The Most Excellent Way

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts. But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.

1 Corinthians 12:31

As we have seen several times during our study of 1 Corinthians 12, the church in Corinth was in a mess because of the misuse of spiritual gifts. Christians who experienced certain gifts, especially speaking in unknown languages, thought of themselves as super-spiritual and looked down upon their "less spiritual" brothers and sisters. These folk seemed to accept this designation, even believing that they had nothing to offer to the church.

Given the distressing and potentially divisive nature of spiritual gifts in the Corinthian church, we might expect Paul to have told them to stop using the gifts altogether, at least for a season. Yet, on the contrary, Paul upholds the value of spiritual gifts. The Corinthians needed instructions on the workings of the Spirit, not restrictions. In fact, Paul wraps up chapter 12 with a surprising conclusion: "So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts" (12:31). These gifts, as we'll see when we get to chapter 14, are those that have greatest potential to build up the church.

But before addressing the question of what it means to desire the most helpful gifts, Paul interrupts his discussion of spiritual experiences with a discussion of "a way of life that is best of all." The Greek behind this translation speaks literally of "a way according to excellence." Though spiritual gifts matter, and though they are to be desired, they are not what we should seek most in life. Rather, spiritual gifts are the fruit of a life lived according to excellence. And this excellence, the best way of life, has everything to do with love.

In the days ahead, we'll explore what excellent love is all about. For today, however, I want to reflect for a moment on excellence. We value excellence, whether in ourselves or in others. We enjoy excellent art or delight in watching an excellent athlete. Many of our workplaces expect excellence, and some, like mine, specifically mention excellence among our fundamental values. It is surely right for Christians to seek to be excellent, to develop our skills and talents to their full potential. But there is one kind of excellence we are to prize above all others, and that is excellence in love. Whether we're at home or at work, with our friends or our business colleagues, in the community or at church, we should strive to excel in Christ-like love for others. A life of love is the "way of life that is best of all."

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: What kinds of excellence do you value in life? How might you excel in love today?

PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for the gifts of your Spirit, and for the reminder to desire those gifts that are most helpful to your church. Thank you as well for the encouragement to excel, not just in spiritual experiences, but in love.

Lord, I try to do well in every area of my life: in my work and in my family, in my leading and in my following, in my writing and my speaking, and, indeed, in doing these Daily Reflections. As important as excellence in these areas may be, help me, dear Lord, to excel in that which matters most to you. May I be truly excellent in the way of love.

By your Spirit, help me to excel in love today. May I treat each and every person I meet with kindness and compassion. May I be a careful listener and a genuine encourager. If I am wronged, may I forgive. If I am helped, may I be grateful. In all I do this day, may I honor you by excelling in love.

I pray in the name of Jesus, who reveals what love is all about. Amen.