The Greatest of These, Part I

We have all heard of folks who have abandoned everything in the quest for something. Typically they abandon friends and family in the quest for more recognition and prestige in their job, more money in the pockets, more fame in the world, or some other such worldly goal. However, Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13 show that such a choice is a flawed one.

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, ESV

If I can speak to both men and angels, but have not love, I am nothing but a loud noise. If I have all knowledge and wisdom, and even such power through faith to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I do everything and sacrifice myself in good deed after good deed, but have not love, it’s all for nothing.

The word Paul uses here and throughout the rest of 1 Corinthians 13 for love is agape. That’s the purest form of love, an all-consuming, self-denying, self-sacrificing love. It’s not brotherly love. It’s not family love, like a mother for her child. It’s not even romantic love. It’s more than all of that. It is the type of love where you give because you love, where you expect nothing back, assume no return, but give because you cannot do any less. That’s agape love and that’s the kind of love Christ has for us and expects us to have for one another. Without this type of love, anything we have, anything we accomplish, anything we can do, all of it is meaningless and worthless.

Consider your relationships. Start with your closest. Do you have the type of love Paul is referring to in those relationships? Do you give without a thought of receiving? Do you give because you cannot do anything less? Do you sacrifice and deny yourself in those relationships because of that love? If you are brutally honest with yourself, can you say, “Yes?” That’s what Paul was telling the church in Corinth is necessary as followers of Jesus Christ and that’s what God tells us in these verses now. He wants us to honestly answer, “Yes.” Now take a step back and think about your relationship with Jesus Christ. Apply the same criteria. Is the answer, “Yes?”

For most of us, we cannot honestly answer, “Yes,” for the majority of our relationships, especially the relationship with our Savior. There are things of the world that hold us back. There are our own personal goals and desires. Once we have come to the point where we understand that we are answering, “No,” the next step is to figure out what it is that holds us back from answering, “Yes.” And then we need to get those things fixed and resolved. They need to be out of the picture. The world may think we’re crazy, but God knows what’s really important and what lasts. Agape love is eternal. Personal position, comfort, fame, skill, or satisfaction is ephemeral. That’s why He calls those things nothing and says agape love is everything. So let’s focus on the everything and love like God wants us to.


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  1. Pingback: The Greatest of These, Part II | Be Encouraged Devotionals