Paul begins his “love chapter” by reminding the Corinthian church that good deeds, ministry, and special talents are meaningless if they aren’t performed in love.
Without love, we garner no special points, worthy accolades, or enduring legacies.
So, if we don’t gain anything by good deeds without love then what does profit us? Paul tells us in verses 4-7.
Love profits us. Love brings us worth, value, significance. But, not just any love.
The love of 1 Cor. 13 is a higher love
The love to which Paul refers in 1 Cor. 13 is a higher love.
Agape love is a deliberate choice made by a Lover to act despite any unworthiness in the object of affection. This love is the heart of the gospel.
It’s active, and it’s oriented outward. In fact, in verses 4-7 Paul defines true love by what it does and doesn’t do.
Is love just another to-do list?
Verse 4-7 are extremely convicting for me both as a mother and a ministry-minded woman. Each time I pick through these verses, I’m confronted with the shady areas of my heart and life.
- When I lose my temper with the boys.
- When I respond to childish behavior with sarcasm.
- When I automatically believe the worst in those around me.
Then the familiar guilt and shame seep in, and I tell myself I’ll do better next time. I resolve to get my act together, get my anger under control, to use kind words instead of stinging ones.
And then, all of the sudden, Paul’s “love chapter” has become a to-do list that is hopelessly heavy for these mommy-shoulders to bear.
And before I know it, I’ve fallen into the same trap as the first-century Corinthians – believing I can do something (anything) without the help of the cross, and feeling very smug when I do, but exhausted and depleted when I don’t.
I’ve become guilty of committing a hate crime instead of walking in true love.
You might think good intentions don’t count as a hate crime, but I’m not sure they can be classified as anything else.
Without love there is no neutral territory on which to stand. Just as the absence of light is darkness, the absence of love is hate.
When we aren’t walking in love, we’re walking in self-love – a love that ultimately seeks to please self over others.
How to walk in agape love
The only way we can walk in agape love is to dwell in Him who is Love.
That’s why I wanted to memorize 1 Cor. 13, because it is only through abiding in Him and His Word that we give His Spirit room to work in our lives.
By internalizing God’s Word, we give the Spirit room to recalibrate our heart’s natural default mode from self-centered love to selfless love.
The love of Christ is our power. His love changes our hearts and enables us to act in self-less ways.
This is why the Corinthian church was in shambles. They were following to-do lists instead of living in the power of the cross. But to-do lists without love are merely prisons of hate.
As a mom, I don’t want my kids to see their mother behind the bars of anger or impatience. I want them to see a woman walking free of fear and full of joy…and yes, love.
What about you? In your station of life (motherhood or ministry), how does the love of Christ equip you to love others?
 Dorothy Patterson, ed., The Woman’s Study Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), 1918.