NLT I Cor 13:1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
Many of us had I Corinthians 13, also known as ‘the love chapter’ read at our weddings and at many weddings we’ve attended. I don’t think there’s anything specifically wrong with this, but it’s important to remember
- This is a general overview of expected Christian character that should be lived out every day of every year; it’s application should not be limited to weddings.
- Both in terms of doctrine and in terms of writing style, it’s got a lot in common with Paul’s list of the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5: 22-23.
- Its own context is that the passage is sandwiched between two chapters on the exercise of spiritual gifts, chapter 12 and chapter 14.
- If you want to know what Paul has to say about marriage, Ephesians 5:22-33 is more direct.
That said, our pastor spoke from the love chapter last month as he was in the middle of a series on the Christian family, and Valentine’s Day fell on a Sunday. Each person in the church was asked to complete this self-evaluation checklist as to where they stand in relationship to the standards set by Paul in that chapter. Some of the statements are expressed positively — Love is patient — while others are expressed in the negative — Love does not seek its own way. So he put all the positives on one side and all the negatives on the other:
Where would you stand on this? (Use the contact page to request a black and white copy you can reprint.)
From the very first line, I think many will be challenged. Twice this weekend I read of Christian leaders confessing they have a problem with temper, which shows a lack of patience, among other things…
…Scripture is filled with checklists we can use in self-evaluation. One I’ve often turned to is Colossians 1:9-12 which coincidentally was read in the same church two weeks later in another context:
NLT 9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.
Paul is praying this for the Colossian church, but we can see where we stand in relation to these indicators. In bullet point form, it’s a test of being filled in terms of
- knowing God’s will
- having spiritual wisdom
- having spiritual understanding *
- living a life worthy of the Lord
- pleasing him in every way
- bearing fruit **
- growing in the knowledge of God
- growing in the strength of spiritual power
- having endurance
- having patience
- being thankful
*What do you think is the difference here between wisdom and understanding? In another study, we might break that down in various translations.
**Fruit can refer to the fruit of the spirit, but it can also refer to multiplication; leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Have you ever had the humble privilege of doing that?
As Paul describes what we call communion, he says in 1 Cor. 11:28 “But let a man examine himself” (KJV) “Examine your motives, test your heart” (Message) “Look into your own hearts.” (NCV) These times of self-evaluation are important. We can immerse ourselves in the study of doctrine, but fail to study how the doctrine is impacting ourselves.