A church without love is no church at all. A church without love is a group of people without God. It's not hard to spot a loveless church. They are usually caught up in the law of Moses, setting aside grace and forgiveness. They usually judge by appearance and often do not accept outsiders. Often they put more attention on the sin than the sinner and pretty well 100% of the time they live in isolation from other churches. They believe they are self-contained and do not need anything that any other church or believer has to offer. They are wrong.
The only way the Body of Christ can function properly, bringing glory to Jesus, is by allowing everything to grow from the foundation of love. Everything must be permeated with it having been birthed in the motivation of love. Apostle Paul spent time describing the Church to the Corinthians, explaining the manifestation of the Spirit, how we belong to each other, how we are spiritually diverse yet united in the Spirit, dependent on each other, and he named some of the great things in the Church like prophecy and healing. But then he says that there is only one way it works and that is by love.
He is not talking about our every day variety of love when we say that we love our car or our favorite television show. He is no even talking about the love that a man and woman share together. He speaks of the great love that Jesus has for us, the love that Jesus told us to have for each other. He says that only this love gives legitimacy to what we do and who we are. Without it there is no value in anything that the Body of Christ does. Without it we are legalistic soul crushers. He writes:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1)
There are two things that Paul is speaking about here. There is the gift of languages, the ability to speak through the Spirit in another language without having taken any lessons. There is also the gift of speaking in the language of angels, the heavenly language that really only our own spirit understands as me express deep things to God as only our spirit can express. Yet, these gifts are a useless noise if love is not found as the foundation of them. Paul continues:
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 have not love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2)
I think we have all met some incredibly talented Christians but have you ever encountered someone filled with the Spirit who sees right into your heart? Have you ever had someone speak into your life who reminded you of things that you had only ever expressed to God? It's unnerving. But one thing I noticed about these ministers, they were always overflowing with love. There was a genuineness and kindness from them that you knew could only come from the deep place of God's love. That is what was so moving about them, so wonderful that you wanted to spend hours with them. Without that love their words would have rung hollow and pointless. Paul says that without it we are nothing. He continues:
If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:3)
Sacrifice is a normal part of our walk with Jesus. We consider everything that Paul suffered and sacrificed in order to bring the gospel to people and it makes our lives pale in comparison. Some people enjoy sacrificing and probably sacrifice in ways that God has not intended but when it is God directed it is a beautiful thing to see and experience. However, even if we were to make that ultimate sacrifice and lay down our life for the gospel, if the motivation is not love then there is no gain in it. If I sacrifice my lunch to let someone else eat but I do it to look good instead of being compelled by the love of Jesus then I profit nothing.
This is not an optional thing. Love makes everything we do in the name of Jesus legitimate. Without it what we are and what we do has no value. It is the reason we need to explore the depth of God's love. It is not good enough to simply accept the cross without understanding the motivation. We can't look to the empty grave with expectation without understanding and experiencing our Father's love. We cannot function in the Body of Christ in a spirit of unity and oneness without love being our foundation. If we try then everything we are and do is a waste.
Love compels us to respect each other, to hear each other out, to consider the other person. God's love changes everything and will bring healing and oneness to the Church once again. But we have to understand what we mean when we speak of love. This we will consider when we look at it again on Monday.