If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not 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 have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. (NIV)
Coffee is an evil thing. At least for me. At least in large quantities. Catch me after a week or two of real coffee drinking and you will find you have a wired, tired, and emotionally sensitive person on your hands.
I was like that a little while ago at church and someone made a cutting off-hand comment about me â€“ I think in an effort to be funny â€“ and I was deeply hurt. And angry. And as I thought about it, I decided that Iâ€™d never really liked that person anyway. I realized the huge flaws in their character and personality I hadnâ€™t really noticed before and I was glad I wasnâ€™t like them. And as I kept thinking about it I had to wonder why anyone would like them. I didnâ€™t, and in fact I was ready to hate them.
Now, I knew that wasnâ€™t right, but I had to be honest. That was how I felt. I prayed about it that night, but it wasnâ€™t until the next morning that I was reminded of Matt 5:11-12 â€œBlessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.â€
I was hardly insulted because of Jesus, (though a lot of who I am today is because of Jesus in my life), but I suddenly realized that Jesus accepted me and I had nothing to be ashamed of â€“ even personality quirks, faux pasâ€™ and insecurities. I felt loved, and all of a sudden I could forgive that person because my self-worth was no longer linked to what anyone thought but Jesus Christ.
How often do we look for affirmation in other things besides God Himself? We are created to need love, and if we donâ€™t get it from God first, we are driven to get it from other people and things. The Corinthians were basing their worth on what they did â€“ speaking in tongues, prophesying, doing great things for God â€“ but Paul is saying they need to do those things for the good of other people in love, not to get affirmation from other people for themselves. Until we get our primary love from God, our love for others will mostly be dependent on what we can get back from them â€“ but is that Christian love? Once we get our primary love from God, we are able to love others no matter what we get back from them. As John said, â€œWe love because he first loved usâ€ (1 John 4:19).
God calls us to love through giving, but a lot of our love is to get â€“ prestige, respect, compliments, (all forms of â€œlove-in-returnâ€) â€“ and when we donâ€™t get, we stop loving. Can you think of times when you stopped loving because you got nothing in return?
Memorise: 1 Cor 13:2a If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge,â€¦Read also: Eph 3:14-19, 1 John 4:7-16a, 1 John 4:19-21
Eph 3:14-19, 1 John 4:7-16a, 1 John 4:19-21Study Questions:
1. What are some of the â€œloving actionsâ€ we might do that in fact are more to do with getting something back for ourselves? Is it wrong to want something back for ourselves?
2. What are some of the ways we can know we are loved by God? Explain how knowing Godâ€™s love helps us love others? Read Eph 3:14-19. Now pray that prayer for yourself.
3. There is meant to be a difference between a non-Christianâ€™s love and a Christianâ€™s love, but how would you explain the â€œoutpouring of loveâ€ of non-Christian Australians when they responded to the recent Tsunami?