From the beginning of time, poets and prophets have put their pens to parchment trying to describe love. No one has ever equaled Paul's description of love found in 1Corinthians 13. What does love look like? What does love feel like? What does love sound like? Have we forgotten what genuine love truly is? Our lives are shaped by people who love us and by those who refuse to love us. If a man says that marriage has not changed him, he is not out of the church yet.
Psychologists say that girls tend to marry men like their fathers. I believe that's why mothers cry at weddings. One of the greatest mysteries of love and marriage to me is this: how can that dumbbell who married your daughter last year become the father of the world's smartest grandchild this year? The average woman would rather have beauty than brains. Why? Because the average man can see far better than he can think.
Let's talk about love.
What love is not
Love is not emotion. A young man described his future bride and said, "When I get around her I can't breathe." I can say to him, "it's asthma...it's not love.“ Jesus didn't say, "I was hungry, and you felt sorry for Me." Jesus didn't say, "I was naked, and you felt shame for Me." He didn't say, "I was in prison, and you were embarrassed for Me." He didn't say, "I was sick, and you were sympathetic with Me." He said, "I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me" (Mt 25:42-43).
Love is not what you feel. Love is what you do. Works...not words...are proof of your love. Love is not sex. Love is not the urge to merge. Love is not a hormonal response to a plunging neckline or short skirt. There is "free love" and "covenant love." Free love takes, and covenant love gives. Covenant love gives you a ring and makes your life as the days of heaven on earth. Your choices have consequences.
Loving like Christ
Paul gives God's portrait of love. He said, "If I have not love, I am nothing" (1Cor 13:2). Without love you are spiritually dead. The Bible says, "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren" (1Jn 3:14). If love is lacking, "we are dead." Unless we love, we are not the sons and daughters of God, no matter what church membership we claim or spiritual experience we profess. The Bible says, "He who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1Jn 4:8).
The three evidences of salvation in scripture are these: First, the confession of Jesus Christ: "If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus...you will be saved" (Rom 10:9). Second, Water baptism: Water baptism is a public testimony that you have left your old life and are now walking in the newness of your faith in Christ. Your old life has been washed away, and you are standing absolutely clean before God. If you reject water baptism, you need to hear the verse that says, "Whoever denies Me before Men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven" (Mt 10:33).
Third, Love for the brethren: The acid test of conversion is "love for the brethren." Some confessions that are made with the mouth are less than truthful. There are water baptisms where the person has gone under the water but is not under the blood. But you cannot fake your love one for the other. Jesus said,"By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (Jn 13:35).
The missing ingredient in the majority of churches in America is the basic love of Christ. Jesus commanded us to "love one another as I have loved you" (Jn 15:12). Jesus loved us unconditionally. And He loved us when we did not deserve to be loved. The people who deserve love the least need it the most. So often, these are the qualifiers of our love: We love others because they love us first. We love others because they come up to our expectations. Or we love others because they are made of the right stuff. We love others because they have money and affluence. We love others because they are physically attractive. But Christ has no qualifiers on His love. Christ loved us "while we were still sinners" (Rom 5:8). He loved us when we were covered with the stench of sin. He loved us unconditionally.
Christianity without love is just another cult. The world does not care what we know until they know that we care. Without love, you have no value. Without love, you are less than junk. Junk is something that can no longer make a contribution to anything or anyone.
Without love, you are nothing
Paul writes, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels..." (1Cor 13:13). I personally studied English, Greek and Hebrew, and have mastered none of them. But what if I was eloquent in every language on the earth? What if I was eloquent in every dialect on the planet? It would be a human instinct to say, "I am something." But, through the pen of Paul, God says, "Without love, you are nothing."
Paul writes, "Though I have the gift of prophecy..."(v.2). What if I knew the future? What if I could predict tomorrow with 100 percent accuracy? What if I could tell the Wall Street Journal what the stock markets of the world were going to do tomorrow? What if I had the ability to predict earthquakes and tornadoes? What if I could tell the president what was going to happen in the Middle East tomorrow? The president would be calling me every morning. The president of the Federal Reserve Bank would want to live next door. Night and day, financial advisors would besiege me from around the world. I would have the human tendency to say, "I am something because I know the future." But God says, "Without love, you are nothing."
Paul writes, "And if I understand all mysteries..." (v.2). I walk the corridors of hospitals sometimes. I see legions of people suffering from every conceivable disease known to man. The cure for cancer continues to be America's greatest medical mystery. Brilliant men and women are working day and night all over the earth trying to solve this single mystery. Billions of dollars are being spent to find the answer. But what if I could call the American Cancer Society and say, "I, Jin Choi, have solved the mystery to cancer." I would win the Pulitzer Prize. My picture would be on the cover of every magazine in the world. Every newspaper would come running to my office for an interview. Television reporters would be stacked in my front yard. I would have the human instinct to say, "I am something because I have solved this great mystery." But God says, "Without love, even if you have solved all the mysteries on Planet Earth, you are nothing."
Paul writes, "...and all knowledge..." (v.2). In every field of knowledge, there are men who study for a lifetime to master a portion of that field. They had studied one subject their entire adult lives, and they shared the pearls of knowledge they had gleaned over decades of diligent scholarship. Each of those magnificent scholars would profess publicly that they did not know everything about their field of study, but they were striving daily to stay abreast of the infinite ocean of knowledge. But what if I had all knowledge in every field of academia? What if I knew enough about chemistry to make Linus Pauling blush? What if I knew enough about mathematics to intimidate Albert Einstein? What if I knew enough about political science that Henry Kissinger would hide in the closet when I came into the room? There would be the natural human instinct to say, "Jin Choi, without love you are nothing.“
Paul writes, "...and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains..." (v.2). Faith is a subject that has forever intrigued me. 1Jn 5:4 says, "This is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith.“ Faith starts out before you know it's going to turn out. Faith does not demand miracles, but faith creates the environment in which miracles happen. Nothing is impossible to those who believe. Everything heaven has to offer comes with the currency of faith. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. God says that if you have "all faith, so that you could remove mountains..." If you can raise people from the dead...if you have a miracle ministry that packs stadiums and auditoriums on every continent of Planet Earth...and have not love, you are nothing.
The Bible tells the story of the rich and young ruler who kept all of the commandments. He was an outstanding person, because the commandments are truly a supernatural document of spiritual excellence. When he met Jesus, Jesus told him, "Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor" (Lk 18:22). The Bible says this about that young man's response: "He became very sorrowful, for he was very rich" (v. 23). Why was he so sorrowful? Because he loved his possessions more than he loved Jesus Christ. Most of us are willing to give some to God...but all? Seventy-five percent of America's church members will not tithe to their local church. The Bible says, "Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor...but have not love, it profits me nothing" (1Cor 13:3).