Let love and mercy be the starting point of everything I do.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. ― 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV)
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul talks in depth about the spiritual gifts that we use to serve in the church and for the common good of humanity –
wisdom, knowledge, and faith
prophecy, miraculous powers, and discernment of spirits,
discernment of spirits,
languages and interpretation of languages
Each of these is given by the Holy Spirit and each is needed for the Church to carry out its purpose. All are good, all are important, and all are essential. However, at the end of chapter 12 Paul reminds us that the love (agape) poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5) is the most excellent way– more foundational that all the spiritual gifts we have been given.
The New Testament writers understood love to be the foundation and fulfillment of the law (Rom 13:10, Gal 5:14, James 2:8). In the same way, these spiritual gifts, given by the Holy Spirit to each member of the church (1 Cor 12:17) must be built upon a foundation of agape love. If not, they are of no good use.
I can speak every language, known and unknown…but if I do not have agape love for God and neighbor, my words are nothing more than white noise in a busy, distracted world (1 Cor 13:1),
I can prophecy, understand the mysteries of the universe, have unsurpassed knowledge, and even have the faith to move literal mountains…but if I do have agape love for God and neighbor, I am nothing; it’s all meaningless and empty (1 Cor 13:2).
I can give everything I own to help the poor and those in need. I can be willing to suffer hardship, pain, and persecution…but if do not have agape love for God and neighbor, then I gain nothing; it’s all for naught (1 Cor 13:3).
Love is not one among many laws given by the Father, not one among many gifts of the Spirit, and not one among many visible marks of the Christlike life.
Love is the law. Love is the gift. Love is the Christlike life.
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love. ― 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NIV)