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. Love more. Be better at loving. If you don’t perform well at loving you’re a nobody. If and when you figure out how to love, then you will be valuable.
But is that how this great “Love Chapter” is to be read? Or is Paul is actually showing us that the only way to love others is to first be loved. That we must accept our worthiness based solely on the fact that we are loved by God, 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. 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.
Love is not the verb in this passage, it’s the noun. Paul isn’t describing love as something we do. Rather, love is something that does (or does not). Love is not a commandment to obey here – be kind. No, love is kind.
Christian, maybe you need to move away from seeing your 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.
“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.
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