Paul and the primacy of love

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but I do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I give over my body in order to boast, but do not have love, I receive no benefit.
(1Co 13:1-3 NET.)

For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.
(1Co 13:12-13 NET.)

Paul’s heartbeat was love.

Paul then mentions the three gifts at the top of their list of the Corinthian’s priorities: tongues, prophecy and knowledge. Each of these will either become irrelevant or else be swallowed up in the perfection of eternity:[1]

Paul points out that much of what are so concerned about in the church is temporary.  We don’t carry it in to eternity.  There are three that things that will endure in this age and in the age to come.  These are faith, hope and love.  But love is the greatest because it alone never fails and will in fact carry on into the next life.[2]

As a child of eighties I’ve played a lot of video games.  Now we have the technology to create entire virtual worlds.  Anyone who has played a MMOG (Massive Multiplayer Online Game) like Eve Online or World of Warcraft knows how all encompassing these games are.  Each of them has their own way of expressing rewards, abilities, knowledge and assets.  Some are so big that virtual currency in the game can be bought and sold with real world money.  There are people in the developing world that play games to earn virtual currency which they sell to people in the developed world for Dollars and Euros who don’t want to spend the time to earn it on their own.  It is a fascinating world, especially for some economists and sociologists who study human behavior in virtual realities.  In these worlds some people can become a really big deal.  You can become rich and powerful and own vast tracts of online “real estate.”    It all disappears when the person logs off.  All those ships or magic items aren’t worth anything in the real world.  Unless you can find someone in the real world that actually cares to have what you created in the virtual world and will give something of true value for something that only has value in its own little realm.

Our lives in this world are much more like an MMOG than we realize.  Eternity is our home, and here we are just visiting.  While we extend our resources acquiring wealth, power and influence very little of it actually translates to anything in the real real world which is eternity.  We are like avatars in our own little game, it just happens that our character in the game can’t leave until their character dies.  Is there something our character can take from this experience has any value in the next world?

Paul is saying there are even good things in the church that won’t remain.  The three main character attributes we can grow in here that we can bring with us when we leave this game: faith, hope and love and the most important, literally the “mega” attribute is love.

1Co 14:1  Let love be your highest goal! But you should also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives–especially the ability to prophesy.

Gal 5:6  For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love.

1Th 4:9  But we don’t need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God Himself has taught you to love one another.

Eph 5:2  Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered Himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.

Col 3:12  Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

Col 3:13  Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

Col 3:14  Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.

1Ti 1:5  The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.

2Ti 1:13  Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me–a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus.

Tit 2:2  Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. They must have sound faith and be filled with love and patience.

We always give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard about your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the saints. Your faith and love have arisen from the hope laid up for you in heaven, which you have heard about in the message of truth, the gospel
(Col 1:3-5 NET.)

[1]              Prior, D. (1985). The message of 1 Corinthians: Life in the local church. The Bible Speaks Today (233). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[2]              Witherington, B., III. (1995). Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians (272). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.