“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”
You’ve probably heard these words many times. And a good percentage of those times, you were all dressed up for a wedding ceremony. It’s the famous ‘love chapter’ found in 1 Corinthians 13. The chapter that graphically describes loveless actions as useless as a sounding gong. Accomplishing nothing but lots of noise.
Yet as popular as this passage it, I recently discovered something that totally changed how I viewed it. I was prepping for our weekly life group, where we are talking about spiritual gifts. We are figuring out how we’ve been gifted and making sure we are actually using these gifts. One of the premier passages on spiritual gifts happens to be 1 Corinthians 12. Something you should know about 1 Corinthians 12…. it comes directly before 1 Corinthians 13. Mind blown, I know.
And for those of you who are not super familiar with the Bible, the books towards the end of the New Testament are letters written to the early churches. In this case, it’s Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth.
So imagine you’re writing a letter or email. Do you chop your message up into nice, neat little chapters? Of course not! So when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, he didn’t finish one thought about how everyone has a gift and should use it, only to sit back down days later and randomly start writing about love. This was the revelation to me….that the two thoughts were intricately linked in Paul’s mind!
The concept is still relevant to marriage, that’s for sure. But that wasn’t what was in Paul’s mind as he addressed the church. He was thinking about how “there should be no division in the church” (12:25) and that when “one part suffers, every part suffers with it.” (12:26) He went straight from there to his viral love passage.
As I thought about this, the Holy Spirit prompted me to be really practical about what the chapter is asking. As you know, church ministry is a big part of my life, so I felt as if I needed to look at my ministry through the lens of the kind of love described here and see where I’m doing well and where I need to adjust some things.
As believers, we should all be involved in some kind of ministry in the church and the community. I’d encourage you to think through this chapter with me, and how closely your life lines up with this kind of love.
Do the following traits motivate my actions?
· Honor of others?
These areas were 50/50 for me. I could come up with some ways that I do this well, but also some areas that need some improvement. I tend to be really patient with people as they learn and try new things. And I’m typically pretty kind. But sometimes my kindness hits a limit. It’s free flowing up until that point, then I tap out. I was challenged to be kind to people even when it seems to drain more of my energy than I would like.
What about these things that SHOULDN’T be a motivator in my actions?
· Delighting in evil?
Again, I can find wins and losses here. I’m not an angry person by nature, nor do find joy when bad things happen to people- deserved or not. But what about some pride or envy? Ouch. This one touched a nerve I hadn’t expected. I was reminded of the times that my husband has publicly taken credit for something witty or wise that I actually supplied him. Instead of being glad to help my teammate out with some material, I was jealous of the attention he received. Or the times that I’ve felt threatened by someone who had a killer singing voice instead of being glad to have another voice to praise my wonderful Jesus with. My digging here found some not so beautiful character traits.
And finally, when I do ministry and reach out to others, is my end goal self serving or others focused? My actions should be overshadowed by a desire to…
· Forgive wrongs
· Provide hope
The tough part is that non of these things focus on me at all. We are so conditioned to look out for ourselves, not to put others in front of us. And while I may not being acting in a way that’s outright wrong or sinful, I don’t always think of others first, even in serving them.
What about you? If you’re serving in your church or community, I’d encourage you to write out these traits and list the ways you do well and the areas that need improvement. Include both. Make sure that your list is balanced with good and bad.
If you’re a believer in Jesus and you’re not serving in the church, you can use this list to evaluate your interactions with other people. But I would also encourage you to get involved in your church. That’s they way God designed it! And if you don’t know what that looks like, grab someone at your church who knows you well and ask them to help identify where a good fit for service might be. Who knows, you may be an answer to prayer by filling a vitally needed position.
Let’s go out there and love this world with the love that Jesus showed us!