Week of March 3

Healing a Love Fracture

Read: Numbers 24-27; 1 Corinthians 13
“And I will show you a still more excellent way.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels,
but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”
1 Corinthians 12:31b-13:1, ESV


“God bestows His blessing without discrimination. The followers of Jesus are children of God, and they should manifest the family likeness by doing good to all, even to those who deserve the opposite” (F.F. Bruce, italics mine). Professor Bruce clearly understood a Christian’s call to virtue, which meant to love God and love one’s neighbor. The Corinthians were a bit slow to arrive at this same understanding, so Paul includes a chapter in 1 Corinthians that set the “love requirement” straight. Let’s learn today from God’s truth about love.

The Meaning of the Text

Why love and why here?
The context provides us with a clear answer to my subtitle. He elevates the fruit of the Spirit, love, above all of the spiritual gifts held in high esteem by the Corinthians (12:31b-13:1-3; cf. Galatians 5:22-23). Love may be interpreted and applied in a wide variety of ways, so the Apostle draws our focus to its character (13:4-7). Love’s staying power is brought into view, which demonstrated the essence of what makes God’s love so unique (i.e., enduring nature; 13:8-12). This gives the supreme virtue an important framework for application (13:13; “greatest”). Therefore, Paul claims that love is the most excellent way for a Christian to use his or her spiritual gifts (EBC). This is helpful to you and me, but there is more.
The nature and importance of this Christian virtue
Here’s a quick lesson on how the Corinthians were led to understand Spirit-led virtue when they were most familiar with Greek virtues. Virtue simply referred to excellence of any kind in Ancient Greece. Aristotle, for example, taught that humans, animals, plants, even objects, were to be virtuous (excellence). This meant that a virtuous person would be motivated from within to make good choices, but there was no clear direction as to what virtues one should choose. This inner prompting came from proper moral education. However, the excellence of Christian love is a “more excellent” way (12:31)!
Getting the right source of love. Paul knew, and taught, that God is the wellspring of virtue. The moral foundation for everything good and right is the Heavenly Father. These Divine characteristics are stated in Exodus 34:6—merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Each of these virtues are perfectly evident in the Father’s character and actions toward His creation. Excellence indeed, but excellence in action! The Father expects the same of His children. In contrast to Aristotle, God does not leave us helpless in this regard. You wonder, “How may I acquire this kind of love?” It is already in your spiritual being, a part of the “new life” upgrade you received when you were saved.
Christ’s love should permeate our entire beings. Christ taught His disciples in Matthew 5:1-12 that virtue was both to be taught and to flow from His activity in their lives. His followers were to possess enduring love in heart (vv. 3-6), hands (7-9), and head (vv. 10-12). Jesus’ disciples were empowered by the Holy Spirit (which is key) to be different and to act differently than the typical religious person. The Spirit-prompted demonstration of Christian virtue was evidence that they were His followers and that they were participating in God’s inbreaking into the world with His peace (Galatians 5:16, 22-23; cf. Isaiah 61:1-11). We are to do the same. Virtue is at the heart of relationships with God and with others in community. Plainly, we cannot serve Christ or His causes well without Christian virtue.

The Message for Your Heart

I know folks who have benefited from modern medical wizardry, and I am one of them. I severely broke my left arm in 2020 and needed to undergo some specific diagnostic imaging. I received a CT scan that showed in fine detail the spiraling fracture in my humerus. I knew the bone was broken, but I was not aware of how much was wrong. Sometimes we sense that our spiritual lives are out of joint but unaware of the severity of our brokenness.
Paul has given us a “Spirit’s scan” of our hearts and hands. The Spirit examines us for love fractures, like lies (13:6), as well as demonstrations of impatience, pride, irritability, selfishness, and resentment (13:4-5). Christ love, however, is enduring (13:8). Love in action, by Paul’s definition, does not begin by seeking personal fulfillment, but by offering ourselves in sacrificial commitment.

For Thought and Action

1. Jot down ways you believe you are exhibiting the biblical virtue of love. Look through the lens of this passage to measure whether you are demonstrating self-interest or sacrificial commitment. Secondly, a key laboratory for the demonstration of love is your church fellowship. How would you describe the type of love evident inside your church fellowship? What steps would you take to enhance Christian love in your church?
2. For Families: Motivation is a huge component of love in action, isn’t it? Children can learn selfless love at an early age, and continue to practice giving this kind of love throughout their lives.

Invite your children to spend the first week of March in a “Silent Love” experiment. Read together at bedtime each night the Love Chapter of 1 Corinthians 13. Suggest that they listen for a different aspect each night (e.g., what love is not, what love is, what love is compared to, what does Love always do?, etc.).

Then, ask your children to pray and ask God for ideas about how to love their family members “silently” and quietly, and secretly. The one rule is that they must give a self-sacrificing act of love to another family member. They can choose one person per day. Let this be a week of intentional loving according to God’s definition from the chapter.

After the week is over, have a dinner conversation to acknowledge the love that was given in selfless acts, how it felt to give love, and how it felt to receive another’s selfless act of love. Then plan to do this once a month, then more often, until it becomes a habit. Loving like this is already in our “new creature” selves!

May your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock