Look back on the chart from yesterday's post. The parts of Paul's letters that deal with the body of Christ all land on love! Love is the context in which spiritual gifts are to be ministered.
The main evidence of maturity in Christian life is a growing love for God and for God's people, as well as a love for lost souls. It has been well said that love is the "circulatory system" of the body of Christ. (The Bible Exposition Commentary, 1 Co 13:1)You will remember that Paul was dealing with a church with many problems, one of which was envy over others' gifts and elevating some gifts above others. He was saying that love is the "much better way" (1 Corinthians 12:31). Gifts without love are just a bunch of empty, meaningless noise!
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 contains a great description of love for meditation. Read it in several versions! I have included two versions in the link above.
I read 1 Corinthians 13 from The Living Bible (the popular paraphrase at the time) for my high school baccalaureate service in 1977:
Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)I had this fairly new friendship that I thought was all of these things. I had never had such a good friend. Over the course of the next two years, the friendship deteriorated to exactly opposite of a 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love. I could not believe the kind of person that I became. It is only by the grace of God and His love for us that we can really love others (1 John 4:19)! Worldly love just does not cut it!
It did not help that this friend was a master manipulator. She had me wrapped around her finger, and even my college basketball coach saw how poorly she treated me, pulled me aside in the middle of the season and said, "Sometimes you have to say good-bye to friendships. She is not a good influence on you!"
More than 30 year later that same basketball coach again pulled me aside at a banquet where she was being honored and told me, "Little Carol, you were my GROUND!" (She is Japanese, but when my husband clarified, she basically was saying that I taught HER what was really important in life and grounded HER!)
Then in her speech to the crowd she said that sometimes coaches become obsessed with winning but what is most important in basketball and life is LOVE!
Say what? Even in the midst of the misery of me learning what LOVE IS NOT, I could be a small example of what LOVE WAS to this coach! I rejoice that God could make "beauty for ashes" (Isaiah 61:3), and HE could shine through my imperfections and the mess I had made of my life! Only GOD could do that!
I should also add that only God could give me the courage to break away from this friend's manipulative influence, forgive her, and have a better relationship based on God's love!
Meditate and pray through the characteristics of love in verses 4-7. You might need to repent and ask for forgiveness from others after you do this. Pray these characteristics into your life.
I love how the chapter ends:
We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
(1 Corinthians 13:12, The Message)As you pursue Jesus wholeheartedly, the fog will clear, and you will see Him and His love more clearly and be able to love others with that love! It is all a process!
Lord, help us to love with Your love! Amen.