I may be able to speak the languages of human beings and even of angels, but if I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or clanging bell. I may have the gift of inspired preaching; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains – but if I have no love, I am nothing. I may give away everything I have, and even give up my body to be burnt – but if I have no love, this does me no good. (verses 1-3)
People have all kinds of motives for helping people. Sometimes we do it because we feel sorry for those who need help. Sometimes it’s because there’s a good healthy tax deduction if we give more than two dollars. Sometimes we believe if we help someone, then, when we need help, they’ll be obligated to return the favour. And sometimes people help because they are motivated by love.
Paul says this is to be the Christian motive for doing anything, whether it be using talents in preaching, showing remarkable confidence that God will act in particular situations, sharing God-given insights with people, and so on. Because if we are not motivated by love, God’s love for us, then in our dealings with those around us we are likely to be motivated by less noble things like pride, greed, or power.
Paul goes so far as to say that if we are not motivated by love we are nothing, and this is true, for without God’s love we are still in our sin. But we have God’s love, freely and lavishly given. God pours out his love on us to take our burdens from us. We, then, should not do things for people in such a way that they are burdened by our ‘love’.
Father, let me love your children as you have loved me – totally and with no strings attached. Amen.
by Bob Turnbull, in ‘New Strength for each Day’ (LCA, Openbook, 1998)
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