“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.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, NKJV)
Normally when we think of the words of this great chapter we tend to focus on verses 4-8. However, the lesson of these first three verses is vital to our lives as Christians and our implementation of what follows in those next verses.
It is interesting that Paul writes these words in the midst of discussing the miraculous gifts the church at Corinth had been given. These Corinthians have been fighting and wrangling with one another because they have different gifts and do not see them as equally useful or meaningful. Paul is telling them that the gifts they have received mean nothing if they do not have love.
The word translated “love” is from the Greek term “agape.” It is the love that sacrifices self for what is best for others. It is the love that is unselfish and puts others first. It is this kind of love that Jesus had for us that led him to the cross.
As Christians today, we need to understand the lesson Paul is teaching as much as the Corinthians did. It does not matter how much we good we do if we are not motivated by love for others. If it is only about self or making sure others see and glorify us, it is empty and a failure. Only by acting out of a pure, loving heart do our works have the impact God desires – giving glory to God, and saving others.
Are our actions motivated by love?