All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church: first are apostles, second are prophets, third are teachers, then those who do miracles, those who have the gift of healing, those who can help others, those who have the gift of leadership, those who speak in unknown languages. Are we all apostles? Are we all prophets? Are we all teachers? Do we all have the power to do miracles? Do we all have the gift of healing? Do we all have the ability to speak in unknown languages? Do we all have the ability to interpret unknown languages? Of course not! So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts. But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless. When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13
Dear God, I do not think I have ever read the end of 1 Corinthians 12 in context with chapter 13. What a travesty for me. It is another example of the divisions that the Bible translators put in to make it easier for us to cross reference and find things created an unintended consequence of sometimes removing the context for a passage.
This one is a good example. After Paul spends a lot of time talking about the greatness and importance of being an apostle, a prophet, a teacher, a healer, etc., he concludes with this important sentence:
But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.
And what trumps all of these great things? It’s pretty simple. Love. Love. Love. Patient love. Kind love. Merciful love. Humble love. Courteous love. Generous love. Unselfish love. Justice-focused love. Good-tempered love. Faithful love. Hopeful love. Persevering love. If I don’t have this love then I can take anything I have about me that might be impressive and throw it away, for all it is worth. It’s worth absolutely nothing. If I teach great things about you, but do not live out these types of love, my teaching is hypocritical and actually does more harm than good. Or if I only have one aspect of love, but am not merciful or humble then my other actions are muted and probably have a negative effect.
Father, help me to be patient, kind, merciful, humble, courteous, generous, unselfish, justice-focused, good-tempered, faithful, hopeful, and persevering. And do all of these things for your glory and for the advancement of your kingdom, and not for me.
In Jesus’s name I pray,