Hello readers! Over the last few weeks, the Epistle reading (second reading) has been coming from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. We began in the first half of chapter 12 hearing about spiritual gifts, and the next week about different members of the body, with Paul leaving a cliffhanger for the end of chapter 12 saying “But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.”
Spiritual gifts. How do we know when a gift or talent is God given or just something a person happens to be good at? Here is the answer: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (1 Cor. 12:7).” God gives us all gifts for the common good. To put it into more plain English: Your gifts are not for you, they are for your neighbor. When a gift is truly helping the neighbor – a neighbor being literally anyone – then you know that it is a spiritual gift.
Sometimes we worry about whether or not our gift is good enough, or if it is actually useful in the world. Which then brings us to the second half of chapter 12 saying that each and every member of the body of Christ is just that; a member of the body of Christ! Whether you were in worship to hear this preached or not, it is worth repeating. What member of the body you most identify with does not change the fact that you are indeed a part of the body of Christ. Even if you don’t know exactly what your God-given spiritual gift(s) may be, your identity can and should still lie in the larger picture: Christ, a member chosen by God, forever.
And as huge as these points are, Paul still goes on to say that there is still something even greater, which leads us into chapter 13. Do you know what this more excellent way is? It is love. All thirteen verses of chapter thirteen spell out this love. We often hear these verses at weddings hearing about how love is patient and kind… love never ends… and then finally, verse 13: “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
This is where our Christian faith and hope lie. In this love that Paul is writing about. Yes, we strive for this love between each other (this is for all people, not specifically husband and wife). But we must go further to recognize that this is truly the love that Christ has for us. His love never fails. Even when we don’t recognize our spiritual gifts, even when we don’t think that we have anything to contribute to the body, and even when the opposite is true and we place our full identity in our gifts and supposed role, Christ continues to give us this love.
So finally, why is the greatest of these love? Because faith is trusting that God’s Word and promise for us is true, hope is the waiting to see this promise, and both of these things come to an end when we at long last see God in all His glory and feel His love everlasting.
This is most certainly true.