Love Is…More Than Sacrifice – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

love seriesWelcome to my series on 1 Corinthians 13!  For the introductory post, click here.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

– 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

I had a chance to put what I’ve learned about this passage into action yesterday.

(Really, it should always be in action!  It should be in every action!  But I mean God brought it to my mind and helped me escape temptation through my memory of this verse.)

It’s a long story, but in short – I committed to providing a cheese and cracker platter to a funeral reception at our church that evening, and due to some misunderstanding or miscommunication, I was under the impression that our neighbors were going to deliver it for me.  This did not turn out to be the case.  So I found myself rushing out the door with the three kids in tow, leaving our partly cooked dinner behind, so that I could get the platter to the church on time.

Let’s just say my mood wasn’t the greatest about this unexpected turn of events.

I felt like what God told Cain, that, “Sin is crouching at your door; its desire is for you and you must rule over it.”  Sin was right there with me, breathing down my neck.

And I could have let it own me, then.  But God in His graciousness helped me turn to Him instead, and brought this verse to mind, along with all the things I’ve learned from studying it over the past month.  He is faithful and good that way!

Lesson #1: You can sacrifice, yet have not love

In countering the “love is a feeling” lie the world often tells, Christians are known to respond with the sentiment that love is an action.  Love is what you do, we say.

This is only half true, I realized.

As we can see from this passage, we could even deliver up our bodies to be burned, and have not love.

I could speak with the eloquence of the greatest men or the languages of angels…but without love my words would be nothing but a disturbing clashing sound.  I could have the power to see the future, understand all mysteries, and accomplish anything with my great faith in God…but without love these amazing feats are worthless in God’s eyes.

I could sacrifice everything, right down to the shirt off my back – right down to my very life! – and yet be loveless.

So we cannot take impressive feats or self-sacrifice as proof of love.  There’s more to it than that.  (More on that thought in the rest of the series!)

Lesson #2: You can be a champion for Christ, yet have not love

One of the things I’ve loved about reading this passage is studying the commentary my digital Bible has to go along with it.  Here is one thought which the Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown commentary had which stuck out to me:

Men will fight for Christianity, and die for Christianity, but not live in its spirit, which is love.

Ouch!  I could fight untiringly for the cause of Christ, even die for Him, without truly becoming like Him.

Funny how that works.  Sometimes laying down your life in death is easier than laying down your life by serving others with the love of our Savior.

Why do we think we could make the ultimate sacrifice, but not even think of making smaller sacrifices?

People sometimes ask that question to imply that we wouldn’t actually make the ultimate sacrifice when it came down to the wire.  But I believe we could, and would!  We really could die for Christ in the extreme before dying to self in the mundane everyday.  But if that is how we spent our lives, if we only sacrificed at the end of the line and never before, what does that gain us?  Nothing.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. – Romans 12:1

As a kid I remember being terrified of that verse, praying full of fear that God would make me a living sacrifice, picturing myself going up in flames. I didn’t notice that the key word in that phrase is LIVING.

Living, breathing, working, serving.  Presenting our bodies to Him, putting ourselves at His disposal.  This is acceptable to God.  This is our spiritual worship.

Taking up the cross of Christ means dying to self every day, not only when persecutors come for our heads.

So back to me in the car…

The love passage wound through my head and shame welled up inside me.  Here I was, quietly fueling a grudge, bristling at my inconvenience, and yet somehow I still managed to be quietly puffed up for being so “selfless” and serving my church when it wasn’t convenient for me.

But if I have not love, I am nothing.

Love suffers long and is kind.

Love bears all things.

The reminders piled up and blew that hot-breathed sin right off my shoulder.  By God’s grace I was able to turn around and say, “Please, help me do this for You.”  Sin did not rule the day!  God is great.

There are so many things we do in life with a self-congratulatory attitude behind it all.  We do things for the passion of it, for the emotion, for the rush of feeling like we “made a difference.”  We could even be very good at what we do, using gifts and talents God gave us to serve Him.  But if we do these things in a loveless way, they are no better than selfishness from the viewpoint of eternity.

It’s not the sacrifices we make.  It’s the way we respond to others, the way we carry out relationships, the way we interact with fellow image-bearers of God.  Love isn’t a feeling, and it isn’t a course of action, though those things are usually involved. Love is a purposeful attitude that rises from submission to God alone and manifests in treating our neighbors as ourselves.

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Next week, we’ll dig in to the loving way vs. the loveless way, continuing to the most famous part of the chapter, verses 4-7.

Please share your thoughts and additional musings in the comments!  I would love to hear your insights on this passage…there is always more for me to learn.  🙂

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3 Comments

  1. This is so good for me! I’ve always bought into that love is really just an action, and my actions often times look really good. But I lose relationships or get myself into trouble because the purpose and attitude behind it is all about me. And people can tell!
    I love your definition of what love is.

    Reply
    • Oh good! I’m glad it was helpful for you. I was a little hesitant to define love, but what I said felt consistent with what I’ve studied in the chapter all month. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Kessie

     /  March 5, 2015

    That’s a really good aspect of love to draw out–our attitudes. God sure gave you an object lesson, didn’t he? That’s the trouble with standing on our teaching-fence posts–God holds you to that standard. I’ve been working on my own attitude lately, and this is a good reminder. I’ve had a really rotten one. :-p

    Reply

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