I knew someone years ago that was referred to as “kind of rough around the edges sometimes, but a great prayer person.” I’d been chewed out by them once or twice myself, and I wasn’t sure if I’d ever really seen them be nice to anyone. I found myself wondering how much God was really listening to what they had to pray.
Paul the apostle finished the 12th chapter of I Corinthians with these words:
“But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.” (I Cor 12:31)
It seems like we should pay attention here, as he promises to reveal the absolute best possible way to live:
“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it;[a] but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” (I Cor 13:1-3)
Without love, absolutely everything we do amounts to “nothing.” Speaking every language on earth, plus angelic languages? Nothing. Knowing all of God’s plan and knowing literally all else? Nothing. Having faith that could uproot a mountain and move it into the sea? Nothing. Giving away our home, our 401k, our cars, and our savings account at our local bank making .015%? Nothing. Martyrdom? Nothing. Paul is saying if we do all of these but don’t have love, it’s all totally pointless.
I’ve probably accumulated a whole lot of nothing over the years by keeping busy with spiritual activities–carried out without love. I can fit all of the “nothing” I’ve ever accrued from those efforts into a bottle cap–with room to spare. If I don’t operate in love, all of my good works, my accomplishments, my trophies, my promotions, my income, all amount to zilch. Nada. Zero.
1 Corinthians 13 certainly isn’t the only place in the Bible we see this concept.
Peter says “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” (I Peter 1:22)
If he just said “love each other” one time, we could possibly justify a begrudging “I love them but I don’t have to like them” attitude. But he doesn’t. He adds “have sincere love for each other.” Like you mean it. And to drive that home further he tacks on “love one another deeply.” And he’s not done yet, adding “from the heart” to make sure we don’t try to just fake our way through a life of Christian “fellowship.”
Jesus–shortly before he was hauled off to be crucified–told this: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
He tells us plainly: “love each other like I have loved you.” “If you do this, everyone will know that you follow me.”
If believers will just figure out a way to truly show Christ’s love to each other, we are promised that the rest of the world can see the reality of Christianity. What are we waiting for?
What happens when believers do not chose to walk in love?
What would God ask you to change today to walk more in love?