February 10 & 11, 2007 – Love Above All Else – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
The Corinthian believers placed more emphasis on the Holy Spirit’s gifts than on the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). For this reason, Paul digresses from a discussion of spiritual gifts to write about love. In 1 Corinthians 13, the apostle confronts those who prize eloquence and action over a heart that is genuinely committed to Christ.
Some people speak in a way that could be interpreted as loving. But their pretty words may actually be born of selfishness. Others say mean things, yet claim to do so “for your own good.” If those words are flowing only from the mouth and not from a loving heart, they are nothing more than noise in God's ears.
Similarly, an action that appears loving may have an ulterior motive. Paul uses the example of charitable giving. Those who give do so for a variety of reasons: some noble (like believing in a cause), and others more self-serving (like the need to feel good inside). But, unless charity is motivated primarily by love, the deed will not count toward a believer’s eternal reward. That person already received “compensation” in the form of whatever advantage was sought.
It's easy to hide our true motivation from others. But God knows that if our love for Him isn't compelling us to act on His behalf, then acting and speaking in a religious manner are empty gestures. Believers are called to be conformed to Christ. But we are like Him only when we love as He does.
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