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It is interesting to note how people often engage in the right thing but for the wrong reason. It happens all around all the time. Two biblical examples come to mind. First was from Paul’s letter to the Philippians in Philippians 1:15-17: “It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.” Interesting how Paul says here that those who preach the gospel out of goodwill also do it out of love, while the others do it for the wrong reason. This is a pointer to the essentiality of love. It is important that our actions be accompanied with love for them to be meaningful. The second example where Apostle Paul was very explicit with this message is in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. The message started from 1 Corinthians 12 where he was talking about spiritual gifts.
Many in Corinth were misusing the gifts and many others had a different understanding of what the gifts were about, so they not only clamored for the gifts they believed were more important than others, they also used the gifts to oppress others. They used their spiritual gifts as weapons to fight and denigrate with, rather than tools to build with. So, Paul needed to teach them about the place of their gifts in the scheme of things. In 1 Corinthians 12:31 he said, “Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.” Meaning it is okay to desire the supposedly greater gifts, but there is a much better way. The reason the Corinthians were clamoring for the greater gifts were for the wrong reasons; Paul wanted to show them the right reasons and he did this in 1 Corinthians 13.
The right reason, according to Paul, is based on the essentiality of love. To show how important love is, Paul describes the ministry of some of the more sought-after gifts without love. This was because the problem in Corinth was not a lack of zeal, a lack of truth, a lack of volunteers, or a lack of giving; it is caused by an absence of love for people who are different from them, especially the difference between the rich and the poor. Whenever love is absent from a group or relationship what you have is an empty shell, lots of noise but no substance. This may be our marriages, our families, or our churches. For the church, you can on the surface, have an appearance of health, growth, and success but be empty and weak if there is no love. Paul said, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing” – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. Our services can be super electrified – otherwise known as “spiritual experiences”, great preaching, mountain-moving faith, even sacrificial giving. Paul says when we do all these things without love, it amounts to nothing. Someone can speak in every conceivable tongue, even that of angels, but without love, they also amount to nothing.
People of God, someone can preach great sermons, share the deepest understanding, and even demonstrate faith in impossible circumstances. Without love, Apostle Paul says, it is all worthless. Church or ministry members can give away everything they have; they can serve the poor and bless the orphans; they can even go as far as dying for Jesus; without love, all of these are worthless. We gain nothing if the motive for whatever sacrifice we give is pride or self-display. We are nothing without love. Our Churches, without regards to how big, popular, or gifted, are nothing without love. No matter how right we think we are in our attitudes, if we don’t have love, we are wrong. Love is priority one. Love comes before all and love survives all.
We Christians very often flaunt our ability to speak truth, but all truths that are devoid of love are nothing. Many times, we have heard people say they like to “call a spade a spade”. In truth a spade will always be a spade, but we achieve nothing when we call a spade a spade when we do not pronounce it in love. Our attitude matters. How the spade is called a spade matters. Every intention of ours becomes balderdash if they are not accompanied with love. In how we talk in our relationships, in our workplaces, and in our churches, love is essential. In every facet of our lives, love is important. Let us learn to love. This is the time. Tomorrow may be too late.