To me, one of the scriptures taken out of context the most is 1 Corinthians 13, also known as “The Love Chapter”. It’s been used in nearly every Christian wedding, hung on the walls of our homes and quoted to people in Love about how they should love their spouse. The truth is that it has nothing to do with loving our spouse. It’s about loving people with God’s love that’s in us in order to point them to him. We can do all sorts of things for people that bring us glory, but if we don’t love them in a way that points to Him, it’s pointless.
The last verse in the chapter is probably the most recognized one, but I want to look at it in the Amplified version which adds context to the original meaning. It says, “And now there remain: faith [abiding trust in God and His promises], hope [confident expectation of eternal salvation], love [unselfish love for others growing out of God’s love for me], these three [the choicest graces]; but the greatest of these is love.” I believe love, in this context, is the greatest because love of this sort offers God’s grace and makes us more like Him.
The first verse in the next chapter continues Paul’s thoughts on the matter. It says, “Pursue [this] love [with eagerness, make it your goal].” That kind of love isn’t natural for most of us. It’s something we’re going to have to desire to have, and we’re going to have to pursue it. It’s going to require us to pray for it and to put it into practice in our lives until it becomes a part of who we are. To have unselfish love for others should be the goal of every one of us, especially since Jesus said we would be known for our love for one another.
Today, think about what that love likes like coming from you. What can you do to show someone God’s love? It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture that goes viral on social media. It can be a simple word of encouragement, a prayer for a friend in need, a purchased cup of coffee for the person in line behind you, a warm meal for a homeless person, or a call to someone feeling lonely. These unselfish acts of love don’t have to change the world, but if we do enough of them out of God’s love for us, it just might.
Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash
In Matthew 9, Jesus was at the home of Matthew eating with some unsavory people. The top religious leaders saw him dining with them and asked, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” (NLT) They asked it loud enough that Jesus heard them, which meant that Matthew and his friends heard it too. Jesus said, “Heathy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do.” Then he challenged them to go and find the meaning of the scripture that says, “I desire mercy [that is, readiness to help those in trouble] and not sacrifice and sacrificial victims. For I came not to call and invite [to repentance] the righteous (those who are upright and in right standing with God), but sinners (the erring ones and all those not free from sin)” (AMP).
I figured if Jesus wanted them to find the meaning, He probably wanted us to find the meaning as well. The original passage is found in Hosea 6:6. It says, “I want your constant love, not your animal sacrifices. I would rather have my people know me than burn offerings to me” (GNB). The first thing God wants from any of us is an unconditional, constant love. A couple of verses back, He says that His children’s love vanishes as quickly as the morning dew. The kind of love that irritates God is the conditional kind that depends on what He does.
God loves you no matter what you do, and He expects the same. Jesus was upset with the Pharisees because they claimed to be the holy ones in Israel, but inside they were anything but holy. When His actions didn’t meet up with their expectations of the Messiah, their love and wonder waned. What Jesus was pointing out to them in the Scripture He sent them to was that they really didn’t know God, and He would rather they know Him instead of knowing what the Law said.
We have to be careful of the same trap they fell into. We cannot let our love for God depend on expectations we have of Him when we don’t fully know Him. God knows that the more we know Him, the more we love Him. The more we love Him, the more we will have a readiness to help those in spiritual danger. They are the ones who need our help the most. Jesus knew it, and He wanted us to know it too. The heart of God beats for the lost, and He’ll do what it takes to reach them, even if it doesn’t make sense to others. When we truly know Him, our heart will beat for the lost like His.