If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1
In one of the most quoted passages at weddings, Paul’s poetic words paint a beautiful picture of love. After much theology and advice to the Corinthian church, he brings us to the linchpin of it all…love. All of the gifts, all of the knowledge, all of the faith, all of the humility and service -- no matter how impressive -- mean nothing if they are not rooted in love. Christianity is built on relationship, not religion, ritual or rules. And relationships are shallow without love. Love is the essence of who God is.
1 John 4:7-8 tells us God is love. And in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus teaches that it isn’t just about following rules, it is about the condition of our heart. Jesus tells us that the way people will know we belong to Him is by our love. And He tells us the greatest commandments – the ones all the other laws and commandments hang off of – are to LOVE God and LOVE one another. The greatest gift – the blood of Jesus to pay in full our sin debt and make us righteous – was based on love; for God so LOVED the world.
Paul wants to make sure we know what love is, and equally important, what love is NOT.
The “love is” side is a gauge for genuine love….patient, kind, rejoicing in TRUTH, bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things. It is a check on how we are being treated and how we are treating others. The “love is not” side – envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, irritable, resentful, insistent on own ways, rejoicing in wrongdoing – give us some red flags both in our own hearts, as well as in assessing potentially toxic friendships or relationships. Those that may feel good in the manipulative moment, but aren’t true, lasting, satisfying, fulfilling, mutually beneficial, or edifying love.
Let us love real, love big, and love one another well.
Question: Can you think of examples of relationships you have been in on both sides of the “love is” description?