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Love Matters Most of All

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:2

In the middle of his discussion of spiritual gifts, Paul seems to change the subject with a digression on love. But what appears at first to be an interruption is, in fact, the core of Paul's discussion of spiritual gifts. Though gifts are important, love matters most of all. In fact, as we'll see later, love is the key that unlocks the right use of the gifts.

1 Corinthians 13 begins by addressing the situation in Corinth. Some members of the church there were speaking the languages of earth and angels, becoming puffed up about their spiritual prowess, but failing to love their brothers and sisters in Christ. Even if you could speak all languages, Paul explains, without love, you're just making a lot of noise.

But then Paul's exposition of love takes a surprising turn. He adds that if you can prophesy, and if you have all knowledge, and if you have great faith, but don't love, you amount to nothing. The unexpected aspect of this sentence is the fact that Paul includes here three of the things he values most highly. When we get to chapter 14, we'll see that Paul regards prophecy as the most helpful of the gifts. Knowledge of God and faith in him are top priorities for Paul. Yet even if we possess these, without love, we are nothing.

Paul's example in verse 2 challenges me to think of what I value that is really worthless apart from love. I think, for example, of being right. I like to be right. I like to win arguments to prove that I am right. Of course, being right can be a very good thing. But without love, being right amounts to nothing. I wonder how often in my life I have fought so hard to be right that I have, in fact, been most unloving in the process. More times than I'd like to think, I expect.

First Corinthians 13:1-3 does not teach us that language and prophecy and knowledge and faith and self-sacrifice don't matter. They do, but only when they are motivated and guided by love, because love matters most of all.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: What are some of the things that you value so much that you might seek them in an unloving way? If you were writing a verse of 1 Corinthians 13 that reflected your values and struggles, what would you say?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, thank you for these verses from 1 Corinthians 13. How much I need them!

And thank you for guiding Paul to include, not only the things that the Corinthians valued apart from love, but also the very things Paul was tempted to value more than love. His openness encourages and challenges me to examine my own heart.

Show me, Lord, where my values fail to reflect your values. Help me to see when I care so much about something that I forget to love. Teach me to be a person who seeks to love most of all, so that all other abilities and efforts will find their rightful place as expressions of love.

All praise be to you, God of love. Amen.

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