The Most Important Thing
1 Corinthians 13:2 If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
I have seen two different physicians take two very different approaches when giving the same diagnosis of cancer. Physician one delivers the appropriate information with accurate, if somewhat cold language. He answers questions and conveys all the necessary facts. Physician two, sits down and, more than information, communicates love and concern. She may cry, hug and pray with the patient. In the end, identical information is delivered but the messages are not the same. Both physicians do their job, but the patients’ experiences are vastly different.
I know this from experience on both sides. When I was living out my own self-inflicted disaster, there were those in treatment who presented me with information and there were those who walked along side me, with arm around me. While I do remember valuable facts, the most profound impact was made by those who loved me. Love does what no amount of information can.
When asked about the most important commandment, Jesus did not ask that we learn all truth. He commanded us to love God above all and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22). Love is our purpose in this life. Love is the reason we exist. It is because of God’s nature to love, that He created us and gave us the capacity to return his love. The highest calling we can fulfill in this life is to love God and those around us. We were made for love.
Love however, is often not my primary goal. If a genie in a lamp offered me anything, I would probably choose knowledge, power, money or success. I would not likely ask for love. Why is this? It is because knowledge, power and success point to and gratify me. Love however, turns me outward, to others. Love means self-sacrifice for the good of my neighbor. It is not in my nature to want this. It is in my nature to pursue me.
Paul, in today’s passage, said that I may possess the power to move mountains, but without love, it is meaningless. Though I would prefer self-promotion, Paul said that I was made to love. It is love that pursues eternal treasures instead of self.
In the previous chapter, Paul described various gifts bestowed by God upon Christians to be used in service to him: wisdom, knowledge, faith and teaching. We do not each receive every gift, but we are all loved by God. We are all to be filled with his love so that we may return that love to him. His love is to flow out of us into those around us.
We would often rather be filled with truth. As Christians, we have often found that it is easier to truth others than to love them. Telling the truth may mean little sacrifice to us, but love requires that we give time, money and effort. Love requires self-sacrifice.
Truth is necessary of course. The physician, mentioned earlier, would be doing a horrible disservice if she lied to the patient. It is communicating the truth in love though, that makes the profound difference. It is love that reaches out to touch another person in the way God meant us to. It is in loving God and neighbor that we fulfill our eternal, divine purpose.