What Matters Most?2
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.
-1 Corinthians 13:1-3
What is the most excellent way?
Paul is writing to a church in Corinth that was famously a mess. Their worship services were chaotic, there were factions and fighting all over the place, and they were obsessed with spiritual experiences—the more fantastic, the better.
The people in the church at Corinth might have said that the most excellent way was to have as many intense spiritual and religious experiences as possible. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be in a church community?
But Paul won’t be overly-impressed with spiritual experiences that stop merely with experiences. That’s a smoke-screen, he says, a charade. If you can put on a good show but don’t have genuine love flowing in you and through you then it’s totally worthless.
Love is front and center of the most excellent way.
In our own church community, we’re not as expressive as the people in Corinth were. But every faith community will have some propensity to fall into the trap of having badges or hierarchies of what ‘real spirituality’ looks like: how we pray, spiritual disciplines, how many people you share your faith with, how much you serve, how much Bible trivia you know.
All good stuff. But all secondary stuff, downstream stuff. It starts and ends with love. If there’s no love in it, it’s nothing.
Are there badges or expressions of Christianity that you’re drawn to and impressed by? What do you think it means to have love as the highest of those? Do you need to re-order your loves in order to put love at the top of what’s most important?