If I speak in the tongues of men or 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 NIV

Several years ago, the National Collegiate Athletic Association made a rule that effectively banned the use of artificial noisemakers from all athletic events. An artificial noisemaker is a manufactured thing that makes a loud noise or sound such as a megaphone, whistle, air horn, firecracker, or bell. The NCAA unanimously agreed that artificial noisemakers were not an authentic part of the experience and were a hindrance that could negatively affect the outcome of a game.

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul is writing to a group of people that are arguing over the significance of their spiritual gifts. They are fighting over which ones are superior to the others and how speaking in tongues fits into it all. But Paul cuts right through all of that and says, “If I speak in the tongues of men or angels but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”

As they argued about the relative value of the gifts, Paul emphasizes love and reiterates that without it, none of the gifts matter. Without love, the gifts don’t honor God or help others. He says that we may be able to speak with the eloquence and power of an angel, but if we don’t have love, our gifts are artificial noisemakers. They are inauthentic distractions that hinder our true purpose as Christians.

All speech, action, and behavior that is not expressed in love is nothing more than a nuisance for other people. Our gifts, without love, don’t attract people to God and a relationship with Jesus. Paul even states that the absence of love negates our faith and reduces the good things we do for others to nothing. In essence, deeds without love, are not indicative of the Christian life and in the end, negatively affect the impact for God.

This passage makes it clear that love is the most important. Paul says in verse 13 that it is the greatest of all emotions and expressions. It takes precedence over all of our gifts, talents, and abilities. Spiritual gifts, no matter how exciting and wonderful, are useless and even dangerous if they are not used in love. Without love, they are artificial noisemakers, but with it, they become beautiful music that profoundly moves people and communicates the heart of God in a melodic and pleasing way.

God-honoring and effective gifts are ones underwritten by a love that is patient and kind and not proud. Love that honors other people and is selfless. Love that leads to forgiveness and peace. Love that does not tolerate bad behavior and is only interested in seeing the truth win out. Love that earns trust, protects people’s hearts, inspires hope and never goes away or fails. This type of love is supposed to be the real soundtrack to the life of a believer and servant of Jesus. This type of love makes all the difference.

9 Comments

  1. Ken on January 21, 2020 at 11:33 am

    When I read this section of scripture, I am reminded that loving God and loving others is the basis for all good things from God to flow to us and through us to others. It is how we can truly live a life of peace, joy, and fulfillment. People don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care about them, it is such a so-true statement. It truly is all about the love.

    • Javaid Ahmed on January 21, 2020 at 1:00 pm

      That statement is profound. It always has been and always will be about the love. What a great thought. All the power in the world is an empty without the fulfillment of love, through God. We are so blessed to be able to experience Him in his greatness.

    • Jason on January 24, 2020 at 12:39 pm

      That is certainly one of the most tried and true relational principles in life: “People don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care about them.” I have seen this time and time again, not only in leadership, but as someone who has been the recipient of the care and concern of others that have spoken into my life. The knowledge of their care makes all the difference when they are imparting their wisdom.

  2. Heidi on January 23, 2020 at 10:44 am

    I love this chapter on love. God was showing me that when you first give your life to Him you begin a new journey with Him. It takes time and a desire to love God with your whole heart. The more you spend time with Him reading your bible every day, you more you learn how much He loves you. Then, you just want to go out and love others, bless them, tell them how much God loves them too. It reminds me of how this Scripture goes well with this message from Paul in Colossians 3:12-14:

    “You are the people of God; He loved you and chose you for His own. So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you. And to all these qualities add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity.”

    This is what life is all about. Love binds everything together. It does take practice every day. The past is the past, today is a new day. Remember your always learning every day. Just be open, willing, desirous of God’s will, and His ways. You’ll not be disappointed and must never forget Jesus loves you!

    • Jason on January 24, 2020 at 2:25 pm

      I love this chapter too, Heidi! This was my favorite line from your comment: “This is what life is all about. Love binds everything together. It does take practice every day.” Love is a decision and one we make every day as you said. And because it is a decision, we have to practice and apply it on a regular basis. It is definitely what life is all about!

  3. Jeri Centers on January 23, 2020 at 1:52 pm

    The Lord spoke to me in the ladies’ Bible study this week out of 1 Corinthians Chapter 13 verse 4. God is saying to you and me that this type of Love is willing to suffer for the one He loves. This is speaking of our love for God. This type of love is positive and overlooks shortcomings in others. It is even patient until they change.

    What that means to me is that someone who truly loves will not boast and brag to make someone else feel little. We must never act proud and cause someone else pain. True Love thinks of others feelings before they think of their own.

    • Jason on January 24, 2020 at 2:32 pm

      I like the statement you made about patient love, Jeri. You said, “This type of love is positive and overlooks shortcomings in others. It is even patient until they change.” That distinction is important because often we see our love as patient on our timeline. We think we’re loving someone patiently when we’re probably just tolerating them hoping they will change.

      The love you speak of is patient and longsuffering “until they change.” And some people never change but we still keep loving them when we do so with the patient love of God.

  4. Kathy on January 23, 2020 at 5:35 pm

    In reading 1st Corinthians 13 the following is what God was saying to me. I want you to have Agape love. Love can be given to the unlovable or unappealing. It is a love that loves even when rejected. It is a love that gives because it loves; it does not love in order to receive, or without expecting repayment. Agape love is self-denial for the sake of another. Sacrifice is important, but without love it is useless. Love is so valuable, so important, that apart from it every other good thing is useless. Love suffers long and is kind.

    True love is always demonstrated by action. When you show others, My love, it is seen in simple acts of kindness. Love does not envy. Envy accomplishes nothing but hurt. Love gives because it loves to give, not out of the sense of praise it can have from showing itself off. Being like my son Jesus is being an others-centered person, instead of a self-centered person. Love is strong, believing, hopeful, and enduring.

    What this said to me was I am to love, just to love, with no other motive. It is because God says we are to do it. Love requires action. God’s love flows into me and am to pass it on.

    • Jason on January 24, 2020 at 3:02 pm

      I really enjoyed reading the insight that God gave you from 1 Corinthians 13, Kathy. I was especially drawn to this line and idea: “I want you to have agape love. Love can be given to the unlovable or unappealing. It is a love that loves even when rejected. It is a love that gives because it loves; it does not love in order to receive, or without expecting repayment.” Love in spite of rejection and repayment is a powerful love reminiscent of Christ and expressive of God’s heart.

      There is no greater evidence of this than what happens to love amid the relational disconnect that occurs after we’ve been rejected in some way. When rejection happens, the tendency is to not only disconnect our lives from others but to also go a step further and remove our love. When we’ve been hurt, we naturally seek to isolate and displace our physical selves from other people but we also have this strong desire to withhold our love from them as well. Pain and the memory of relational rejection make us risk-averse in our expressions of love.

      This conscious withholding and refusal to give our love to someone else appeals to the worst and most inhumane parts of us in relationships. It almost seems cruel and unfeeling when we withhold love from others that we so desperately want to give it to. When we withhold from people that we know need it and will be impacted by it if we would only show it to them. But often we don’t.

      We do this because we’re flawed, self-preserving, self-interested and sinful. We do this because we allow the pain of rejection to override the desire to honor God, the joy of being in community, the fulfillment of friendship, and the warmth of intimacy. We will choose the outcomes of pain instead of the fulfillment of loving someone and being loved in return.

      But this is where Jesus demonstrated to us the beauty and power of the unconditional, agape love that you wrote about; the love that is not withheld; gifted love that is freely expressed without any need for reciprocation.

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