I love finding the perfect gift for a loved one—something they’ll love and that tells them I care about them very much. For my granddaughter it was a book about cats. For my brother-in-law it was a package of caramel nut coffee.
God gives gifts, too. He gives us life, breath, food and our basic needs every day. But I’m thinking of the special abilities He gives His children to share with one another for each other’s benefit—commonly known as “spiritual gifts.” Paul discusses these in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, but right in between those chapters is the real jewel, described as “the way of life that is best of all” (12:31), “the greatest of these” (13:13) and “your highest goal” (14:1). This is LOVE!
Love is contrasted with the spiritual gifts which are variously given to different ones of God’s children; love is to be practiced by all of us. This famous “love chapter” divides nicely into three parts:
1. The priority of love. It’s indispensable! As a child, I saw an advertisement for “the indispensable dress.” I had to ask my mom what that meant, thinking that maybe it meant “indisposable”. She said it means that you can’t do without it! Well, I’ve done okay without that dress, but God says that whatever other good things we may do are totally worthless without love. That’s sobering.
2. The properties of love are presented in beautiful poetry in the middle part of this chapter. And just so I can test and see if I’m really a loving person, here’s the checklist:
–Am I patient & kind with people who get on my nerves?
–Am I envious of what I don’t have or boastful about what I have or can do?
–Am I arrogant, rude, or self-seeking—or do I give priority to others’ needs and feelings?
–Am I irritable or do I hold grudges—or am I a channel of God’s grace?
–Do I delight in what is good and true, or am I focused on lies, evil and injustice?
–Do I bear, believe, hope and endure all things—not naïve but trusting God while sharing my life and love with others?
3. The permanence of love. All other spiritual gifts will end “when the perfect comes” and we’re home in heaven. We won’t need preachers, prophets, healing, etc. We will be complete and whole. Our love for one another and for the Lord will then be perfect as we bask in the ecstasy of His immeasurable love for us.