Paul has been dealing with the Corinthian church’s divisions and attitudes of superiority. They were divided over spiritual gifts and offices. Paul reminds them that those things ALL come from the same Spirit. He commands them to use what they have been given to the betterment of the whole body but also tells them to “earnestly desire the higher gifts.” Paul’s final words in our last reading though set to scene for today; “And I will show you a still more excellent way” (chapter 12, verse 31b).
Far more lasting than spiritual gifts; more beneficial than offices of service, enduring longer than even faith and hope, is love. That is the more excellent way Paul wants to show this group, and us.
Practicing true love with one another would have cured ALL this church’s issues. Because of love for their brother, they would have willingly set aside their “freedoms.” Due to love for their sister, they would never have put her down for not having the “best” spiritual gift or right work of service. Out of love for each other, they would have worked together for the benefit of everyone in the body. No backbiting. No elevating oneself by putting others down. And out of true love for their brother, they would have dealt with the egregious sin that had come into the body.
“Love is patient and kind”; it does not force the new believer to understand everything immediately and bears with them as they learn more of Jesus.
“Love does not envy or boast”; it doesn’t proclaim itself to be above others or crave the place of another.
“Love is not arrogant or rude”; it is humble and gentle in all its dealings.
“It does not insist on its own way”; it is willing to serve instead of insisting on other’s service.
“It is not irritable or resentful”; it doesn’t simply model these behaviors because someone tells it to but its heart’s desire is to do theses thing.
“It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth”; it hurts to see others fall into sin but is willing to reach out to the one stumbling with a helping hand OUT of that situation and rejoice when the one is restored.
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” If this is not a picture of Jesus I don’t know what is! He wants it to be a picture of each of us too.
All the spiritual gifts from God will someday come to an end. At the coming of Jesus there will be no need for these gifts. The Giver will be in residence and all will see Him. There won’t be any more need for prophecy. We will know all. There won’t be any more need for healing. We will all be whole. There will be no more need for tongues. We will all speak God’s language.
But there will ALWAYS be a need for love. Love never ends. Even faith will end someday. When all is revealed what is there to not believe? Faith is only necessary until the hope is fulfilled. I have faith in Jesus’ resurrection, even though I have never seen Him personally. I have a hope of an eternal future with Him. Once I have received this future and have seen Him face to face, there is no more faith or hope required. I have evidence. But I will NEVER not need love.
Love is what binds me to Jesus. Love is what brings me to my knees in the presence of God. Love is what keeps me reaching out to my brother who is lost. In Heaven and on Earth, this one or the one to come, LOVE is still a “more excellent way.”
Father God, You poured out Your love on me before time even began. You will continue to pour out Your love for all eternity. I can’t even come close to the measure of love You give. I don’t even live up to the list Paul gave. I try over and over to demonstrate Your perfect love. Some days I do much better than others, but even on my best days, I feel I still fall short. I have discovered that I come closer to this standard when I remember to spend time with You. I KNOW that has a LOT to do with my love quotient. Thank You for increasing my love quotient lately. I’m not finding myself as stressed or irritable. Thank You for that gift. I’m certain my husband appreciates that gift too.
Continue to fill my heart with Your love so I can learn to love like You do. Help me show YOUR love in my life, even to the ones who I find are the hardest to love. My love isn’t always patient. We are working on it together though. (NO! I’m not praying for patience! Am I?)