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Love's Mighty Touch

1 Corinthians 13

One of the greatest chapters in the Bible is undoubtedly I Corinthians 13, the famous 'Love Chapter.' We see three clear sections of this chapter which train God's people on discerning genuine love: The motivation, character and enduring quality of love.

The Motivation of Love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

What good are great and mighty acts if divine love does not rest at the motivating factor of each one? Many would disagree on the need to examine the motivation of our so-called noble deeds. Many claim that great charisma, knowledge, and sacrificial acts are the same as love. But each stands in need of examination just as the passage here has done.

For if one is the most eloquent, polished or entertaining of fellows, without love he will use his tongue for his own selfish purposes. Although thousands would be impressed, moved and touched, it would be better to have struck a noisy gong. With the entertainment movement entering the church, people are willing to tolerate all sorts of failures in their pastors and teachers just so they can keep the crowd coming.

1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love,
I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge;
and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains,
but do not have love, I am nothing.
3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned,
but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

The scientist, theologian, doctor and philosopher all pretend to possess great powers of knowledge but without love, this knowledge will fail him and others. Those who possess knowledge are the ones who are suppose to move the world.

The economist, religionist, counselor or researcher all claim special knowledge that will make a significant impact on the history of mankind. Importance is not gained by knowledge but what one does with that knowledge. If he does not love, then knowledge is no longer significant. Ignorance with love is better than knowledge with a pursuit of self no matter what field of knowledge. Today, we spend great time, energy and money pursuing knowledge. We spend little time examining the hearts of those with high degrees. Those churches looking for pastors seem to care more about degrees than love.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen (1 Peter 1:1).

Abraham, the father of faith, started that journey much earlier then they.

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We would think that those who give up their possessions and make great sacrifices of self are of highest esteem. But here again, we can give all our wealth away, even by sacrificing our lives, but without love there is no profit. I wonder how much charity is given out of love rather than having well known reputations. If our name wasn't to be made known, would we still give as much as we do? Great sacrifice is not equal to love because it might stem from selfish reasons of pride and recognition.

We must start our examination of our activities with whether we do things because of love or selfish pursuits. We have great skill in deceiving ourselves and others as to our true intention. Often, way down deep, we love the attention, the applause, the trophy, and power. Great power of speech, knowledge and sacrifice will move men, but it does not save man. Communication, knowledge and devotion are three powerful shapers of life, but they need the heart of love to rightfully project them out into the world to the profit of others.

The Character of Love (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a)

Love is claimed by all, but few have been seized by its magnificent power, insight and commitment. We see this glibness of love when those taking their marriage vows state that they will stay married as long as their love endures. They don't have any true notion of love. Love by definition has many components, without any of them, love is missing. This is evident by the seven exclusive definitions for love - Love does not ....

4 Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous;
love does not brag and is not arrogant,
5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own,
is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails;

Love is patient Do I exude a forbearing spirit that enables me to listen and care for those around me? Love does not insist on its own schedule and time constraints. People, especially hurt people, can absorb much time. The patient person trusts God with his very limited time.

Love also is able to rightly treat all sorts of people We tend to expect people to listen to us the way we are used to, but often this does not work out that way. The patient person trusts God for wisdom to kindly care for each person.
Love is kind Am I always nice and caring toward other people? Love is kind. We might think this needs not to be said but after a careful examination of what is done in the name of love, we are wise to measure love only with the measuring cup called kindness. If a person is not kind, he simply is not loving.
Love is not jealous Am I jealous of the attention others get? When jealousy springs forth, we must rule out the possibility of love. Some would say that love is jealous because it wants and desires another person. However, true love gives up their right to another person's attention. Love instead commits itself to bringing benefit to the other person.
Love does not brag Do I tell about my great accomplishments? Once a person brags, the object of discussion is despised and seen as a utensil to be used. Bragging exalts oneself and looks down on others. Love requires a person to see good things in others and more often is silent when nothing quickly could be found.
Love is not arrogant Do I think better of myself than others? While bragging speaks of ones accomplishments, arrogance is found in the mind. Arrogance will shed its undesired fruit through glances, attitudes, comments, sleight of hand, and general treatment of others. Love prefers the respect of others over ones selfish desires.
Love does not act unbecomingly Do I act strangely to attract the attention of others? Unbecoming ways are ones in which they oddly attract attention to themselves. Odd or rude behavior attracts the notice of other people. Drawing attention to ourselves is the opposite to love where we would draw attention to the people in need. We focus on others.
Love does not seek its own, Do I seek the things that I like more than the things others like? When we seek our own welfare, we upset our ability to love. Love is seeking the welfare of others. If we prefer ourselves, then we will give ourselves preferential treatment. We will even lie, cheat, backbite, slander, etc. to serve our own needs.
Love is not provoked How do we respond to those who trouble us? True love is not easily shaken. Pretend love quickly changes its position. It is unable to live by principle when he lives for himself. We are in someway inconvenienced when provoked. Our pride is at least attacked. Love's determination is not changed.
Love does not take into account a wrong suffered,
Do I quickly forgive others and refuse bitterness? Love does not get bitter. Wounded, hurt and mistreated it might be, but love will always forgive. She does not store up memories of wrong or plan for revenge. Love wipes the account of wrongs each day to enable her to keep caring for the needs of others.
Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, Do I delight in virtual sensuality or violence? Whether we or others engage in evil behavior, those with a true loving heart will never rejoice. We see delight in the evil behavior of others. They think they are innocent because of it, but virtual delight in evil is association with it. Love is not present there.
Love rejoices with the truth; Do I like applause and try to impress people or welcome the truth? Love might be humbled by the truth but it still finds its deepest allegiance is for the truth. Love is not preferential to a person so that it will thwart the truth. Love's companion is truth where the light shines brightly and lies and unfaithfulness are broken apart.
Love bears all things What difficult things have I braved so far in my life that I might continue to love? Easily provoked refers to little trifles in personal conflict such as in sibling or marriage relationships. By bearing all things, love can withstand the great shocks of rudeness, sin and absolute depravity. Out of the muddy waters comes the white lily flower.
Love believes all things Am I able to look to God for help, strength and renewal for each difficult situation I meet? This is not referring to today's toleration or ecumenism, but its innocent approach to life and people. She is protected from the pessimism of the age and enabled to treat each person full of respect and hope.
Love hopes all things Do I treat each relationship and person with hope despite its ugly past? Love is not blind utopia but following from her faith, she is able to look ahead at the special opportunities that each relationship brings each day. She lives in the hope of God that God's grace can yet shine into the darkest places.
Love endures all things What things do I prize and am unwilling to give up? Love endures because God's love in Christ has endured. Our love in itself is limited but when God's love fills us, then nothing can stop it. God's love endures shame, reproach, evil, humility just as God's love in Christ pursued all these things so that we could receive that love.
Love never fails Am I confident of God's final penetrating love? There are no periods with God's love. God's love does not stop with the sunset or begin with the new week. Divine love will always continue throughout time and eternity. In the darkest of nights, there will always be the eternal light of God's love. Love will outshine hatred and penetrate the most vile evil with sacrifice.

The Enduring Quality of Love (1 Corinthians 13:8-13)

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:8-13).

We are not sure the phrase "love never fails" belongs to the long list before or as a summary statement for the final section. One wonders how any words could follow the glorious uncompromising description of love in the verses above. But Paul has a greater purpose than to describe love. He wants love to enter their own situation where self has become preeminent and the love of God has been shelved for their own desires.

Love is enduring and therefore will be there to judge our lives. We might think highly of gifted people, but love is what makes these gifts sparkle in the individual's life. Speaking in different languages might impress some, but that along with prophesies fail in the end if that person does not love. Gifts will be wrongly used if we have not let love control our hearts.

Love is not a feeling though it produces many a wonderful feeling. Love is a commitment to unreservedly give of yourself to another. If love stops, then we know it was not love at all. If love finds barriers with a person's personality, peculiarities, looks or gifts, then we see that love was merely enchantment or lust. For though you are both in good health, vigorous, young and beautiful, time will bring the onset of undesirable changes such as sickness, weakness, wrinkling of the skin and the loss of the feelings of love. Genuine love will never fail because it does not give up; it can not give up. Love's strength is not derived from what you see in a person but in your commitment to that person. Real love doesn't stop but grows in a more fuller beauty day by day. Love is not ignorant of the troubles, the pain, the hurt, the shame that is sometimes provoked, for it is in these very circumstances love grows stronger. Here in these difficulties many people want to get out of marriage, but your love must go on just as God's love does.

We all will be held accountable. Already, we should be pass the point of all this foolish behavior. If I am going to be thoroughly judged, then it behooves me to discern my heart now and pursue those greatest things: faith, hope and love.

Love, however, shall last forever. It is love that I will set my heart on. Next >
Other great resources on love!

Developing love in Your Marriage

Scriptures typically quoted from the New American Standard Bible unless noted: (C) Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1988

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