Yesterday our two discipleship groups studied that familiar love chapter of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13 (12:31-13:13). Studying God’s Word is one of the essentials of Christian discipleship.
St. Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, was writing to the Corinthian congregation, a community that was greatly divided over how to dress, the Lord’s Supper and which spiritual gifts were most important.
In this chapter Paul calls (12:31) them to desire the greater, higher or best gifts, foremost of these, is the gift of love.
Paul points out (13:1-3) that love is foundational to all the other gifts: tongues, prophecy, knowledge, faith, even suffering and sacrifice. If love does not stand under and behind these gifts they become useless.
Paul defines love (12:4-7) in both positive (patient, kind, rejoices in truth, bears, believes, hopes, endures) and negative terms (not envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, self-centered, irritable, resentful, rejoicing in wrongdoing).
In 12:8 Paul declares that Love never ends (or fails). All other things will end, but not love. Why is that? If we turn to 1 John 4:7-10 we read that God is love. Love is an attribute of God – who God is – and therefore the greatest gift we can desire as followers of Jesus who are being transformed into the image of God in Christ, is love.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. – 1 John 4:7
Our sinful selves would like to to turn our discipleship into a list of accomplishments and obligations, including reading and studying God’s Word. However, God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. Through the power of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit, God’s love is born in us, as is the gift of faith, and we are moved by God’s forgiving love to grow into the image of God in Christ Jesus and all that He calls us to.