Paul wrote knowledge puffs up but love builds up. He uses two words that are similar on one way. Knowledge “inflates” the ego but love “constructs” the person. I think the metaphors are appropriate even today. There are many ministries full of people that know a lot of things but have very little strength or substance. The group implodes as soon as there are difficult obstacles or challenges.
Love “constructs” or builds up because it reinforces people on the inside. People can go through tremendous difficulties if they know they have value. The biggest difference I make in my ministry isn’t what happens in our meetings. It is what happens one on one. Now no one can make anyone change, but you can plant and you can water. Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 3:6.
Here there is a huge advantage to being a friend rather than being clergy. Being “clergy” will have advantages and disadvantages but genuine acts of love come across more genuinely in a peer relationship.
The first and most obvious place is your own marriage and family. Family relationships are a double edged sword. If a family is truly loving, that network of relationships will sustain people through the worst circumstances. If people treat each other dismissively or demeaningly it becomes a toxin that poisons everyone involved.
Later on, Paul talks about the value of knowledge but it is important to see how each of these priorities weight up against each other. We can learn things from lessons, studies, sermons, and conferences but we don’t experience love in these types of engagements. How does love edify?
A living room is a better place but it still isn’t the best. Someone can roll in to your group feeling broken or dejected and your group sets everything aside just to listen, encourage and pray for them. People can feel really loved and valued when they are supported by the group.
Now we aren’t always overflowing with love for one another. It helps to understand that while you might not be feeling a lot of love for this person, God values them. When in doubt treat people like they matter. Some people will respond and some won’t but you’ll always be able to rest easy if you know you treated someone like they mattered. I don’t know if there is anything that kills people more than getting treated like they don’t matter. We might decry the Israelites for sacrificing their children to Baal, but we sacrifice each other to the idol of organizational security and personal success.