The Most Awesome Gift of All
If you have ever attended a christian wedding ceremony the odds are overwhelming that you will have heard the Scripture passage of 1 Corinthians 13 read aloud. It’s all about love, although I’d suggest that many folks hearing it are totally unaware of what Paul is really addressing in that passage. No matter, the words, even out of context are beautifully applicable to the vows the couple are making. A marriage built on a foundation of hoping for the best, believing the best, keeping no score of wrongs, avoiding anger, leaving boasting and selfish competition aside, is off to a good start!
The reason I say the words are taken out of context is because they are really a continuation of 1 Corinthians 12.
Here Paul is stressing that each of our personalities and capabilities are essential elements in making sure the church - the body of Christ - functions smoothly. He likes to point out the diversity of our capabilities because each one has its own unique contribution to make. Just because you happen to be a big toe, does not mean you are less important than an eye. Certainly in some circumstance a big toe could be a life-saver where an eye is useless!
Paul is pointing out that it’s the mixture of gifts embodied in the personnel of the church that allow it to grow in the community in which it is placed. He says that the Holy Spirit is responsible for activating and energizing certain traits and capabilities to a supernatural degree. And oftentimes the individual is as surprised as anyone to discover the special gifting the Holy Spirit has provided.
Paul lists many of these Spirit-energized gifts, such as apostolic leadership, prophets, teachers, etc., but the list is not exhaustive. Indeed in Romans 12, he also talks about these gifts and adds some and leaves some others out. In fact it seems the Holy Spirit is hand-crafting gifts unique to each individual, so to try and give an exhaustive list would be an exercise in futility!
However at the end of 1 Corinthians 12 Paul exhorts us to discover the hand-crafting the Holy Spirit has prepared for us and to seek out the most desirable traits. And then in a way so typical of Paul’s writing style, he says “…I will show you the most excellent way…” and boom! — we have “the love chapter”. I’ll leave it to you to re-read the chapter, but I’d like to point out some words that come at the end. 1 Corinthians 13:13 says, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” [NIV emphasis mine]. Love, according to Paul, is the greatest and most enduring gift of all. The question is, why?
When you think about it, in eternity faith won’t be necessary any more. All the secrets will be revealed, everything that is hidden will be uncovered, the reasons behind the truths which had to be taken on faith and trust in this life will be obvious and self-evident and not mysteries anymore. So while faith is important now, one of the “big three” gifts, in eternity it will not be needed. Right now faith means “believing will be seeing” rather than “seeing is believing”. In eternity there won’t be any more “puzzling reflections in a mirror”.
Similarly, hope is redundant in eternity. The certainty of heavenly reward will be totally confirmed. There will be nothing more to hope for because everything worth hoping for will now be in our possession never to be removed.
So that leaves love. And as John reminds us in 1 John 4:8 “…God is love…”. God is eternal, so love is eternal. Nothing can be greater than God, so nothing can be greater than love! In eternity we will be not just surrounded by, but totally immersed in God who is the very definition of love. Yes, Paul hits the nail on the head, the greatest gift of all is love.
Come to think of it, Jesus describes the Church as his “bride”, so the use of “the love chapter” at weddings is totally appropriate!
May you experience the love of God in abundance this week.
Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black