Back in the day, Tina Turner sang the lines, "What's love got to do with it?"
The Bible's answer to Ms. Turner's question is EVERYTHING!
Love is what matters most to God. First Corinthians 13:13 says, "And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
The Bible teaches us in Galatians 5:6: "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision accomplishes anything, but faith working through love." In other words, if you are a follower of Christ Jesus, all that matters is that your faith makes you love God and love others. God says what matters most in life is one thing-that your faith causes you to love.
When a speaker wants to get your attention and help you remember something, they often use repetition. In 1st Corinthians 13:1-3, Paul says the same thing four different ways. He is emphasizing the most important thing in life is love.
In verse one, Paul writes, "If I speak the languages of men and of angels, but do not have love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal." Therefore, if we do not have love, nothing we say will matter. We can say "I love you" a million times, but if our actions do not show love, our words are meaningless, and soon become just noise to the hearer.
It reminds me of the old saying, "Actions speak louder than words." For our words to have meaning, our words must not be demeaning.
The first part of verse 2 states, "If I have [the gift of] prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge ..." This means that you may have graduated Magna Cum Laude or, like I did, Thank Ya Lawdy, but, God says if you do not have love in your life, your knowledge is meaningless.
People will not care how much you know until they know how much you care.
We learn from the remainder of verse 2 that not only is our knowledge empty, but also it will not matter what we believe. Verse 2b reads, "and if I have all faith, so that I can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing." Many people believe that all that is necessary to please God and be a Christian is to believe certain truths. It takes more than a belief that He is real to please God. You must also love Him and the people He created.
Verse 3 says, "And if I donate all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but do not have love, I gain nothing." This verse teaches us that without love, nothing we give will matter. For example, some people give in order to receive. That is not love, it is selfishness.
Some people give to rid their life of guilt. That is not love, it is self-preservation. Some people give for prestige. They want to be recognized. That is not love, it is self-aggrandizement. We can give for a lot of wrong reasons. The Bible says if giving is not motivated by love, then none of that giving counts.
Paul, through his repetition, teaches us that it does not matter what I say, or what I believe, or what I do, or what I give, I am empty without love. All of the accomplishments in the world mean nothing, if we do not have love for God and love for the humanity He created.
God says we can have the words of a great orator, the mind of a genius, the faith of a miracle worker, the generosity of the Good Samaritan, or the accomplishments of the biggest superstar, but if we do not have love in our hearts, it is all worthless. The only thing that matters is if I love God and love people.
Jesus was asked what He believed to be the greatest commandment. He responded with these words found in Matthew 22:36-40: "'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?' Jesus said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
Rev. Chris Reynolds is pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church and Christian Academy in Jonesboro.