Love seems to be the theme of my past week. It’s all around me, everywhere I look, everything I read, and much of what I see. Last week’s Bible study had me neck deep in the message of love, and the week was topped off with the beautiful celebration of two good friends uniting themselves in marriage. Love was primarily the topic of conversation at our Life Group this weekend, and love is, hands down, the thing that the Lord has been trying to teach me.
His love for me.
My love for others.
But can you imagine a world void of love? Unfortunately, some of you can. Some of you have lived much of your lives without love. Others of you have had an abundance of love in your lives. Whichever end of the spectrum you might fall, and whatever your understanding of what love is, allow me to direct our gaze towards God’s definition in His Word.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” I Corinthians 13:4-8a
These unmistakable words were read aloud at the wedding we attended this past weekend, the biblical standard for love. The world’s definition, however, differs more than just slightly, and in our own pursuit of love, I believe that we have drastically missed the mark.
Many are very familiar with the above verses. They are often read at weddings, recited in church, and in general, these verses are commonly known as the definition of love. What has been missed, however, are the verses preceding these in 1 Corinthians 13.
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Translation? If I can do all things, if I know all things, and if I have all things, but lack love, I can do nothing, I know nothing, and I have nothing. I am nothing. Without love, nothing really matters. In our elevation of verses 4-8, we’ve erased the priority of verses 1-3. Without a love for God first and a love for others second, all other efforts are in vain. God cares most about love – loving Him above all else and loving others next. That’s it. Notice how “loving yourself” isn’t part of the equation that He gives us in Matthew 22:36-39:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
The point? You can climb the corporate ladder and make it all the way to the top, but without love, that ladder will be leaning against the wrong wall. You can have the “perfect” marriage and “perfect” kids according to Facebook, but without love, you really have nothing. You can strive to please everyone around you in order to be accepted and loved by all, but without love, your pursuit is meaningless. You can (fill in the blank), but without love, you’re just clanging noise.
And that is the last thing this world needs more of. Noise. It needs action. It needs feet that are quick to run towards the broken. It needs hands that rush to hold the hurting. It needs eyes that are willing to see the injustice. It needs ears that can hear the cries of the orphan and the widow. Love is not words. Love is deeds. Love does. Love goes.
“Love is giving of yourself to meet others’ needs, whether they deserve it or not, and expecting nothing in return.” —Barb Wilson