The highest calling of all…

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1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

13 1 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

One of the key themes of this letter is Paul’s desire to teach regarding the apparent division in the church. We’ve already read about several ways the people of Corinth have split – favoring Paul or Apollos as their leader, the ethnic diversity of a church with both Jews and Greeks, slaves and slave-owners, men and women, rich and poor, and so on. Our passage above suggests spiritual gifting was another point of division. It sounds as though people were placing greater value on some forms of leadership, or some spiritual gifts, than on others. That is what the first paragraph appears to be about. But Paul essentially ends the argument by explaining that the greatest form of leadership, the greatest spiritual calling – is to love.

Love isn’t as impressive as miracles or healing or speaking in tongues. Crowds don’t gather to watch someone love another. Love is boring. It doesn’t make headlines. Anyone can do it, no special gifting or training needed. And yet it is the thing we humans need in life more than anything. We need to love others and to be loved by others. Jesus said it this way in John 15, “As the Father has loved me so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”

Christians aren’t generally known for “love” in the secular culture around us. We’re more known for judging others – confessing other peoples’ sins. Look at v.4-7 above. Love isn’t about telling other people where they have it wrong. Love is patient, kind, and so on. It’s embracing people with whom we disagree. Love seeks to understand and then be understood. It’s about extending grace to others as Christ did to us.

The church I lead as pastor states that our mission is to become a people who: love God, love each other, and love the world. This morning I’m compelled to think again what those forms of love look like in the context of Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians. It’s not complicated, but it’s not easy.

Lord Jesus teach us to love others as you first loved us. Amen.

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