Love cures. It cures those who give it and it cures those who receive it. Love is the medicine for the sickness of the world.
The three most powerful words in the English language are “I love you.”
Some are confused about love. But even with all our counterfeits, misunderstandings, and abuses it is still true that what the world needs now is love, sweet love.
The Bible helps explain true love. In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, God reminds us of the importance of love in all we do.
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Cor. 13:1)
Have you tried to learn to speak a foreign language? It’s not easy to do. I studied Spanish in high school and Greek in college, and along the way memorized long lists of words in each language. But three decades later I know a couple of Spanish words and only a few Greek words from the Bible – that’s about it. Our text says that without love it doesn’t matter how many languages you speak or how eloquently you can communicate your message. It is ineffective without love.
I think this is one of the keys to ineffective evangelism. We may have all the right words and the right doctrine, but if we don’t really love the people to whom are sharing the ‘love’ of Jesus, it is empty. We’re just making a bunch of noise. Love makes all the difference in the world. You will never win your enemies to Jesus. You must win your friends.
“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:2)
Paul mentions three spiritual gifts. Prophecy refers to the ability to declare God’s truth in a powerful, life-changing way. Knowledge involves the deep understanding of the Word of God. Faith is the unique ability to trust God for great things. These three gifts are all from the Holy Spirit, and yet without love the person who has them is “nothing.”
So let me ask you a question: Would you like to be really smart? I mean extra-smart beyond ordinary smartness. What if you had an IQ of 500? Suppose you were brilliant in math, science, history, language arts, and in every other realm of human knowledge. And what if you had the knowledge to cure cancer so that you could go from patient to patient and from hospital to hospital clearing out the cancer wards. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? And let’s suppose that on top of all that you could bring about world peace. Suppose all that were true of you. God says that’s not enough. Without love all that doesn’t matter. It is not great knowledge that God sets a value on, but great love.
“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, it profits me nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:3)
Giving to the poor is a good thing to do. And dying for your faith in Christ is the ultimate sacrifice. But good as these things are, without love they do you no good.
What if you were so rich you could be really generous? Suppose you could wipe out homelessness in Detroit. What if you could end poverty in Haiti or India? What if you could guarantee that every person on earth would have enough to eat and no one would ever go hungry? God says that’s not enough. Without love, you gain nothing.
What if you gave your life for someone else? What if you paid the ultimate price for your faith. God says even that is not enough. Without love even sacrificing yourself for Christ will profit you nothing.
I can summarize these three verses this way: Love is greater than eloquent communication. Love is greater than spiritual gifts. Love is greater than personal sacrifice. Without love … I say nothing, I am nothing, I gain nothing.
Perhaps a simple math illustration will help get the point across. What do you get when you add 10 + 15? The answer is 25. Now suppose we multiply 10 X 15. The number now becomes 150. Let’s take a really big number. Suppose you multiply 1,000,000 X 1000. You end up with one billion: 1,000,000,000. Think of a really BIG number. Quintillion is 1 with 18 zeroes. So let’s multiply 25 quintillion times zero. What do you get? Answer: Zero. It doesn’t matter how big your number starts with. If it is multiplied by zero, the answer is zero.
God is saying that life without love is zero. You can pile up good deeds, and education, and spiritual gifts, and good works and sacrifice. But without love, it still equals zero. You can be smart, beautiful, strong, wealthy, educated, multi-lingual, rich and famous but without love it still equals zero.
These three short verses challenge us to evaluate what we do and what we say in the light of love. If we are honest with ourselves, we must eventually admit that we all have a long way to go in this area. Many of us struggle with difficult people and painful circumstances. Love means doing things God’s way. It means responding in kindness when we have been repeatedly mistreated. It means refusing to nurse our grievances against those who are truly guilty of sin against us. This kind of life is not easy. Jesus embodied God’s love and His own people crucified him. If you follow Him, the same thing may happen to you.
Love isn’t about us; love is about God! Since God is love, all true love starts with Him and comes down to us. If we want to be more loving, we must get to know God better. As we come to know the God of love in a personal way, His love will supernaturally flow through us as our hearts are transformed.
If you want to know what real love looks like, go to the cross and see love made flesh and dying for you. Would you like that kind of love in your life? It is yours for the asking. As with everything else in the spiritual life, you can experience God’s love if you will ask for it. The love of God is powerful medicine for the terminal disease inside every heart.