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The incredible primacy of love… It’s more important than we think.

Posted by on May 14, 2013 in love | 18 comments

The incredible primacy of love… It’s more important than we think.

So, in yesterday’s post, I began “Tackling the Love Problem.” What is the “love problem”? It’s quite simple actually. Jesus said all people would know us by our love. But, when you ask people what they think about Christians, love is far, far down the list… if it even makes the list. We have a love problem.

Obviously, the “love problem” is not something that can actually be “tackled” in a few blog posts. This series will barely scratch the surface. In fact, I don’t think writing or speaking about love can ever do anything more than scratch the surface, and that’s part of the problem. (But, I’ll get to that later.)

Before we begin to tackle the love problem though, we should understand just how important love is for the person following Jesus Christ – that is, the person who is God’s child and is indwelled by the Holy Spirit. We know that Jesus said the greatest commandment (a two-fold commandment actually) is love God and love your neighbor. (Matthew 22:36-39) We also know that Jesus instructed his followers to love one another in the same way that he loved them. (John 15:12) In fact, Jesus’ followers often combined the “two-fold” commandment of love God/love others into one commandment: “love one another.” (For example, see James 2:8.) Beyond loving other Christians (i.e., “one another”), this kind of love is also to be given to “enemies.” (Matthew 5:43-44)

But, even given all of this, I still don’t think we really understand how important love is. Let’s think about 1 Corinthians 13 (often called the “love chapter”). But, instead of skipping to verse 4 (you know, “Love is patient. Love is kind.”), I’d like to focus on the first 3 verses of the chapter:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 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 have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV)

For many of us, this passage is so familiar we can quote it without even thinking about it… and that may be part of the problem. Let me break it down a little…

If you do not have love, then you have nothing.

It doesn’t matter that you can speak any human language eloquently and truthfully.
It doesn’t matter that you can speak spiritually languages.
It doesn’t matter that you can correctly prophecy or proclaim the word of God.
It doesn’t matter that you understand everything about God correctly – even the difficult stuff.
It doesn’t matter that you trust God completely in everything.
It doesn’t matter that you give away everything and live in poverty.
It doesn’t matter that you even sacrifice your own life.

If you do not have love, then you have nothing.

Remember, this passage about love is right in the middle of Paul’s longest discussion about spiritual gifts. There is no indication anywhere in this passage that someone is wrong about their spiritual gifting of tongues, prophecy, faith, etc. But, without love, that spiritual gift is nothing.

There is nothing wrong with tongues or prophecy or knowledge or wisdom or faith or giving… unless there is no love. In that case (if there is no love), then there is nothing RIGHT about them.

———————————————

Series on the “Love Problem”

  1. Tackling the Love Problem
  2. The incredible primacy of love… It’s more important than we think
  3. We have everything we need to love others
  4. Love is easily recognized as love
  5. So, why does the church have a love problem?

18 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 5-14-2013

    Awesome. So, so awesome.

  2. 5-14-2013

    Yes and amen. If you do not have love, then you have nothing. So central, so easy to miss.

    – Kathleen

  3. 5-14-2013

    Love is a Command not an advice, but the problem is we try to add loving on the top of the other things we do and we fail. When we are one with Christ not in doctrine only, but in being – the supernatural loving becomes natural. Lack of love indicates that we fail to love the Lord in the given cycle of time.

    Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

  4. 5-14-2013

    Love that is from above is expressed ‘in’ us and through us from the only source of Love, Jesus Christ. As we follow His will, and embrace the active work of the cross in our lives This is grace in action, the separating of our carnal life death to our thinking, and His life expressed through us.

    From this refinement we move with a new heart, and new eyes to ‘see’ our fellow mankind as our brothers and sisters. We then are devoid of contempt (the desire to control or impute our perspective upon another), we can love, serve, and honor them.

    This is an awakening to our true identity, our true life, we come to live by His indwelling presence, and live and move through the unforced rhythms of His grace, the term “in Him we move, and have our being” takes on new depth.

  5. 5-14-2013

    “It doesn’t matter that you can speak any human language eloquently and truthfully.
    It doesn’t matter that you can speak spiritually languages.
    It doesn’t matter that you can correctly prophecy or proclaim the word of God.
    It doesn’t matter that you understand everything about God correctly – even the difficult stuff.
    It doesn’t matter that you trust God completely in everything.
    It doesn’t matter that you give away everything and live in poverty.
    It doesn’t matter that you even sacrifice your own life.”

    I can’t do any of that stuff or even close to it, so I’m glad it doesn’t matter as much as being loved.. and being able to overflow that love on to others…. because I DO feel God working in my heart in small steps – to be filled with His love… and His love for others.

    can you tell me if in the original language it really does mean, “if you don’t have love”..

    I think that is SO powerful. It doesn’t say, “if you don’t give out love”…. or “if you don’t show love”…. or “if you don’t do love”….. but instead.. if you don’t HAVE love.

    That in itself shows us.. we have to HAVE it first. That is the most crucial first step. Truly accept accept accept His unconditional, favor, grace, LOVE.

  6. 5-14-2013

    As I read your post, Alan, it occurred to me that there have been entire movements in the Church that have centered around the things Paul mentioned, i.e. the Charismatic Movement (spiritual gifts), the Prophetic Movement (prophecy), the Faith Movement (faith), the Social Gospel/Social Justice movements (giving/sacrifice), etc… To my knowledge there has never been a “Love Movement” though in the Church. That’s not to say that I am advocating a new Movement. We’ve had enough of partial, eccentric bandwagons. But it does emphasize that this “greatest of all” matter of Love hasn’t ever really hit the big times in the Church.

    As for the matter of “movements”, as I see it, God has one “Movement” from beginning to end, called, “His eternal purpose” (Eph.3:11) This Movement is centered in the preeminence of His SON in all things.(Col. 1:18) We have all been called to get on this “bandwagon”: “called according to His purpose.”(Rom. 8:28)If we align ourselves with His Eternal Movement, centered in Christ in whom all fullness dwells, we will have every spiritual aspect and facet together in fullness, unity, purity and balance, and all of it filled with and motivated by Divine LOVE. As we focus on any single aspect, then(i.e spiritual gifts, prophecy, faith, wisdom,giving,love, etc…), let us see beyond the “thing” to the Person who is the fullness and the Source of the “thing”. In reality, we don’t have enough Love, because we don’t have enough of Christ. Or viewed another way, we only have as much of Christ as we have of Love.

    What I’m taking out of this post, and this series, as the light is shone on our “love problem”, is that my/our “love problem” is ultimately a “Christ problem”. And so it is stirring me to seek Him in a fresh way.

    Thank you, Alan!

  7. 5-14-2013

    In a comment on the previous post, II threw out a few things to add to the conversation/discussion. I’ll cover (or at least mention) most of these in later posts:

    1) Love has nothing to do with the way we feel toward someone else.

    2) Love has nothing to do with what we say to someone (right or wrong) or how we say it.

    3) We do not need to wait for God/Jesus/Spirit to give us anything more in order to love. We have everything we need.

    4) We do not need to wait for God to specifically tell us to love someone; he already has. Plus, it’s in his nature to love.

    -Alan

  8. 5-14-2013

    Christ is the Key to Love

    We know in part, and this is so often the catalyst for division.

    The key is Life ‘in’ Christ, I can’t, you can’t and the next 10,000 people can’t live these verses. Our fallen and natural state will not allow us. We are far more capable to deify gravity, than to be able to express this Love of or in ourselves.

    Living ‘in’ Christ is the game changer, death to our flesh, and Life ‘in’ Christ is our only hope.

    “But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.”

    Love is the material that bridges are constructed of

  9. 5-14-2013

    In light of all of the side show commotion within and about the church it is great to be reminded that it is our love that defines us. Love of God and love of neighbor is the banner to which Our King has called us to rally. I also appreciate the comments about movements. It is just so easy to forget the central organizing call of our kingdom is to love with the same love He pours out to us every moment of every day. Accordingly if we fail to find Jesus to love in our neighbor (particularly the ones in need) then perhaps it is not truly God that you love. There is much to criticize within the fellowship of Jesus followers and I can certainly add my two cents to the subject but perhaps even there we need to be certain that we lead with an undiluted, non hyphenated, extraordinary love, or we run the risk of furthering it’s lack among us. Jesus, help us all to see and share.

  10. 5-14-2013

    These are all awesome awesome encouraging challenging comments, thank you!!

  11. 5-14-2013

    What Randi said. This is just so amazing. My poor wife will have a job mopping the puddle of tears I’ve wept reading the article and the comments. Thank God she’ll do it cos she loves me. Thank God I can do it cos He’s given me all I need to love.

  12. 5-14-2013

    Love seems for the Christian what the one pearl of great price was for the merchant in Matt 13:45-46. Chuck everything you have in exchange for this.

  13. 5-14-2013

    Alan, thank you bruh for being obedient to the Lord and posting this:
    1 John 3:17 says Little children, let us not love [merely] in theory or in speech but in deed and in truth (in practice and in sincerity) (Amplified). I am convicted and afraid that many of us in the body got this thang twisted, I must and do surrender ALL to Jesus Christ bro,love you..gone

  14. 5-14-2013

    @Randi I think it does relate to ‘having’ more so than acting upon in this context. Most of how Paul describes Love in verses 4-7 has more todo with our inner disposition and attitude than how we treat others directly as best I can tell. Love is still love even if no one else is around… especially since we can love more than just people, literally everything that is created including ourselves.
    Maybe i would return to ‘church’ if I found one that put love in its righful place.
    Great blog thanks.

  15. 5-15-2013

    Thank you Alan for addressing this critical issue. If there is no love then our flurry of activity becomes static and noise… something like background music on an elevator and marginalized to those around us who need to experience His love working through us.

  16. 5-15-2013

    Thnx Eli. Great discussion.

    I am beginning to believe that we don’t have a LOVE problem…. as much as we have a
    SURRENDER problem…
    a TURN TO GOD problem…
    a RETURN TO YOUR 1st LOVE problem….
    A REPENT the kingdom is near problem.

    Christ is always the answer.

  17. 5-15-2013

    Thank you for these blogs Alan & also to everyone who contributes.
    I agree there is a love problem in institutional christianity & perhaps in organic/simple church as well. I feel focus has been on keeping the traditions of the institutions & not heeding the new command Jesus gave His disciples ” A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34,35.
    Today more emphasis seems to be placed on the spiritual gifts written about by the Apostle Paul in I Corinth 12 & 14. The well known chapter on love comes between these two in chapter 13. To my way of looking at it, there is a reason Paul wrote it in that exact place – in the middle. The middle is a point of balance & I think we need to balance spiritual gifts with love. Chapter 12 finishes with the words “And now I will show you the most excellent way.” And Chapter 14 starts with the words “Follow the way of love…”

    I’m mindful in the original texts of the Bible there were no chapters, verses, headings or punctuation.

    I believe most of “church” needs a paradigm shift in the heart as well as in the mind regarding what love is & start to put it into practice. I’m speaking to myself here too!

    “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.” 1 John 4: 7-12
    I believe our knowing of God is our experience of Him & to that extent we are able to love others. e.g. In Luke 7: 36-50 Jesus teaches Simon the Pharisee who spoke about the “sinful” woman who anointed His feet with perfume. He uses a parable about two men owing money to a certain moneylender and after their debts were cancelled said who would love the moneylender more? Jesus said Simon judged correctly when he answered with “the one who had the bigger debt.” Then He related it back to the woman being forgiven for her many sins for she loved much & then Jesus says “But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
    I’d have to say that the woman had a greater experience of God in knowing her many sins were forgiven, than Simon the Pharisee who would have only known the annual atonement for sin done through the OT sacrificial system. Its interesting to note that Jesus said the woman “loved much” before He told her, her sins were forgiven. – her recognition of who He was – the Son of God!!

    Repentant hearts will make room for the Holy Spirit to dwell within, an unrepentant heart won’t. I believe its a continual learning and continual indwelling.

    Chapters & verses quoted are from a NIV translation of the Bible.

  18. 5-15-2013

    I’m excited that this topic is getting so much attention. I hope that the excitement moves out of the cyber-bloggersphere and into our real lives (both my life and your life).

    -Alan

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  1. Let’s get back to our core business – L.O.V.E. | Church in a Circle - [...] Knox has just written an excellent series of blog posts about “the love problem“. He begins by saying; “Jesus …