1 Corinthians 13:2. if I… have not love, I am nothing.
Nobody wants to be a nothing. We all want to be a something. And so we find our worth and value in all kinds of things. For the Corinthians it was in their spiritual gifts, or their knowledge, and their status, or who they followed, or even where they sat at the Lord’s Supper. What is it for you? Your job? Your kids? Your looks? Your brains? Your money? Your reputation? Your behavior? Your spirituality? Your gifts?
We live in a culture of performancism. We judge each other by what we do. If we perform well, we are valued. If we don’t, we are forgotten (how many silver medalists can you name?). We debate who is the G.O.A.T. in various sports. We celebrate only spectacular achievements (think American Idol and American Ninja Warrior). Our students are growing up in a “no fail” world where stress, over-medication, and suicide are increasing rapidly. We tell our children to follow their dreams and that they can achieve whatever they put their minds to.
But what if they can’t?
What if none of us can? What if our value is found in simply who we are and who made us, and not in what we do? What if what makes us something rather than nothing is the simple fact that we are loved?
What if, when we focus on performance or getting better, we actually only get worse? What if, when we try to do anything apart from God’s unconditional love, we actually gain nothing from it, or at least nothing positive. What if, without love as our guiding truth, we actually just become self-absorbed, self-promoting, and selfish? What if our “spirituality” could actually just be narcissism?
I know it can be easy to read 1 Corinthians 13 as just more performancism. Be a better at loving. If you don’t perform well at loving others you’re nothing. If and when you figure out how to love, then you are something. Then you are valuable.
But that is not how this great “Love Chapter” is to be read? Paul is showing us that the only way to love is to first be loved. That is, first we must accept our worth based solely on the fact that we belong to God out of his sheer love and grace, and not out of our own performance or achievement.
In Christ, love isn’t something we earn, or even something at which we succeed or fail. Instead love is something that just is? It’s a state of being- Love IS.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Paul isn’t describing love as something we do. He is describing it as being. His logic doesn’t move from “without love I am nothing” to “so here are some ways I’ve learned how to love.” Rather, he has personified love. Love is. Love does. Not, “love this way or that way.” He doesn’t give us a commandment to obey – be kind. He gives us a truth about love – Love is kind.
Maybe this is where we all need to start. Maybe we need to move away from seeing our love as a performance or a standard to live up to, and instead see it as what it really is. A fruit. A gift. A life that is already in us. Faith not works.
“To live is Christ” means we are filled with love as a state of being. Love is. And love is in us. Why? Because Christ is in us. Without love we are nothing because without Christ we are nothing. But in Christ we are everything because his love has made us everything.
Have you seen love as a performance?
You in Christ
How does union with Christ allow you to see love as your state of being?
Christ in you
Can you see the love of Christ in you? How might you live out Christ’s love in you today?
Playlist: Love Is.