How many of you have ever heard 1 Corinthians 13 (the love chapter), read at a wedding. More than likely if you've been to more than 1 wedding this text, or part of the text has been recited in an attempt to explain to the couple and congregation exactly what love should look like.
But is that why Paul included this chapter in 1 Corinthians? To tell us about love between a husband and a wife?
Certainly we can see something about true agape love in this text that are helpful, but I think Paul had something else in mind when writing this text. He wasn't interested so much in a romantic love between a husband and wife, but in the love other believers need to have for each other, especially in relation to the exercising of their spiritual gifts.
Let me put it in context for you:
1 Corinthians 12:4-6
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.
1 Corinthians 12:24-26, 31
...But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. But eagerly desire the greater gifts.
It seems pretty clear that the Corinthians were having some problems with people desiring to have gifts that they didn't have. For instance, there are certain gifts that command more attention than others (teaching, leading, tongues, prophecy, etc.), while other gifts (administration, helps) tend to be more behind-the-scenes. It is easy to desire to have one of these higher-profile gifts in order to feel more important. Perhaps the people gifted with high-profile gifts were rubbing it in the face of the other believers, or perhaps there were jealousy issues going on. Either way, there was much confusion about the gifts of the Spirit, and how they were to be worked out in the church.
Paul goes to great lengths in chapter 12 to discuss that God, Himself, chooses who has particular gifts and where they are placed in the body. He does this for a purpose that often only He can see. As a result, church members should be happy with the gifts they have been given, and use those gifts to build up the body of Christ.
What is the motivation for wanting to use your gifts for the betterment of the church? 1 Corinthians 13 deals with this issue: Love. We use our gifts to serve others because we love them, and care about them. Because we love them, we don't flaunt our gifts in front of them, and we don't make them feel unimportant because they don't have an in-your-face kind of high-profile gift. Each gift is just as important and just as crucial to the working of the body.
One day there will not be a need for the gift of prophecy and tongues. There will be no need for teachers and preachers. But love will remain. That is why love is the most excellent way!
How are you using your gifts out of Love to build up the body of Christ?