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Spiritual and Social Ministry Need Love

1 Corinthians 13:2-3
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (NIVUK)

The Apostle Paul knew what it was like to have a powerful religious reputation although he had been empty of love. He had claimed to be devoted to God while persecuting the church in a violent way; but when he met Jesus all that changed. Paul's motivation was turned around when he understood that Jesus, who he persecuted, loved him and wanted to commission him to help build the church rather than destroy it (Titus 3:3-7). Paul had never heard such grace and love before, and he wisely chose to receive it (Acts 26:19).
Most of the people in the Corinthian church were true believers, but they still had worldly habits. Like many in the city they were well practised in pride and self-assertion. So they used their new-found spiritual abilities to attract praise to themselves. This was evident in the church services when people spoke or prayed, claiming to know God's mind. They did not desire the blessing of others, just the honour they could get. They were like the Pharisees; they already had their reward (Matthew 6:5) but God would ignore them.
The same was true about social action (Matthew 6:1-2) and even martyrdom. Love, expending oneself for others and expecting nothing in return, was not part of the secular mind-set in Corinth. It was a hard-nosed business and cultural community which was geared to make money and build reputations, and that attitude followed the believers into the church. Paul explained why their devotion was so frustrating: they were really worshipping themselves and getting praise from their friends – rather than worshipping the Lord.
Jesus said that charitable giving should be a very private business; do not let anybody else know what you are doing (Matthew 6:3). Your gift is not to make you feel good or let others know how pious you are; it is for the Lord to use through your body, to bless other people. Love is very practical and always involves self-sacrifice. In that, Jesus led the way, and expects His followers to do the same (Matthew 16:24). Without love, no spiritual ministry or social help can bring us any approval from the Lord. So it is time to wake up and ask the reason for all your activity; and to repent if it is not motivated by love.

God of grace. Thank You for loving me when You knew I was not worthy of Your care and favour. Forgive me for failing to love You and other people because I have loved myself, even using Your gifts to boost my reputation with other people. Please help me to see the way in which Jesus loved; and help me to love like Him in the church and in the community. In His Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams