Have you ever been so frustrated or angry at someone that you just end up yelling at them all the things they’ve been doing wrong? And you walk away from the incident feeling like, despite your best efforts, they still haven’t changed their attitude?
BIBLE PASSAGE (1 Corinthians 12:31b – 13:13)
1 Corinthians 12:31b- 13:13
And yet I will show you the most excellent way.
13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
As a first year teacher, I still have a lot to learn about effective teaching. I’m learning how to engage my students with fun activities and how to build rapport with them while maintaining authority in the classroom. But the skill I most need to improve on is behaviour management. Too often, I find myself frustrated at a student for misbehaving and all I manage to do in response is just point out what they’re doing wrong.
I’m learning that just pointing out the wrong isn’t enough for someone to change their attitude or actions. You need to give them an example of what to change to! In the context of our journey in faith: You cannot just tell someone to stop sinning, you also need to show them the freedom of a life changed by the Gospel!
When it comes to the church of Corinth, there are a lot of things they’re doing wrong. And you can feel Paul’s frustration at the lack of change in attitude as you read his letter to them. He certainly doesn’t pull his punches when it comes time to challenge the church and convict them of their sin. But rather than just telling them what they’re doing wrong, Paul goes the extra step to explain what their lives ought to look like now that they’ve been made holy through Jesus. He shows them “a still more excellent way” (12:12).
The Corinthian church don’t see how they’re living as wrong, so no matter how much Paul tells them they are wrong, it won’t be enough to change their attitudes. They think they are following Jesus well. They’re puffed up with pride. They’re proud of their ability to speak in tongues and to prophesy. They’re proud of their apparent strong faith and supposed selflessness in giving all they have away. And they are proud of their knowledge. But all of this pride in different spiritual gifts is completely self-centred. The Corinthians desire spiritual gifts so they can boast in themselves, rather than use their gifts for the good of the Body of Christ. They’re proud of their maturity, when in actual fact, they are spiritual babies.
The Corinthian’s are failing to recognise that the spiritual gifts and abilities they have are only because of the grace of God. Similarly, they fail to see that these gifts are not for selfish gain, but are to be used to bring glory back to God as they love and serve one another. They have nothing to boast in but God’s grace and love. Rather than thinking that there’s some next level in maturity beyond the Gospel, Paul is reminding them that the Gospel of grace is all they need! The mature Christian is so assured of God’s love and grace through the Gospel, that they humbly love and serve others to help them understand the Gospel too.
So how about you? How do you shape up to Paul’s challenge in this passage? What are the things you’re boasting in? This passage isn’t the lovey-dovey passage it’s so often made out to be. It’s an example of a life changed by the gospel. And it’s a hard passage to reconcile with the selfish sinfulness in our lives. Praise God for His grace, that by the work of the Spirit in us, we can change our selfish attitude towards one of love!
Head: What do you know about God’s love from other passages in the Bible? How does His love change the way we live?
Heart: What are some areas in your life where you are still boasting in yourself and not allowing God’s love to change you? Pray that God would open your heart to His love in these areas!
Hands: What’s one way that you can remind yourself of God’s grace to you by serving someone with love this week instead of choosing to boast in your own strength?
Prayer: Heavenly father, Thank you for Jesus and the example He gives of a life shaped by your love. I praise you that Jesus has lived the life I never could live, choosing to serve to the point of death on a cross so that I could be set free from my sin and made holy in Him. I’m sorry for the days when I think only of myself. I’m sorry for my pride in thinking I’m beyond needing the Gospel. Help me to remember that I am completely in need of your grace and you have freely covered me in your grace. Help me to hear the rebuke in this passage to be opening all of my life up to your love. Help me to continue to grow in your gospel of grace so that my life may be shaped by your love for me. Thank you for the Spirit at work in me, giving me the strength to serve others even when I don’t want to. In Jesus name and by the power of the Spirit, Amen
A Song to listen to: Lead me to the Cross