If I speak in the tongues of men & of angels,
but have not love,
I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
And if I have prophetic powers,
& understand all mysteries & all knowledge,
& if I have all faith,
so as to remove mountains,
but have not love, I am nothing.
If I give away all I have,
& if I deliver up my body to be burned,
but have not love, I gain nothing.
Before the “love is” section of 1 Corinthians 13, there exists a comprehensive list of desirables:
“If I had _____”.
“If I could _____”.
What’s revealed is the possibility that these acquisitions could yield NOTHING. I could have one or all of them, and actually be nothing. These are genuinely good things, but valueless without certain essentials in place. In this case, LOVE.
There is an order….
God is love, so I can’t have love unless I have God. Acquiring power or wealth or possessions or knowledge becomes meaningful only when I have love. The order is clearly revealed:
Possessions, Position, Knowledge, Skills….everything else
Skip one of these or put it out of order and the whole thing collapses. But pursue God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and you demonstrate love of God, (the greatest commandment). Now you have the potential to love others, having made yourself a conduit, (the greatest commandment, part B). Now as you acquire skills, knowledge, possessions and perhaps even position, those elements become instruments used to demonstrate love of God and love of people. That is why you have things & skills & position & people in your life. In this context, the pursuit of them becomes valid, even an asset.
My flesh would say, Well, that’s just fine, but I need my stuff and I need my people. And I need a position, some sort of leverage so that I can control what happens to me. I need knowledge because knowledge means power. I need the independence that comes with possessions so that I don’t have to depend on someone else to practically care for me, even though I am hoping someone will take care of me.
It is for this reason, in my opinion, that such a passage of scripture may have come to be. God cares enough (massive understatement), to validate certain things but makes certain I understand how those come to have their value. It’s frighteningly easy, in fact it is my nature apart from God in me, to get these bits out of order, even fully upside down.
God would have me thrive, even as He calls me to give Him everything. He has shown me the path over and over. It is the path that leads to Him.
I am the way.
~ John 14:6 ~
I was just thinking this morning that the one constant in our lives is that we are accepted and loved by God – unconditionally and forever. This love never changes, no matter what our behavior and whether or not we love Him in return. His love gives us the security and the acceptance we need to be able to reach out to others with that same love. When we accept His love, we are secure in Him, we are free to love others without judgment, without insecurities, without the need to have our love reciprocated. We can become whole people who look for nothing else to satisfy and bring stability and security into our lives but Him. This is freedom – freedom to then love as He loves.