. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (ESV).
Each of these characteristics deserves in-depth study, but for the purposes of today’s devotional, let’s simply keep them in mind. They will give us greater understanding of the first three verses of the chapter, which say, “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” (ESV).
As a Christian parent, I may be tempted to measure success by how faithfully my children are serving the Lord.
As a writer, I may be tempted to measure success by how many books I sell.
As an editor, I may be tempted to look to how many clients I have or how few grammatical errors slip past me.
As a homemaker, I may be tempted to measure success by how clean and tidy my house is. Wait … let’s not even go there.
You get the idea.
Why not take a few minutes to honestly evaluate how you measure personal success—even what you hold up as a standard for others.
If we could speak several languages, including the language of angels, wouldn’t we see that as pretty amazing? But factor out love and all God hears is a noisy gong and a clanging cymbal.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to open our mouths and declare things that are yet to happen—and then see them come to pass? What if all those perplexing mysteries philosophers and theologians have debated for centuries were perfectly clear to us? Think of the throngs that would flock to us to hear our words of wisdom. And what if there was nothing we didn’t know? What if we were essentially a walking, talking encyclopedia of all knowledge? Pretty impressive, huh?
Now, think of the Rocky Mountains or the Alps. Think of Mount Everest or K-2. What if we could say, “Hey, you big hunk of rock, I don’t like you where you are. Do you mind shifting 100 yards that-a-way?” Next thing we know, we’ve changed the entire landscape—not to mention caused earthquakes and tsunamis, but we won’t go there.
Even if all this were possible, we would actually be nothing from God’s perspective if we didn’t have love.
Have you ever burned yourself while cooking or starting a fire? Once I reached into the oven to remove a cookie sheet unaware that there was a hole in the end of my oven mitt. My finger had poked through the end and when I touched the hot pan, my finger instantly blistered.
I can’t imagine what it would be like to give my entire body over to be burned. And I can’t think of why anyone would consider doing so if they weren’t motivated by love, but this passage indicates that it is possible. And if love wasn’t the motivator, no matter how noble others considered the act, they would gain absolutely nothing.
Let’s think again of how we measure success. No matter what we say, our answers likely pale in comparison to speaking the angels’ language, moving mountains, and offering our bodies to be burned.
The fact that nothing we do means anything unless our words and actions are motivated by love can be disheartening. And yet, on the other hand, it’s all pretty amazing. After all, it says in 1 John 4:8 that God is love. Plus, love is the first fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5.
As a Christian, we can count on the Lord to fill us with love, not the fleeting emotion that we label “love,” but the kind of love that is patient and kind, love that doesn’t rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth, love that never fails.
Do I do what I do because I truly love God and others? Do you? Oh how we need the Lord to be at work in us!
And how about if we started to keep an eye out for others’ words and deeds that seem to be motivated by love. What if we celebrated those like we do hitting the NY Times bestseller list or winning a Nobel prize—or even getting an A+ on an exam? That would be a great celebration.
For further study, I encourage you to read 1 Corinthians 13, prayerfully focusing on the first few verses.
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Images courtesy of:
Couple with horse – gpalmisanodam
Cymbal – Skitterphoto
Tape Measure – andreas160578
Mount Everest – simon
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