Living a Life of Love

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13

Before we move on to 1 Corinthians 14, I wanted to pause for one more day to reflect on chapter 13. Paul's meditation on love, though written two millennia ago in order to help a divided church figure out what to do about spiritual gifts, is as relevant today as it was when first written.

This chapter contains incisive correctives that are badly needed today. It challenges those of us who care so much about right theology or right action that we forget about love. Without denying the value of orthodoxy and obedience, 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that what we believe and do lacks value unless it flows from love.

First Corinthians 13 admonishes us for thinking about love primarily or exclusively in terms of emotion. Without denying an emotional component to love, this passage underscores the fact that love is a matter of attitude and action. It's choosing what's best for another rather than what's best for us. No matter what we might feel, we can choose to love people for the sake of Christ, who loved us beyond measure and who, by the Spirit, enables us to imitate his love.

The so-called "Love Chapter" also teaches us not to buy into the common notion that love and truth are in opposition. Love, we are taught, rejoices in the truth. Sometimes the truth that needs to be told will make people uncomfortable. It might hurt their feelings or even make them angry. We must surely learn to communicate truth in a loving manner. But love, real love, embraces the truth.

First Corinthians 13, with its closing eschatological section, reminds us of the all-surpassing value of love. When we are finally face-to-face with the Lord, we will experience love as never before. Even faith and hope will recede as love takes center stage in the divine drama. That reminder that now we see as in a cloudy mirror helps us to remain humble in our knowledge. It checks the theological pride that often inhibits love and divides the people of God. Right theology matters, to be sure, but only when animated by and dedicated to love.

My reflections of 1 Corinthians 13 have challenged me in my daily living. For example, a couple of weeks ago I was running behind in my work and needed to devote a whole day to writing and planning. But then, a friend of mine needed me for a couple of hours. I knew that love was calling me to be with this friend. But I fought against it. I wanted to get my work done. I didn't want to feel even more harried. The truth was, I did not want to do the loving thing. As I prayed about it, I felt pretty sure I knew what God was calling me to do. Then I asked my wife, who quickly and confidently confirmed what I was sensing. So I chose to love, not happily at first, but because that's what 1 Corinthians 13 called me to do.

As I spent time with my friend, I realized that I had done the right thing. I knew that God was honored by my obedience. My friend mentioned several times how much he appreciated the time I spent with him. And I found a way to get my work done. Thus, in retrospect, I'm thankful for the clear word of 1 Corinthians 13 and for the grace of God that helped me choose to love.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How has God spoken to you through 1 Corinthians 13? Are there specific relationships in your life where you need to exercise love more faithfully, even sacrificially? Are you willing to choose to love and to ask the Lord for his help?

PRAYER: Thank you, dear Lord, for 1 Corinthians 13. Though I've read and studied this passage dozens of times, and though I've taught it and preached it, I am still instructed and challenged by Paul's reflection on love. Indeed, I need this chapter!

You know the things in my life that compete with love for first place. You know the times I choose what is best for me, rather than to love. Forgive me, Lord, for my selfishness and disobedience. Forgive me for my rationalizations and excuses. Forgive me for all the times I fail to love.

By your grace, help me to love more faithfully. May my heart be open to those in need. May my mind see clearly what love requires. May my will be energized by your Spirit so that I might choose to love, even and especially when it is costly.

All praise be to you, loving God, because you have loved us in so many ways, most of all through Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray. Amen.