The vast majority of western society cares a lot about how they appear to others. They want those around them to think they are smart, strong, handsome, pretty, competent, etc. It’s really no different in the Kingdom. We prefer people to think we are gifted, dedicated, knowledgeable, and the like. While all these things are good, there is one ingredient that is absolutely essential above them all. In fact, without this ingredient we are absolutely bankrupt.
Let’s read together 1st Corinthians 13:1 – 3 from The Message.
1 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
2 If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
3 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
These are familiar words with a modern tone. Let’s look at some ways they have been seen in a modern context.
The Charismatic Movement was at its height when I came into the Kingdom in 1975. People from every denomination under Heaven were finding a new fullness of the Holy Spirit. There were abundant testimonies of people being filled with the Spirit and speaking in tongues, just like in the book of Acts. A countless number of people underwent a complete spiritual renewal. This was often evidenced by an overflowing love for the Lord and His people.
On the other hand, there were far too many instances where there came a sharp divide between those who had “it” (referring to the experience with the Holy Spirit) and those who didn’t have “it.” Some of those who claimed to be part of the renewal were often critical of mainline churches, calling them “backslidden” or “dead.” Those who had not had the same experience were many times treated like second-class citizens. These unloving attitudes severely tarnished the charisma of the movement and caused a lot of people to think the whole thing was little more than a bunch of noise. It may have been different if we would have remembered that the primary fruit of the Spirit is love (Galatians 5:22).
Prophecy is one of the nine manifestations of the Holy Spirit (see 1st Corinthians 12:7 – 10). One who is considered to be prophetic is one who has special insight into the heart and mind of God. Since the stated purpose of New Testament prophecy is upbuilding, encouragement, and consolation (1st Corinthians 14:3), it is absolutely necessary for this gift to be shared in love. If love is not the motivation behind it, then someone is just showing off as to how much “insight” they have. As Paul says earlier in Corinthians, ‘knowledge puffs up but love builds up’ (1st Corinthians 8:1).
Faith Working Without Love
Around 1973 another movement began to arise within the context of the Charismatic renewal. Commonly called the Word of Faith Movement, it emphasized believing God’s Word to see His power released in life’s circumstances. While there were some valuable lessons to be learned from it, it also generated some of the most critical people ever encountered. I know this because I was a part of this movement for a number of years. We judged one another’s “confessions” with a vengeance. We condescendingly looked down our noses at others who didn’t believe just the way we did. We had a relative disdain for anyone outside the camp. Please don’t get me wrong. There were some incredibly loving and lovely people within the movement. Unfortunately the high minded attitude was far too prevalent. I guess we forgot that faith works by love (Galatians 5:6).
Missional is a key buzz word today. Much emphasis is being placed on sacrificial outreach, especially to the poor and disenfranchised. Only time will tell if history will repeat itself and this movement devolve into some of the judgmental errors of the past. Hopefully love will win the day and make all the outreach efforts beautiful in every way.
Summing It Up
Some may look at this post and think I am being rather unloving and critical. Believe me, that is not my purpose. My only goal is to reinforce what the apostle Paul has been saying for centuries. While it is wonderful to have gifts and faith and to do all kinds of outreach, love must be the raiment that adorns it all. Love alone will make our ministries attractive and effective. Without love we are flat bankrupt, regardless how we may posture ourselves. We must never forget that love is one of the primary marks of a person who is truly living in the Reign.