Summary: Love is important because it is essential, expressive, and eternal.
THE IMPORTANCE OF LOVE
1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (NRSV)
1/ If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2/ And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3/ If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4/ Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5/ or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6/ it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7/ It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8/ Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9/ For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10/ but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11/ When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12/ For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13/ And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
Someone has reported that the big toy makers carefully watch the divorce rate. It seems that, when divorce rates rise, so do toy sales. The explanation? According to the analysts, in a given family you may have as many as four parents and eight grandparents competing for the affections of the children. So, what do they do? They buy toys.
Now, I like toys as much as the next person. But a toy, no matter how entertaining, is a poor substitute for love. So is hard, calloused religion that is given more to correctness than to compassion. Here in the thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul urges us to offer ourselves in loving action before we impose ourselves in legalistic demands. Love, he says, is the most important part of faith. What makes it so? Paul gives us three qualities of love that we may sometimes forget. But, when we review them again, we can readily see his point. Love is the most important thing of all.
I. Love Is Essential
The first quality is this: Love is essential. You and I may do many things -- in fact, we may do many good things -- and, without love, they won’t matter. Look at verses 1 through 3. Paul says, “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
Do you know the background to these verses? Paul is writing to a body of Christians who are divided over who or what is most spiritual. There are basically five groups, or positions, each centered around a particular spiritual expression, each contending that it alone is right and that the others are wrong.
There are those who speak in tongues, those who prophesy, those who exercise astounding faith, those who have given up everything for the poor, and some who, it appears, even boast about their willingness to suffer martyrdom.
Now, is any one of those things unspiritual? Not necessarily. But what’s missing? It could be love. Paul says that, if I speak in tongues, but do it without love, I’m just making noise. If I speak for God through prophesying, but do it without love, or demonstrate faith, again without love, it amounts to nothing. Same thing with giving away everything or even dying for the cause. No love in it, no point to it. Who needs religion without love? It’s worthless.
We had a friend one time, a lovely and hospitable woman, who would often have us over for dinner. And she was a great cook. But I couldn’t enjoy her desserts, especially her cakes. She always made them without salt. I don’t exactly know what salt does in a cake recipe, but I know that, when it’s not there, the cake is dry and tasteless.