I speak with the tongues of men and angels.
I have the gift of prophecy.
I understand all mysteries and all knowledge.
I have all faith.
I bestow all my goods to feed the poor.
I give my body to be burned.
How can it be that one who can list all those amazing spiritual blessings can in fact be nothing? The answer is simple, you are already thinking it: if they have not love.
It's an amazing thing to think about...and frightful. We could wake up one day and find that all the things we took as proofs of our Christianity are meaningless as we face the judgement of God. We may find in that day that we say, "Lord, Lord...", and He replies, "I never knew you." How dreadfully somber a scenario to ponder.
It absolutely astounds me how easily my mind turns from contemplating God's love to focusing on doctrines. Whether discovering new truths or solidifying old ones, the truths themselves inevitably steal my concentration.
First of all, what I'm not saying is that it's a bad thing to search out new truths or reaffirm the foundational truths you already have. As with anything in this world, the negative comes when our eyes drift away from Christ and His love and onto whatever it is that's demanding our attention.
In essence, I am prone to making idols of the doctrines themselves. Quite a sobering thought.
Yet, how plainly the Scriptures lay out the all-important need for us to love. How plain it is to see that all of God's Word can be boiled down to two phrases: Love God, and Love Your Neighbor As Yourself. If this one principle of love were the only thing that was grasped in this life, it would surely be enough!
How often we see, hear and quote the famous "love chapter," yet are we missing the point entirely?
1 Corinthians 13:1-3, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing."
Too often we are so confident in ourselves because we suppose we understand all mysteries and all knowledge, or because we fancy ourselves to have all faith. But Paul says if we have not love we are nothing...nothing.
Lately I have felt a strong leading from God to dwell on love as an action. Namely, helping those in need: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting those who are sick or in prison. Yet how blunt that passage is to me...reminding me that even if I do bestow all my goods to feed the poor and even give my very body to be burned, yet have not love, it profits me nothing! It is no good to me!
Christ was so, so clear...why is it so difficult for me to let His words take root in my mind? It's like I'm wearing a bullet-proof jacket around my heart!
Matthew 22:37-40, "Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
John 15:12, "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."
If we haven't come into line with what Jesus calls the first and great commandment, and the second like it, all our pursuit of doctrinal truth becomes folly and idolatry and pride. Let us all seek to first follow these first two, and greatest, commandments, upon which all the Law and the Prophets (or, the Scriptures) hang.
Do you want to know how to be sure that the motive for all your good works is love? Just ask yourself: Am I the same person behind closed doors with my spouse (or children, or siblings, or parents) as I am at church? If not, I'm just putting on a front, a mask.
Christianity starts inside you, in your heart. Then it works its way outward. Any effort to do good works in order to be a Christian is, as Paul puts it, nothing.
The first priority of a Christian should be to display the compassionate love of God to those of his or her own household.
I pray that God will give me ears sensitive to hearing the voice of His Holy Spirit speaking to my heart. I want to walk with God, listening to Him guiding me day by day, minute by minute.