“Love – such a mystical word and concept. On the one hand you can decide to do it and on the other hand it only becomes truly real, truly genuine when your heart is changed, and love flows from it naturally because of that. True love, My love, agape – is only possible if you have first received that from Me. It is only as My agape gets hold of your heart that your love becomes genuine. It starts with a response to My love then overflows to those you are in contact with. It is a mystery, it is potent, it is life changing. So many are disabled because they don’t experience, true love. At the same time, it is a decision you should make continuously – To love others to counteract the assaults on it that Satan tries. My command remains – love Me with all your heart, body, soul and mind and your neighbour as yourself. You are the beacon of my love. Plant it on the highest hill and in every relationship”.
Now to 1 Corinthians 13. Perhaps one of the best-known passages in the bible. Unfortunately, it is usually read on its own, without taking its context into consideration. Step back into ch 12 and remember the message there. It is all about the gifts of the Spirit. It appears that the Corinthians were obsessed with these exciting supernatural gifts. Yet the way they were using them was having the opposite effect to what they were intended to do. It was causing divisions, jealousy and disunity.
So, Paul ends the chapter with the advice – “Desire the greater gifts”. Then he blasts them with the words “Now I will show you the most excellent way.” The message is quite simple. All the gifts and abilities that come supernaturally are of little value if they are not practiced with love. The speaking gifts especially were just like an empty gong, if not used with love.
So, what does he mean by love? Vss 4-7 are like dynamite. I suggest that you readers scan over these qualities by which Paul defines what the characteristics of real agape are. I include myself here. So, this week I sat down and wrote each characteristic down on a separate line of my notebook and then prayerfully considered whether I really understood the full meaning and nuance of each one. It took me some time as I was confronted again and again as to how shallow my understanding and interpretation of each one has been. I was hugely challenged and decided to return to these notes each day after that to remind myself what love truly is all about. I realized that it covers almost every aspect of our daily lives as we interact with others. In fact, the emotions and feelings associated with each one of these characteristics often start in our hearts long before we actually interact with others. Take “envy” for instance. This usually starts in one’s heart and then gathers momentum giving rise to a sense of dissatisfaction and can finally result in a negative outcome in one’s interaction with others..
I am not going to try and interpret each word and concept for you. That should be something each one does individually with the Lord. But I challenge you all to do something like that.
The last part of the chapter vv 8-13 is really motivational to what Paul has been saying about love. The Corinthians, as I said, were very much into the speaking gifts especially prophecy and tongues but also a word of knowledge. These were and can be exciting as it expresses the reality of God’s presence. But are really in place because we do not see God face to face yet. So, when we finally get to meet with God face to face these gifts will just become redundant and love will be all that remains.
As I have been writing this, I am reminded again of the weekend teaching I received on Ch 12, at Noordhoek in 1980, where God revealed Himself to me. It was the sense of immediacy which I experienced that blew my mind as to the reality of God. Yet as I think back, the weekend was concluded with a communion service. As Angus Bain administered the host to me, he laid hands on me and gave me a personal prophecy. Later I tended to dismiss this experience and the message as a bit suspect. It is only recently that I have been reminded of that message again. “I am giving you the power of love”. Was the message.
I now realize how important it was that I should have understood that using the gifts without love was like an empty gong. I also realize forty years later, how much I have needed that power over the years and especially now in the circumstances I find myself in. It is also interesting that the word “power” was used. One of the first talks that weekend had been on the work and presence of the Holy Spirit. The speaker explained that the word for power in the NT Greek is “dunamis” from which we have derived the word dynamite. I was suddenly being introduced to the fact that real Christianity is about the reality of the power of God at work among and in us.
I did not immediately understand how living the Christian life requires the power of the gospel to accomplish it effectively. So, to demonstrate love as it is described here would need the transforming power of the Spirit to accomplish. It is counter to our natures and requires a complete transformation to practice it effectively.
Unity, true unity in the church can only be accomplished if these love principles are understood and practiced. They will also be the greatest witness to the reality Of Christ and His work on the cross if they are displayed effectively in a broken society.
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